Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers: Why They Don't Need the Draft

Drake SmithContributor IIIJune 1, 2011

Things seem to be looking up for Blake Griffin and his Clippers teammates.
Things seem to be looking up for Blake Griffin and his Clippers teammates.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

By now, I'm sure plenty of people are making predictable fun of the Los Angeles Clippers for "trading away the No. 1 pick" in June's NBA Draft.


Well, in February, in Clippers traded away controversial point guard Baron Davis from his hometown of Los Angeles to the seemingly-Siberic wasteland of Cleveland, along with the Clips' first round pick in 2011 in exchange for guard Mo Williams and athletic role player Jamario Moon.

Wouldn't you know it? Depsite having (only the) the eighth-worst record in the league, therefore only a 2.8 percent chance of winning the draft's No. 1 selection, the aforementioned first round pick traded to Cleveland won the draft lottery, giving the Cavaliers the first overall pick in June's draft.

"Of course it did, the Clippers are at it again," says generic NBA follower.

Okay, fair enough.

After all, the Clippers are the picture of imperfection in North American sports since the mid-1980s. Why should we think otherwise now?

Well, unless you've been under a rock since April 14, with no retroactive knowledge of the NBA, you know Blake Griffin took the league by storm in his rookie season while lifting the Clippers to league-wide relevance.

Yeah, it's weird, the Clippers gaining relevancy.

However, past all the dunks and athleticism Griffin provides, the Clippers are actually pretty well-stocked and ready to head into the future without needing a lottery pick for a change.

Los Angeles GM Neil Olshey was looking towards the future when he traded Davis away by clearing cap space and preventing his team from paying a lottery pick from a draft he was far from excited about.

One would assume this would also include having the number one pick. The top two prospects in this summer's draft are presumed to be Kyrie Irving from Duke and Derrick Williams from Arizona.

Neither of these prospects are really what the Clippers are looking for in the first place.

Believe it or not, the Clippers are actually in a position to look past the draft and straight into free agency.

Alongside Griffin, the Clips boast a supporting cast of Eric Gordon, Mo Williams, Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan. In addition, top reserves such as Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye give the team enough talent to compete.

At every position except small forward.

2010 free-agent signee Ryan Gomes turned out to be a relative disappointment and rookie forward Al-Farouq Aminu struggled at times to learn the ropes in his first season, and at times was relied on to contribute more than was probably fair for a player in his shoes.

Los Angeles will likely look to the free agent market to fill this gap, which will presumably be easier to do now that the Clippers don't have to pay a No. 1 pick in a draft the team wasn't thrilled about to begin with.

Looking even further down the road, the Clippers own a pick in the 2012 draft that will likely be one of the most coveted in the league. In addition to their own pick, LA owns Minnesota's first-round pick, in a draft which will likely boast prospects such as Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones and many others.

Now, that is a draft Olshey can be excited about.

It is entirely possible that the Clippers can, and will, field trade offers for center Chris Kaman and/or one of the team's first round picks in 2012 during the season, or even in this summer's post-draft preseason, in a trade package that could improve the team tremendously.

The assumed goal is to improve the team in keep talent around Griffin, in turn, keeping him a Clipper. The team is putting themselves in a great position to do just that.

The Clippers are in the position of a more established team than their record indicates. Competitive teams don't generally rely on the draft for missing pieces, they rely on free agents.

Heading into this summer, the Clips are in a rare situation of leverage. They can persuade potential newcomers with the rare opportunity to play in Los Angeles alongside one of the brightest stars the league has seen in quite some time, with an exciting and young supporting class, on a team looking to capitalize on last year's momentum and take strides in the minds of the people of the City of Angels.

There is reason to be optimistic moving forward for those in Clipper Nation.

Trading away a pick that turns out to win the lottery against all odds. It couldn't have worked out any better.

Maybe the tide is turning for the Clippers after all.