Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buffalo Braves/S.D.-L.A. Clippers: NBA All-Times Starting Fives

Los Angeles is home to two NBA teams, but it would be sacrilegious to suggest that they share the city. This ain’t Mets-Yankees. It’s not even Knicks Nets.

Growing up in Los Angeles, my first memory of the Clippers is as a punch line. For much of my youth, they remained a punch line, not just locally or in NBA circles, but across professional sports. Over the years, a funny thing happened to the relationship between Laker fans and the Clippers. We’ve begun to root for the Clippers. Not because we necessarily hope for or expect any success from them, but because there’s no pleasure in rooting against the hopeless.

At some point, the mockery waned, morphing into apathy before ultimately transforming into pity.

Over the past 34 years, the Clippers/Braves have posted a winning percentage of just .353 (973- 1,783), produced four .500-or-better seasons, appeared in the playoffs four times, advanced past the first round once, lost 50+ games 23 times, 60+ eight times (including a record of 12-70 in 1986-87), and managed just nine wins out of 50 games (.180 winning percentage) in the lockout-shortened 1999 season.

The last 34 years have seen the Clippers finish last in their division 15 times, while failing to capture a single division title.

Since 1976, a grand total of eight All-Star appearances have been made by a member of the Clippers/Braves- two each by Danny Manning and Elton Brand, and one apiece by Randy Smith, Norm Nixon, Marques Johnson and World B. Free

Since 1976, the franchise has drafted in the top-10 24 times, 12 times in the top four, and three times at No. 1 overall. Despite this, only once have the Clippers drafted a player who made an All-Star appearance as a Clipper: Danny Manning in 1993 and 1994.

It defies belief that the franchise born in 1970 as the Buffalo Braves managed three consecutive winning seasons, reaching the postseason on each occasion, after just three years in the NBA. They even acquitted themselves well in each of those early postseason appearances, falling in 1974 and 1976 to the eventual champion Celtics, and to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Bullets in 1975.

The Braves looked to be set up for a long run of prosperity. They’d selected MVP and scoring champ Bob McAdoo second overall in the 1972 draft, a year after stealing local collegian and future All-Star Randy Smith in the 7th round (102nd overall).

From expansion team to contender in three years. A franchise big man. Everything was going to well.

And then the sky began to fall. Meteorologists in L.A. expect it to stop any year now.

In 1976, a deal was struck between owner John Y. Brown and Celtics’ owner Irv Levin to swap franchises after the 1977-78 season. Upon the deal’s consummation in the summer of 1978, Levin immediately moved the Braves from Buffalo to San Diego and renamed them the Clippers.

The announcement of the aforementioned deal marked the beginning of an era of incompetence and misfortune that continues to this day. For over three decades, this franchise has misfired spectacularly on so many trades, draft picks and signings, if the NBA didn’t keep records of such things, it would be hard to believe.

Since 1976, the Braves/Clippers have traded away a former MVP and three-time scoring champion (McAdoo), a defending Rookie of the Year and future Hall-of-Famer (Adrian Dantley), the draft pick that would become Marques Johnson (only to overpay to acquire him in a trade seven years later), a young Terry Cummings, a young Tom Chambers and an All-Star and former #1 overall pick (Danny Manning) in exchange for half a season of Dominique Wilkins, rather than a young Glen Rice.

That’s not a comprehensive list- those are just the bad ones! For a more detailed look at the Clippers’ legacy of misfortune, check out Bill Simmons’ open letter to 2009’s first overall pick, Blake Griffin.

Okay, so this whole “trading” thing hasn’t worked out well, but the draft must have treated the Clippers better, right?

Not so much.

In 1978, as part of the franchise swap with Boston, the Braves sent Billy Knight, Nate Archibald, Marvin Barnes and a pair of draft picks to Boston. In exchange, they received Kevin Kunnert, Sidney Wicks, Kermit Washington and the eighth pick in the 1978 draft (Freeman Williams). Boston kept the sixth pick in that draft, which wound up being Larry Bird.

Quick tangent: If fans thought Clippers’ ownership sucked in the late 1970s, their socks were about to be knocked off. Following the 1980-81 season, the Clippers were sold for $12.5 million to Donald Sterling- a man who over the next three decades (and counting) would come to define both “crappy sports owner” and “racist slumlord.”

Salt of the Earth, that guy!

In 1984, with two of the top 15 picks (#’s 8 & 14 overall) in one of the deepest and most talent-laden drafts ever, the Clippers… misfired. They drafted Lancaster Gordon eighth and grabbed solid rebounder Michael Cage at #14- two picks ahead of John Stockton.

The next year, after being awarded the third overall pick in the first-ever draft lottery, the Clippers select Benoit Benjamin- who gave them a solid 13.3- 8.7 and 2.8 bpg over five seasons- over Xavier McDaniel, Chris Mullin and Detlef Schrempf.

In the summer of 1987, the Clippers acquired an extra pair of first-rounders. Good times, right? Yeah… until you select Reggie Williams one spot ahead of Scottie Pippen and grab Joe Wolf and Ken Norman at #’s 13 and 19.

In 1998, a decade after their first draft lottery win, the Clippers win the draft lottery again. However, in a talent-rich draft they pass on the likes of Mike Bibby and Vince Carter (as well as Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Antawn Jamison, though not really in play for the top pick) in favor of Michael Olowakandi, a robotic, big man with low basketball IQ from the University of Pacific.

And the hits just kept comin! In 2002, it was Melvin Ely over Caron Butler and Amar’e Stoudemire. In 2005, Russian teenager Yaroslav Korolev over Danny Granger.

And then there are the injuries. Oh, the injuries!

Just 10 games into the 1986-87 season, Marques Johnson- for whom the Clippers traded budding star Terry Cummings- ruptured a disk in his neck and never played for the franchise again.

After sending quality big man Swen Nater and the fourth pick in the 1983 draft (Byron Scott) to the Lakers in exchange for star PG Norm Nixon, the Clippers thought they’d found a quality floor general. For a while, it looked as though they might be right. However, after three solid seasons, Nixon blew out his knee and ruptured his Achilles tendon in a ~15-month span, was lost for both the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons and was never an effective NBA player again.

After winning the 1988 draft lottery, the Clippers selected Final Four hero Danny Manning first overall. Just 26 games into his rookie season, Manning blew out his left ACL.

In 1989, with second overall pick Danny Ferry- who openly didn’t want to play for the Clippers- threatening to play in Italy, the Clippers dealt him to Cleveland for Ron Harper and a pair of first-rounders. 28 games into the following season, Harper, and his 23 ppg, were lost to a torn ACL.

Even the franchise’s RARE upswings do not come without a hefty price. After trading for veteran PG Sam Cassell and teaming him with Elton Brand, the Clippers notched 47 wins in 2005-06, won their first playoff series in 31 years and came within a single victory of their first conference finals appearance.

In 2006-07, promising third-year PG Shaun Livingston suffered a gruesome injury that destroyed his right knee- on a breakaway dunk attempt!

The following year, the team’s star and leader, Elton Brand, blew out his Achilles and suited up in just eight games before leading the team to believe that he’d re-sign in L.A. and team up with free agent PG Baron Davis, only to bolt for Philly after Baron inked his deal with the Clippers.

Finally, there’s Blake Griffin, the Clippers’ prize for winning the 2009 draft lottery. The top in 2009, he was named Summer League MVP and excelled in the preseason. However, just days before the start of the season, it was revealed that a stress fracture in his left knee would cost Griffin his entire rookie season.


Quite the track record, huh?

With all of that said, there is actually an excellent pool of talent from which to assemble an all-time starting five. It does, however, take some work to find guys that were good enough, healthy enough and not shipped out of town prematurely.

PG- Norm Nixon (14.6 ppg, 9 apg in 283 games)

Six players have made an All-Star team as a member of the Braves/Clippers. Norm Nixon is the only point guard in that group.

He’s the only one of three candidates here- with Sam Cassell and Mark Jackson- never to lead the Clippers to the playoffs, but his run with the team was by far the longest and most statistically productive.

Acquired via trade in 1983, Nixon joined the Clippers in their last season in San Diego, 1983-84. The team won just 30 games that year, but Nixon enjoyed his best statistical season as a pro, and the best for Clippers’ PG, averaging 17 ppg and an NBA-best 11.1 apg.

Nixon continued his fantastic individual play the following season, the Clippers’ first in Los Angeles. In 1984-85, Nixon averaged 17.2 ppg, dished out 8.8 apg and earned the second All-Selection of his career- he was actually excellent in the 1985 All-Star Game, scoring 11 points and handing out 8 assists.

His third full season (relatively- he missed 15 games) with the Clippers was also solid, as Nixon averaged 14.6 ppg and 8.6 apg. In his first three seasons with the franchise, Nixon was good for 16.4 ppg and 9.6 apg.

In the summer of 1986, while playing softball in New York’s Central Park, Nixon stepped in a hole on the field and severely damaged a tendon in his left knee, costing him the 1986-87 season. He’d recover from this, but while practicing in preparation for his return, Nixon ruptured his Achilles tendon and missed the entire 1987-88 season as well. He would return for 53 games in 1988-89, averaging 6.8 ppg and 6.4 apg, but this brutal stretch marked the end of Norm Nixon as an effective player.

Finishing a solid second here is Sam Cassell, who ran the point for the Clippers for two and a half years, starting in 2005. He helped lead the Clippers to 47 wins and the second round of the playoffs, which makes him the equivalent of Magic Johnson or Bob Cousy in Clipperland, but 2005-06 was the only healthy season he enjoyed with the team. That year, Cassell averaged 17.2 ppg and 6.3 apg in 78 regular season games, and 18 ppg, 4 rpg and 5.8 apg in 12 postseason games.

Cassell played just 58 games the following season- during which the Clippers saw their win total fall from 47 to 40- and was waived 38 games into 2007-08. In those 96 games, Cassell averaged just 12.5 ppg and 4.7 apg.

Despite one excellent season, Cassell simply didn’t put up big enough numbers for long enough to earn this spot. In 174 games with the Clippers, he averaged 14.6 ppg and 5.4 apg.

Also deserving a mention here is Mark Jackson, who ran the point for two seasons (1992-93 & 1993-94), the first of which consisted of a 41-41 record (this is good stuff for the Clips!) and a second consecutive trip to the playoffs. That year, Jackson played in all 82 regular season games and averaged 14.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 8.8 apg. In the postseason, Jackson averaged 15.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 7.6 apg as the Clippers pushed the Utah Jazz to a deciding fifth game before losing the series.

Like he was everywhere else, Jackson was the consummate point guard in his time with the Clippers. However, like Sam Cassell, he really only had one excellent season with the team, and didn’t accomplish enough, either individually or from a team perspective. In 161 games with the Clippers, Jackson averaged 12.7 ppg,, 4.6 rpg, 8.7 apg and 1.6 spg.

SG- Randy Smith (17.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg in 714 games)

Despite how it might look at first glance, this race wasn’t close.

World B. Free was an offensive force for a pair of unremarkable San Diego teams between 1979 and 1981. In 146 games, he averaged 29.4 ppg (including 30.2 in 1980-81), was an All-Star in 1980, holds the highest scoring average in franchise history and even averaged 4.3 apg.

Sure he averaged 3.6 TO/game too, but why dwell on the negative?

Ron Harper averaged 19.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.8 apg and 2 spg in 304 games with the Clippers. After losing significant chunks of each of his first two seasons due to injury, Harper missed just nine games over his last three, which included consecutive postseason appearances, the first of which snapped a 15-year drought.

Harper averaged at least 18 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 4.5 apg in each of his five seasons with the Clippers, and was arguably deserving of an All-Star nod at some point during that stretch. Harper’s 5,853 points rank eighth in franchise history, while his 606 steals and 1,463 assists are good for third and fourth, respectively.

In the end, this spot could only go to one man: the late Randy Smith.

Randy Smith (December 12, 1948- June 4, 2009) starred at Buffalo State College, where he played a central role in three conference championships and a trip to the Division II Final Four in 1970. Not a highly touted NBA prospect, the local connection was the primary reason the Braves selected him in the seventh round (104th overall) of the 1971 draft.

Smith made the team, averaged 13.4 ppg as a rookie and improved his scoring average each of the next four seasons- 14.8 ppg, to 15.5, 17.8 and 21.8 ppg in 1975-76. In 1975-76, Smith kicked off a streak of four consecutive 20+ ppg seasons, earned a spot on the All-NBA Second Team and the first of two All-Star selections.

He was also named an All-Star in 1978, his best season as a pro, during which he averaged 24.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 5.6 apg. While his first trip to the All-Star Game was a quiet one (eight points in 15 minutes), Smith took center stage in 1978, coming off the bench to score a game-high 27 points which, along with seven rebounds and six assists, earned him game’s MVP award.

Randy Smith was an exceptional athlete, blessed with great speed and quickness, as well as the ability to jump out of the gym. His physical gifts were perfectly suited for the up-tempo, fast-breaking style that gained popularity in the late-1970s, following the integration of ABA talent into the NBA.

Smith joined the Braves in their second season in existence. He played for the franchise in Buffalo for seven seasons, as well as the first in San Diego as the Clippers. That season, 1978-79, Smith averaged 20.5 ppg and 4.8 apg. before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers that summer.

Smith spent nearly nine seasons with the Braves-Clippers (his first eight, and 65 games in his final season) and is the franchise leader in several categories. Smith holds the franchise mark for games played (714), minutes (24,393), points (12,735; only player with 10,000+), FG attempted (11,035) and made (5,214), assists (3,498) and steals (1,072).

In addition to his other considerable accomplishments, Smith is known for being the “iron man” of NBA’s first half century. After missing six games as a rookie, Smith proceeded to play in 906 consecutive games from 1972-73 through 1981-82. For 10 straight seasons Smith played in every regular season game. His record stood for roughly a decade and a half, until it was broken by A.C. Green in November 1997.

Tragically, following a workout on June 4, 2009, Randy Smith died of a heart attack.

SF- Danny Manning (19.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3 apg, 1.5 spg in 373 games)

The first of three #1 overall draft picks in franchise history (in 1988). Danny Manning provided a ray of hope in the midst of one of the worst stretches in league history- the Clippers had averaged 23.4 wins over seven seasons, and just 29 total in the two years prior to his arrival.

As previously mentioned, Manning’s NBA career got off to a promising, but ultimately a very “Clipper” start. His rookie season was limited to just 26 games, thanks to a torn ACL- back when this was a HUGE deal. He was averaging 16.7 pg, 6.6 rpg and 1.7 spg at the time.

He returned for the 1989-1990 season and was back in form (again, this was a rarity 20 years ago), averaging 16.1 ppg and 5.8 rpg over the next two seasons.

Considering both a team and an individual success, 1991-92, his breakout year, was the most successful of Manning’s career. Not only did he average 19.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 3.5 apg- his best in each category to that point- the Clippers posted their fist winning season in 13 years and broke a 15-year playoff drought.

Manning’s best statistical season came in 1992-1993, when he averaged a career-high 22.8 ppg, grabbed 6.6 rpg helped lead the Clippers to a second straight playoff appearance and earned his first career All-Star selection.

Manning turned down a 5-year, $27+ million contract extension that summer and, in the storied tradition of free-agents-to-be, embarked on the best half season of his career. Through 42 games in 1993-94, Manning averaged 23.7 ppg, 7 rpg and a would-have-been career-high 4.2 apg en route to his second consecutive All-Star selection.

However, after those 42 games, the Clippers and the Hawks swapped soon-to-be free agents, with Dominique Wilkins joining the Clippers for the remainder of the season. After the trade, in fewer minutes with the playoff-bound Hawks, Manning averaged 15.7- 6.5- 3.3 and ended the season at 20.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 3.9 apg.

Manning’s competition for this spot includes a local star that simply didn’t suit up in enough games (157), played for terrible teams (no more than 32 wins in a season) and enjoyed his best seasons elsewhere. And Corey Maggette.

First, there’s Marques Johnson, the former UCLA great that could (should?) have been a Clipper seven years earlier, had the draft pick used to select him not been traded to Milwaukee. In order to (re?) acquire Johnson, the Clippers sent a 23 year-old Terry Cummings, along with Ricky Pierce and Craig Hodges, to the Bucks in the summer of 1984.

While the intelligence of that trade is certainly up for debate, Johnson played some good ball for the Clippers (18.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.6 apg in 157 games; an All-Star selection in 1986) before rupturing a disk in his neck 10 games into his third season with the team. After pulling a Norm Nixon and missing the next two full seasons, Marques would play just more 10 games in the NBA (with Golden State in 1989-90) before retiring.

Meanwhile, Maggette, one of the longest tenured Clippers in history, averaged a solid 17.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg in 512 games, and enjoyed three seasons of 20+ ppg. He was also was a key part of the 2006 playoff run, averaging 15.3- 7.3 in 12 playoff games.

However, for as amazing an athlete as Maggette is, it’s criminal that he was unable to average at least one steal or one blocked shot in his time with the Clippers. Also, the 2005-06 team that posted the only .500+ record of his tenure- and its highest win total (47) since 1975- did so in a season in which Maggette missed 50 games.

So, it’s a good resume, but not good enough.

PF- Elton Brand (20.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.3 bpg in 459 games)

The best Los Angeles Clipper ever. At his best, Brand was not only a lock for 20- 10 virtually every night, he inspired a confidence that the franchise had lacked since the days of Bob McAdoo.

Brand was selected to the All-NBA Second Team in 2006 and, along with Danny Manning, is one of two players to make multiple All-Star appearances (2002 and 2006) as a “Clipper.”

Brand was acquired after two excellent seasons with the Bulls, in exchange for the draft rights to Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner. He averaged 18.3 ppg and 11.5 rpg over his first two seasons in L.A., after which he kicked off a four-year streak of 20+ ppg, grabbing 10+ rpg in two of those seasons. A lesser known part of Brand’s game that developed in his time with the Clippers was his shotblocking- he was good for 2+ bpg in each of his six Clipper seasons.

In the aforementioned 2005-06 season, Brand had the best season of his career, posting career-highs in scoring (24.7 ppg) and FG% (52.7%) to go along with 10 rpg and 2.5 bpg, while leading the Clippers to 47 wins- their most since 1975 and the second highest total in franchise history.

That spring, Brand helped the franchise to its first playoff series win since 1976- and the only one achieved under the “Clippers” name. Although they fell to the Phoenix Suns in seven games in the conference semifinals, that Elton Brand-led crew produced arguably the best season in franchise history.

While he put up another solid performance (20.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg) the following year, 2005–06 was the pinnacle for Brand (individually) and the Clippers, both on and off the floor. In 2006-07, not only did Brand’s stats slip, the Clippers managed just a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs.

Brand missed all but eight games of the 2007–08 season, his last with the Clippers, thanks to a ruptured Achilles' tendon. That offseason he opted out of the final year of his contract and became a free agent. Despite hinting that he would re-sign with the Clippers, and that he’d opted out solely to provide the team with salary cap flexibility, Brand bolted for Philadelphia after Warriors’ free agent PG Baron Davis signed with the Clippers… under the assumption that he’d be joining forces with Brand.

While the relationship between Brand and the Clippers didn’t exactly come to a storybook end, he’s clearly the cream of a rather talented (but generally short-tenured) crop.

First, we have Tom Chambers, the eighth pick in the 1981 draft. Despite showing significant potential (17.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg in 160 games), Chambers was traded just two seasons into his career to make room for standout PF Terry Cummings.

Next up is Terry Cummings, the second overall pick in the 1982 draft. Cummings spent his first two seasons with the San Diego Clippers, where he was fantastic. As a rookie he averaged 23.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg and won the 1982-83 Rookie of the Award. In 151 total games with the franchise, he averaged 23.3 ppg and 10.1 rpg.

However, in the summer of 1984, for reasons that remain a mystery (especially with Chambers having been traded a year earlier to make room for him) the Clippers traded Cummings- a 23 year-old budding star and 20- 10 lock- along with future All-Star Ricky Pierce and sharpshooter Craig Hodges- to Milwaukee.

Also deserving of a quick shout out is Chares Smith, who averaged 18.4 ppg and 7 rpg in 272 games with the franchise. Smith averaged 20+ ppg in consecutive seasons for Clippers and holds the “Clippers” single-game scoring record (McAdoo did it twice in Buffalo), with 52 points in Denver in December 1990.

Finally, a quick nod to the spectacularly Jheri-curled Michael Cage- not so much for his 11 ppg and 8.8 rpg in 305 games for a string of crappy teams- but for his 13 rpg in 1987-88, which tied him with Charles Oakley for the league lead.

C- Bob McAdoo (28.2 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 1.8 bpg in 334 games)

Bob McAdoo is the best player in the history of the franchise and one of the first centers with a great perimeter game and the ability to thrive in an uptempo system. He remains one of the most versatile offensive big men ever.

And he built the lion’s share of his Hall of Fame resume with the Buffalo Braves.

McAdoo was drafted second overall in 1972, after two years at Vincennes Junior College, and one season at North Carolina. He was a factor from Day 1, averaging 18 ppg and 9.1 rpg as a rookie and winning the 1973 NBA Rookie of the Year award. He was so good that double-double machine and shotblocking specialist Elmore Smith was traded to the Lakers to make room for McAdoo. For the next three seasons, their faith would be rewarded.

In 1973-74, he took his game to a new level and established himself as one of the NBA’s elite. That season, McAdoo averaged 30.6 ppg and 15.1 rpg, led the league in FG% (54.7%), was named an All-Star and won the first of his three consecutive NBA scoring titles.

McAdoo’s 1973-74 season remains the last one in which an NBA player averaged 30- 15, and marked the first of just two occasions in the past 37 years (Shaq in 1999-2000 is the other) when a player has led the NBA in both scoring and FG%.

The following year, McAdoo was actually better. He averaged 34.5 ppg, 14.1 rpg, shot 51.2% from the field, was named an All-Star, All-NBA First Team and was awarded the league MVP award.

While McAdoo’s 1975-76 season is as good or better than any season as we’ve seen from a big man in 35 years, it was arguably the worst of his three-year peak. That season McAdoo averaged 31.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, made 48.7% of his field goals, won a third straight scoring title and was an All-Star again.

McAdoo was also the lynchpin of the only three-year postseason streak in franchise history. While the Braves were unable to advance past the second round of the playoffs, McAdoo was exceptional. In the worst of his three postseason appearances with Buffalo (in 1976), he averaged 28 ppg and 14.2 rpg in nine games, playing over 45 minutes per game.

The previous year, in a tough seven-game series against the eventual Eastern Conference champion Bullets, McAdoo was off the charts. He averaged 37.4 ppg, 13.4 rpg and was on the floor for all but nine minutes of the series (46.7 mpg).

Had he peaked in any era other than the one in which he did- or not had his prime years coincide with Kareem’s- he would be much more of a household name. As things currently stand, McAdoo is about as unheralded an MVP, five-time All-Star (four times with the Braves) and three-time scoring champ as you’re likely to find.

Another big man deserving a mention here is McAdoo’s predecessor, Elmore Smith. His first two (1971-72 and 1972-73) NBA seasons, and the best of his career, were spent with the Braves. As a rookie, Smith averaged an excellent 17.3 ppg and 15.2 rpg (eighth best ever for a rookie) and was named First Team All-Rookie. His sophomore season was equally impressive, as he averaged 18.3 ppg and 12.4 rpg.

In addition to being an outstand rebounder (averaged 10.9+ rpg in his first five seasons), Smith was an elite shotblocker, though the NBA didn’t keep track of blocked shots during his time in Buffalo. He led the league in total blocks twice (in 1973-74 and 1974-75), and holds the NBA record for blockes in a game (17, on October 28, 1973, as a Laker, against Portland). That season- the first in which the NBA kept track of blocked shots- Smith averaged 4.85 bpg, the third highest average in NBA history. For his career Elmor Smith averaged a rock-solid 13.4 ppg and 10.6 rpg, but was even better with the Braves, averaging 17.8 ppg and a franchise-best 13.8 rpg.

Finally, we have Swen Nater, a 6’11” Dutchman that was a part of two NCAA title-winning under legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. Nater spent his first two pro seasons with the San Antonio Spurs (1973 ABA Rookie of the Year, 1974 ABA rebounding champ, two-time ABA All-Star and All-ABA Second Team). He would spend another season with the Bucks before he was traded to Buffalo.

He spend four very productive seasons with the Braves, three times averaging a double-double (15.5 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 13.4- 15 and 15.6- 12.4) and leading the NBA in rebounding average during the 1979-80 season (15 rpg). This made him the only player ever to lead both the NBA and ABA in rebounding. In 348 games with the Braves-Clippers, Swen Nater averaged 13.5 ppg, 12 rpg and shot 54.2% from the field.

Before the 1983-84 season, Nater last in the NBA, he was traded to the Lakers, along with the rights to the fourth pick in the 1983 draft (Byron Scott), in exchange for Norm Nixon, Eddie Jordan, and a 1986 second-rounder (which was traded to the Suns and became Jeff Hornacek).

Sorry, even I really didn’t see that last dig coming!

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