The Los Angeles Clippers began the day without a pick in the NBA draft, but they got one anyway. They paid the New Orleans Pelicans for the 56th pick, then selected Michigan State forward Branden Dawson late Thursday night.
"One of the things we had talked about for some time was looking to buy in to the second round because we didn't have a pick in this draft," general manager Dave Wohl said. "We focused on a couple of guys, and Dawson was still there in the second round. He was one of the guys we really loved, so we were able to do a deal with New Orleans and buy their pick and draft him."
The Clippers, who were bounced from the Western Conference semifinals by the Houston Rockets in seven games after leading the series 3-1, think they have added a significant piece to the puzzle.
"The biggest thing is his toughness and the fact that he's a winner," Wohl said. "He's not a guy you just lock into a position. He can play and defend a number of positions. One of the things he does is makes game-defining plays. He'll dive and save a loose ball and go over bigger players and grab a rebound."
Dawson finished his four-year career at Michigan State as the career leader in blocks (142) and is one of just three players in MSU history with 1,000 career points and 100 career blocks, joining Draymond Green and Adreian Payne.
"I'm really excited for Branden," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "He'll have the opportunity to play for one of the best coaches in the NBA, and being the Clippers' only draft pick is certainly a plus. Branden had a very good career at Michigan State. He overcame three major injuries, graduated, won Big Ten titles and played in a Final Four. He kept working and improving, and tonight his dream of reaching the NBA came true."
This was the first time in the 45-year history of the franchise that the Clippers went into the draft without a pick in any round, and the fifth time they didn't have a first-round selection since relocating from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984.
The Clippers' first-round pick this year (28th overall) went to Boston as a condition of Doc Rivers' agreement to join the Clippers in June 2013 as head coach after nine seasons as Celtics coach, which included an NBA championship in 2008. Their second-round pick (57th overall) went to Denver to complete a 2009 trade for center Cheikh Samb — who played in only 10 games for them and hasn't appeared in an NBA game since March 20, 2009, with the New York Knicks.
Among the college players the Clippers had work out for them at their Playa Vista practice facility prior to the draft were Cal's David Kravish, Texas-El Paso's Julian Washburn, Duke's Quinn Cook, Connecticut's Ryan Boatright, Iowa's Aaron White and Virginia Commonwealth's Treveon Graham. Free agent contracts can officially be tendered starting July 1.
The Clippers' highest priority at the moment is re-signing free-agent center DeAndre Jordan to a max contract of five years, which is one year more than other teams can offer him. Four years ago, they re-signed Jordan after matching an offer sheet by the Golden State Warriors that was worth approximately $42.7 million.
On June 15, the Clippers acquired Lance Stephenson in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets for Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes, who was subsequently dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday.
There wasn't much intrigue for local players Thursday night, with none of the local college players projected to go in the first round of the draft.
Michigan State's Dawson and Travis Trice, as well as Detroit's Juwan Howard Jr., were considered to be possible second-round prospects.
Kentucky's Devin Booker, who grew up in Grand Rapids, was picked in the lottery, going No. 13 overall to the Phoenix Suns. At 6-foot-6, 206 pounds, Booker was regarded as the best shooter in the draft. After one season with Kentucky, he opted to enter the draft and became the fourth Wildcat selected in the first round.
Detroit native Sir'Dominic Pointer, a small forward from St. John's, was picked No. 53 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Texas El-Paso's Vince Hunter, who attended Detroit Consortium, wasn't selected, nor were Trice or Howard.