The 9 Biggest Draft Busts In NBA History

Goody

Goody

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Goody

Despite what pretty much everyone who writes about basketball tries to tell you this time of year, the NBA Draft is anything but an exact science. Yes, sometimes you have a no-brainer number one game-changer like LeBron James, but more often than not GMs are going to mess up. That’s how you get Michael Jordan having two players selected before him. It also explains how Steph Curry somehow was drafted seventh in his draft.

Now, you never expect your team to get the draft 100% right. But we’re going to look at these nine high draft picks that were such big busts they essentially derailed entire organizations.

9. Michael Olowokandi (1st Pick, 1998 by Los Angeles Clippers)

An impressive amount of NBA busts seem to get drafted because of their height, and Olowokandi seems like the perfect example of that. The 7-foot center had literally never played organized basketball until he was 18 years old, but he managed to get himself drafted higher than the likes of Vince Carter (5th pick), Dirk Nowitzki (9th) and Paul Pierce (10th).

So while the 1998 draft yielded three no-brainer Hall of Famers, the Clippers were left with a player who averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 games over an underwhelming career whose sole highlight was “a number one draft pick that got selected to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Yikes.

8. LaRue Martin (1st Pick, 1972 by Portland Trail Blazers)

LaRue Martin has been called “the worst #1 draft pick of all time” by some pundits, and his numbers make a good argument for that case. The 6’11 center (hmm, beginning to see a pattern here?) played for four seasons, in which he averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds.

The player selected number two that year? Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo. 1972 was also the year that Julius Irving was drafted 12th, so this is a particularly painful year to draft such a bust. The only reason this isn’t up higher is that the draft didn’t have the “make or break a team” urgency in the 70s as it does now. But still, this one stings.

7. Pervis Ellison (1st Pick, 1989 by Sacramento Kings)

Ellison was known as “Never Nervous Pervis” throughout his college career at the University of Louisiana, which was enough to push the 6’9 power forward/center (again with the centers) to the top of a draft list that included Glen Rice, Mookie Blaylock, B.J. Armstrong, Shawn Kemp and Tim Hardaway.

He did not end up living up to the hype, and became known as “Out of Service Pervis” due to his constant string of bad luck injuries. The one bright spot in his 11-year career, in which he averaged under 10 points and 7 rebounds a game, was the 1992 season that saw him dropping 20/11 per game and being named the NBA’s “Most Improved Player” which, admittedly, is not a title you want to see from a number one pick.

6. Adam Morrison (3rd Pick, 2003 by Charlotte Bobcats)

The first pick of the 2006 draft was Andrea Bargnani, a 7-foot center who in his own right turned out to be a huge bust. But at least Bargnani, who for some reason couldn’t rebound for his life despite being an actual giant, had a good four year streak where he was one of the better players on the Raptors roster.

The same can’t be said for the third pick, Adam Morrison, a player who is now best remembered for having the mustache of a 13-year-old boy and for crying a bunch when Gonzaga got bounced from the tourney. Morrison proved the rule that I made up of “if you can’t grow facial hair, you should not be a top 3 pick.”

Charlotte did not heed that advice, and instead they passed on Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, and Brandon Roy to take Morrison, who would only play in 161 games, averaging 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and, presumably, three crying sessions per game.

5. Hasheem Thabeet (2nd Pick, 2009 by Memphis Grizzlies)

2009 wasn’t that long ago. Most of the players drafted that year are still in their prime. This was the year that Blake Griffin was the number one, so Memphis didn’t have a shot at getting him. But, in this deep draft year, they could have wound up with James Harden (3rd), Steph Curry (7th), or DeMar DeRozan (9th).

Hell, they could have gotten Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, or Brandon Jennings, all of whom ended up worlds better than Hasheem Thabeet, the towering 7’3 (wait for it…) CENTER who has been out of the NBA since 2013. And when he played, he was bad. So bad. We’re talking a career stat line of 2.2/2.7/0.1.

There’s “wow that’s a waste of a number 2 draft pick” bad, and then there’s “You, reading this right now, could arguably put on a Grizzlies jersey and have more success than this number 2 draft pick” bad. Thabeet falls into the latter category.

4. Kwame Brown (1st Pick, 2001 by Washington Wizards)

The 2001 draft class included Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker, and Gilbert Arenas. But with their top pick, the Wizards decided to go with Kwame Brown, a center (another goddamn center) who ended up being so bad that he actually was a better pick than the other biggest bust of this draft, Eddie Curry at slot number 4.

Kwame managed to average more than 10 points a game just once in his career, while somehow comically earning $63 million from teams who kept telling themselves, “He’s a number one pick, he’s got the tools, he can turn it around.” Unfortunately for the Wizards, Lakers, Grizzlies, Pistons, Bobcats, Warriors, and 76ers, all of whom took an expensive chance on him, he never did.

3. Darko Milicic (2nd Pick, 2003 by Detroit Pistons)

Poor Darko. The 7-foot-tall Croatian center (AGAIN) managed to find himself in one of the most stacked drafts of all time. While King James was the obvious number one pick, the Pistons could have gone with Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, or Chris Bosh, who filled out the top five of the draft.

Instead, they went with the center, because as we’ve seen here that always works. Melo, Wade and Bosh all became perennial All-Stars, with at least two Hall of Famers in the bunch, while Milicic lasted ten seasons while averaging exactly 6 points per game. Woof.

2. Greg Oden (1st Pick, 2007 by Portland Trail Blazers)

Greg Oden, an Ohio State phenom best known for looking like a 35-year-old man at 18, serves as a cautionary tale for why GMs need to stop putting so much stock in selecting big men at the top of the draft. He tore up the college basketball scene in his one season, but immediately had his career derailed by injuries almost as soon as he was drafted.

He only managed to play parts of three seasons, averaging 8 points over about 100 games in his career. He had moments where he was devastating on the court, but unfortunately that usually was followed by him landing on the ground to have his knees explode on him.

This bust ranks so high historically because of who else was drafted this year. There was a genuine “which player will be taken number one” back and forth argument that year, and while Portland decided to go with Oden, they left the other top draft pick on the table. A player named Kevin Durant. You’ve probably never heard of him.

1. Sam Bowie  (2nd Pick, 1984 by Portland Trail Blazers)

In 1984, the Houston Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon with the number 1 overall pick. While they left Michael Jordan on the table, it’s hard to fault them for this pick, as Olajuwon is one of the greatest two-way players of all time who would lead the Rockets to two titles. So, with Michael Jordan still on the table, and a center that would not bust somehow being selected, the apparently snakebitten Trail Blazers went with…Sam Bowie, a center who would of course become the biggest bust in NBA Draft history.

In 10 injury-shortened seasons, the 7’1 Bowie averaged about 10 points a game and 7.5 rebounds, which is not bad for a role player, but is also bad enough to ensure he spent his entire career being known as “wait, HE was selected before MJ!?” To add salt to the wound, 1984 would go on to be one of the greatest, deepest drafts of all time, yielding four HOFers (Charles Barkley and John Stockton also were drafted this year) and three more All-Stars.

So the thing to remember here is, when it comes to the NBA Draft, you never really know what you’re going to get. Unless you use a top pick on a center, in which case it’s probably going to bite you in the ass. Especially if you’re the Trail Blazers.

Goody

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