Clippers Strike Gold And Draw First Pick

May 20, 2009

Sometimes losing can be good.

After a horrific season featuring numerous injuries, a racial discrimination lawsuit, and a point guard versus head coach feud, the Los Angeles Clippers' luck finally changed for the better, as they nabbed the first overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery. Translated, that means the Clips have earned the rights to All-American Blake Griffin from the University of Oklahoma, the consensus best player in the draft.

The Clippers' coup was a bit of an upset, as the Sacramento Kings had a numerically better chance of getting the top pick based on their worse record.

Since the institution of the NBA's Lottery system, Los Angeles has had the top pick twice. The first time, the Clippers made the obvious choice and selected Danny Manning. The second time the Clippers were not so lucky, ending up with bust Michael Olowokandi.

Fortunately for Los Angeles, Griffin is no Olowokandi.

With Griffin, the Clips will get one of the most athletic prospects at the 4 in recent years. Griffin has strength, quickness, good size, a high motor, and explosive leaping ability. He might have the best first step for a forward prospect since "Big Game" James Worthy. With his athleticism, he could probably play spot minutes at the 3 as well.

But Griffin's skills are equally impressive, as he has a refined back-to-the-basket game consisting of devastating drop steps and nice jump hooks. Griffin also possesses impressive face-up skills, as he can catch the ball in a triple threat position on the wing, and then blow by other 4's with his quickness and electric finishes.

Most importantly, Griffin appears to have all the intangibles of the great ones. He has a reputation for being a relentless worker in the weight room, and is ultra-competitive on the court as well. Clipper coach Mike Dunleavy can only hope that some of that "can do" Griffin attitude will rub off on the other Clippers next year.

From Griffin's standpoint, there are mixed blessings with his destination.

On the positive side, he goes to team with too much talent to be in the Lottery. The Clippers' perimeter options include a dynamic All-Star caliber point guard in Baron Davis, an explosive young scorer at the two in Eric Gordon, and an athletic and improving talent at small forward in Al Thornton.

Meanwhile, the Clips' frontline has good size and depth with Zach Randolph, Marcus Camby, and Chris Kaman. Hence, Griffin will have the luxury of developing at his own pace, rather than simply being thrown into the fire.

Finally, Griffin's game could thrive under Mike Dunleavy's coaching style given Dunleavy's tendency to actively exploit matchup advantages. In other words, when Dunleavy believes his player has an edge, he will scrap his set offense and simply run iso's or post touches for that player until the opponent starts to send double teams. Because Griffin is likely to often have a quickness advantage over many of his defenders, he could be the beneficiary of such touches under Dunleavy.

Of course, on the negative side, Griffin will have to deal with the Clippers Curse.

The Clippers are a truly dysfunctional organization with a history of destroying good players. Otherwise healthy players come to the franchise and immediately suffer devastating injuries. Moreover, incumbents on the roster always are looking to escape via free agency, and thus, tend to poison the locker room with their negativity. Worse yet, a "throw in the towel" mentality often takes root by midseason, as players with seemingly minor nagging injuries, tend to coincidentally be very slow healers.

Perhaps Griffin finally will be the guy to change things in Clipperland.

NBA Draft Lottery Order

1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Memphis Grizzlies
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
4. Sacramento Kings
5. Washington Wizards
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
7. Golden State Warriors
8. New York Knicks
9. Toronto Raptors
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. New Jersey Nets
12. Charlotte Bobcats
13. Indiana Pacers
14. Phoenix Suns

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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