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The Culture Of Losing

Updated on April 18, 2012

The NBA is built for parody. The worst teams get the best draft picks. It's as simple as that. Occasionally a team will draft a "sure thing" and it won't work out. But by and large if you have enough quality picks than even the dumbest general manager should be able to turn things around. Let's go back to 1988. That was the first year ever the Clippers had the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft. The Clippers selected Danny Manning from Kansas. In his fifth year with the Clippers Manning averaged 22.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, both his best with the team. Then with Manning averaging 23.7 points and 7 rebounds per game in 1993-1994, the Clippers inexplicably traded him to the Atlanta Hawks for Dominique Wilkins. Now it's not that Wilkins couldn't play. He actually put up big numbers that year between both teams. But the Clippers knew he was a free agent after that season and of course he jumped ship to join the Boston Celtics. The real ignorance though is unloading a player THEY DRAFTED #1 and who was producing and steadily improving every year. ISN'T THAT WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR #1 PICK.

Let's look deeper though at that 1988 draft. The Clippers also ended up getting the third pick from the Philadelphia 76ers which ended up being Charles Smith. In 1990-1991 Smith averaged 20 points and 8.2 rebounds per game which were in fact better than Manning's numbers. As everyone in basketball knows, however, stats and individual performances do not tell the whole story. The Clippers won 30 games in 1989-1990 but only improved to 31 wins in 1990-1991. Obviously something was missing. Manning and Smith were both 6'10", 230 pounds, and played a finesse game. They had the size to rebound and defend against big opponents but their offensive games were what people call "mid range". So what did the Clippers decide to do with the #2 pick in the 1989 draft in an effort to build around Manning and Smith? That's right they picked yet ANOTHER 6'10", 230 pound finesse player with a mid range game. His name was Danny Ferry. The general manager's name was Elgin Baylor.

As a player Baylor was a true NBA legend. As a general manager Baylor has been a bonafide failure and that pick right there was his biggest mistake. The missing piece was either a deadly three point shooter or a bruiser who could score down low. If you look at the 8 players selected after Ferry it is blatantly clear Glen Rice fit the first of the two descriptions. The Clippers already had a player on their team fitting the second description. 7 footer Benoit Benjamin played very well alongside Manning and Smith in 88-89. The Clippers would have won with Manning, Smith, Rice, and Benjamin. I have no doubt. But once a mistake like that is made the culture of losing is firmly in place and quality players do not want to wear that uniform. It's been 20 plus years of losing ever since.


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