Trade Evaluation: Clippers Trade Away Draft Pick Antonio McDyess

(PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Bahr/Allsport.)

How about a trade that was questioned by many?

Antonio McDyess was an explosive power forward coming out of the University of Alabama. He had the potential to be a huge star with his incredible athleticism.

Back in the NBA, the Clippers went through a miserable 1994-95 season and somehow won 17 games (really, they were awful). They didn’t win the lottery but they did get the second pick overall. The Clippers chose McDyess.

Instead of keeping him around and making him the franchise player, the Clippers decided that they wanted to take… shortcuts… to get to the playoffs as fast as possible. As it was, the Clippers roster did not have a lot of good players and were willing to trade McDyess for the right price. They found a taker in Denver.

Antonio McDyess (1995 #2 pick)
Randy Woods

Rodney Rogers
Brent Barry (1995 #15 pick)

Later on, they made another trade that saw Brian Williams (later known as Bison Dele) go to the Clippers and Elmore Spencer going to the Nuggets. Williams had excellent potential that hadn’t been realized at the time.

But it was salivating to see a playoff team get someone like Antonio McDyess. He was added to the core of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Dikembe Mutombo, Dale Ellis, and Bryant Stith. LaPhonso Ellis, who had a knee injury, was still an able contributor. They had a young Jalen Rose and veterans like Reggie Williams and Tom Hammonds. They had something in Denver.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. An 0-6 start set the tone for the 1995-96 campaign. They were never able to get above .500 for the season. McDyess was as good as advertised, averaging 13.4 points and 7.5 boards per game. But Denver finished 35-47 and out of the postseason. Their highlight for that year was upsetting the record-breaking Chicago Bulls, who were 41-3 at the time. McDyess played very well in that game, going for 16 points and 8 rebounds. By the way, that Bulls team would go on to win 72 games that season.

Mutombo left the Nuggets for the Atlanta Hawks after the season and that threw the Nuggets in disarray. McDyess had an increased role, averaging 18.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. But Denver was such a mess that season, with so many players going in and out and having an inconsistent rotation. The Nuggets went 21-61 in the 1996-97 season. Denver decided to blow the team up and that included trading McDyess to Phoenix.

The Clippers, shortsighted as they were at the time, somehow achieved their goal. The Clippers shocked everyone by defeating the Charles Barkley-led Phoenix Suns, who had been title contenders the few years before, in their 1995-96 opener. Rodney Rogers, Brian Williams, and Brent Barry (along with Clipper mainstay Loy Vaught) helped usher in an exciting brand of basketball for the Clippers. They even started out 15-20, which was way above expectations. They didn’t finish strong, finishing the season at 29-53. But it gave optimism to the Clipper fan base.

The following season, even though they lost Brian Williams, the Clippers added plucky guard Darrick Martin. Rogers continued his steady play while Barry provided some excitement off the bench. The Clippers made the playoffs in a weak West with a 36-46 record. They were swept by the eventual finalists, the Utah Jazz, in the first round. But they got to the playoffs using the “shortcut” from the McDyess trade.

However, the Clips regressed heavily the next season. Their most consistent player, Loy Vaught, only played 10 games because of a back injury and was never the same player again. Malik Sealy left for Detroit. Barry was traded to Miami for Isaac Austin. The Clippers only won 17 games in the 1997-98 season and they would languish at the bottom or close to it for several years again.

As for Denver, they re-signed McDyess after he spent a year in Phoenix in a bizarre situation similar to DeAndre Jordan leaving the Dallas Mavericks at the altar. A polished McDyess would have the best years of his NBA career there, averaging 20.8 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in the 2000-01 season. The Nuggets missed the playoffs in a competitive West with a 40-42 record. But it seemed to be getting better for the Nuggets after resetting their team so many times.

But it wasn’t to be. McDyess wrecked his knee early in the 2001-02 season and was never the same player again. McDyess would be traded to the Knicks to end his Denver run. He would beautifully adjust his game playing for the mighty Pistons and Spurs later but it felt like his prime years were wasted in Denver.

The Nuggets didn’t make the playoffs once with Antonio McDyess on the roster. Yet the Clippers made the postseason in the SECOND year after that trade. The pieces of that trade were gone shortly after that. But isn’t it weird how things work out? Can we say the CLIPPERS “won” this trade?!

Follow Rey-Rey on Twitter at @TheNoLookPass for all tweets about the NBA and terrible pop music. Also, check out his podcast, Rey-Rey Is Fundamental.

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