No. 4: Loy Vaught
Unlike every other forward mentioned on this list, Loy Vaught wasn’t needed to be damn-near a star the minute he stepped onto the court. Drafted 13th overall by the Clippers in the 1990 NBA Draft, Vaught had the opportunity to sit behind impressive veterans in Danny Manning and Charles Smith, allowing the University of Michigan product to develop at his own pace and not at that of the decision-makers and head coach — in his first three seasons, Vaught averaged a decent 7.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks in 19.6 minutes per game.
In Year 4, things began to play in Vaught’s favor, as seen by an increase in playing time and a huge opening in the frontcourt following a blockbuster trade that sent one forward East in return for a Hall of Fame small forward (see the next slide for more information) — in ’93-94, Vaught would statically show he had the chops to be handed the keys to the power forward position thanks to averages of 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game; unfortunately, the Clippers would miss the playoffs.
The next season, ’94-95, the Clippers would again miss the playoffs, a factor that didn’t hold back Vaught from posting the best numbers of his professional career — 17.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 9.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 steals. Unfortunately, the ’95-96 season would produce the same results: an excellent year for Vaught (16.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and no playoff appearance, but in ’97, Vaught and the Clippers would finally return to the playoffs (swept by the Utah Jazz 3-0 in the first round).
Following the Clippers’ return to the playoffs in ’97, Vaught’s career would take a turn for the worse as back injuries made as to where the big man would only play 10 games in the 1997-98 season, as stated by our own Joshua Broom in a wonderful write-up on the power forward that published no more than three weeks ago:
After being swept by the Jazz in the ’97 playoffs, Vaught would play only 10 more games as a Los Angeles Clipper due to season ending back surgery to begin the ’97-98 season. He was later signed to a nice contract by the Detroit Pistons after the conclusion of this season. Unfortunately, Loy would never fully recover from the back injury and became a bench player for the final years of his career. During his last three seasons in the NBA, Loy would never average more than 3 points per game, while bouncing from the Pistons to the Dallas Mavericks before finally retiring on November 10, 2001 after having his contract bought out by the Washington Wizards for $11 million.
Like four of the five names on this list, there’s value in helping push the Clippers into the playoffs, which adds value to the impressive individual statistics sought out to prove Player X or Y was good, and Vaught, thanks to the ’96-97 season, was able to do so — the Clippers wouldn’t return to the playoffs until the no.2 power forward on this list would lead the franchise nearly 10 seasons later.
A Clipper for eight straight seasons and player of 73 or more games in all but the final season, Vaught is third in Clippers history in games played (558) and fourth in minutes played (15671), and makes other appearances in statistical categories such as being third in franchise history in total rebounds (4471), sixth in steals (468), and seventh in total points (6614).