The first decade of the new millennium was an interesting one for NBA draft classes. In that decade, we saw a couple of the greatest draft classes in NBA history, in 2003 and 2009 particularly. We also saw a couple of the worst drafts in NBA history. The reason for the decline in great incoming players has been the subject of controversy around the league for years now. Many people blame the “one and done” rule, others blame the AAU basketball circuit, but either way, there has been no shortage of draft busts since the beginning of the century.
We know players like LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant were all drafted during the 2000s, but do you remember players like Hasheem Thabeet or Darko Milicic? They ring a bell, don’t they? Well be prepared to take a little trip down memory lane to the days when people actually thought Greg Oden would be a great NBA player.
As we reveal the 15 worst draft picks of the 2000s, we will also give you a little insight into what each player has become and what their life looks like now that the dream of being an NBA superstar has ended.
15. Darius Miles
Miles was drafted with the third overall pick in the 2000 draft class, a class that has gone down as one of the worst in league history. When Miles came into the league with the Clippers, fans thought they had found a key piece to add to their young core of promising talent. However, Miles’ lack of maturity and dedication caused him to have a lackluster nine-year career, never lasting more than three seasons with any franchise. When he was cut for the last time in 2009 Miles was forced to call it a career, finishing with a career scoring average of just over 10 points per game.
After he retired, Miles tried his hand at acting. He played a high school basketball player in the movie The Perfect Score. He also appeared in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder. Sadly for Darius, his immaturity once again reared its ugly head. In 2011, Miles was arrested in Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for carrying a loaded gun. Despite making nearly $62 million in his NBA career, Miles filed for bankruptcy on September 18, 2016.
14. Ekpe Udoh
In 2006, the Golden State Warriors held the number six selection in the senior heavy draft. They decided to pass on Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, and Paul George, going with Ekpe Udoh instead. The Warriors, I am sure, regretted that decision shortly after they made it. Udoh lasted only two seasons with Golden State, and five years in the NBA. He was never able to get his game polished to the high standards of NBA basketball.
After his failed attempts at the NBA, Udoh took his talents overseas and became a quality international player. In 2016, Ekpe helped lead his team to the Turkish League championship, as well as the Turkish Cup championship. During his great run in 2016, Udoh was also named to the All-Euroleague Second Team.
13. Joe Alexander
Coming out of West Virginia, Joe Alexander went a little under the radar during his junior season. However, he did do enough to earn himself First-Team All-Big East, as well as Honorable Mention AP All-American. When the draft combine came around, that is when Alexander caught the eye of many general managers around the league. Joe was regarded as the best athlete, on paper, in that year’s draft, and with that he was selected eight overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. His athleticism was never able to transfer to the NBA, and he lasted only two seasons in the league before being resigned to NBA D-League and professional basketball overseas.
Since being relegated to D-League and international competition, Alexander has had some success. He currently plays with the well known Maccabi Tel Aviv team, a team that has a long, rich history of success in international games. Alexander was a member of the team when David Blatt was still the coach, before he went to Cleveland to coach the Cavs.
12. Tyrus Thomas
Thomas was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the fourth overall pick in 2006. He was then immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls for LaMarcus Aldridge. Thomas’ rookie season in Chicago was promising; he even made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. After three seasons, his career seemed to be coming along and he was projected to be a quality role player for a contending team. However, in 2009, he fractured his forearm, forcing him to miss six weeks of action. During those six weeks, rookie Taj Gibson had earned the spot vacated by Thomas. The Bulls traded the injured Thomas to the Bobcats, and his career seemed to fizzle out from there.
Thomas played parts of four seasons in Charlotte before being cut by the team in 2013. He spent a little time playing professionally overseas, but while traveling, he seemed to find his true calling. Tyrus now travels the world taking photos, calling himself an amateur professional photographer. He also helps to mentor children and help keep them on the right track. He says he does not want see someone with as much talent as he had waste it like he did.
11. Robert Swift
Robert Swift is one of the saddest cases in NBA history. Swift was a star high school player who grew up in a stressful environment. His father was unable to work due a major car accident and his mother battled cancer during his childhood. His parents had a hard time keeping food on the table for Robert, and the family filed for bankruptcy on two separate occasions. Swift needed to help his family financially, so he decided to skip college and declare for the NBA out of high school. This was back in 2004 before the NBA implemented its rule regarding high school player eligibility. Swift was likely aware that his skills were not NBA ready, but his family needed him to provide. Swift was overwhelmed at the NBA level and was never able to assimilate to the new world in which he found himself.
His NBA career lasted five years and by the end he was in bad shape. Swift got heavily involved in drugs, guns and other illegal activity. Ultimately Swift ended up in jail following an attempted armed home invasion, in which Swift claimed he was high on drugs during the time of the incident.
10. Yi Jianlian
In 2006, a 20-year-old Yi hesitantly entered the NBA draft. After deliberating and much consultation, Jianlian decided to put off his NBA dream for one more year. In 2007, at 21 years old he officially put his name into the NBA draft. Coming off of three straight Chinese Basketball League (CBL) titles, as well as a CBL Finals MVP, he still was outspoken about not being sure if he was ready for the NBA stage. However, in 2007, the Milwaukee Bucks took a flyer on the Chinese superstar when the selected him with the sixth overall pick. Yi’s career was hindered by injury his rookie season and he was seemingly never able to overcome the adversity.
Ultimately Jianlian bounced around the NBA for five seasons before returning to China. Once he returned home, somehow so did his incredible talents. He made four straight CBL All-Star games, and won the championship, Finals MVP and CBA league MVP in 2016. Yi has decided to again try his hand at the NBA. Now, at 28 years old, he is seemingly more mature and ready for the bright lights. We shall see, but Jianlian recently signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason.
9. Jonny Flynn
In 2009, the Minnesota Timberwolves made one of the most puzzling moves in NBA draft history. They held the sixth and seventh overall picks in the first round. The Timberwolves were in dire need of help, any help, at any position. So, what did they do? They selected point guard Ricky Rubio with the sixth pick, and then proceeded to select another point guard, Jonny Flynn, with the seventh pick. Not only did the Wolves pick two uncertain players who played the same position, but they also passed up on Steph Curry, Jeff Teague, and DeMar DeRozan. This inexplicable move is one of the main reasons the Timberwolves have been a Western Conference basement dweller for almost a decade.
After being unable to earn a spot with the Wolves after two seasons, Flynn was demoted to the D-League and ultimately let go. He spent the next couple years bouncing between the D-League and short lived NBA call-ups. Eventually, in 2013, Flynn took his talents overseas and joined the Australian League. He had mediocre success down under, and decided to try the Italian leagues. He lasted a single season in Italy before suffering a season-ending injury. Flynn is currently training for an attempted NBA comeback, but his prospects look very slim.
8. Andrea Bargnani
Andrea Bargnani is a prime example of why NBA teams are hesitant in drafting an overseas player with the first overall pick. In 2006, the Toronto Raptors learned this lesson the hard way. Rather than take a more polished college player like Brandon Roy, or LaMarcus Aldridge, the Raptors went down the flyer route and selected Andrea. He was supposed to be the next Dirk Nowitzki, except he was praised as a great rebounder too. Bargnani ended up having a decent seven seasons in Toronto, but his true potential was never realized and he was ultimately traded to the New York Knicks. He spent two lackluster seasons with the Knicks, followed by a season with the Nets before being released in 2015. In 2016, Andrea went back to Europe and signed a two-year contract with Spanish club Saski Baskonia.
7. Eddy Curry
Coming directly out of Thornwood High School in South Holland, Illinois, Curry was selected fourth overall in the 2001 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. Curry was expected to be the savior for a Bulls franchise that had been unable to transition past the Michael Jordan era. Curry, however, was not able to help lead the Bulls to the promised land, or anywhere close to it. Curry’s career was filled with problems, from his incredibly scary heart condition to the death of his daughter, to his inability to stay in shape. Curry was an unfortunate case of a player with great skill who was unable to transition to the NBA life. Curry is one of several players who had great impact on the NBA instituting its age limit rule. Many players like Curry made the jump straight from high school and were incapable of handling the job requirements of a professional athlete.
Curry retired in 2013 after spending a season in China and is currently playing in the Champions Basketball League, a league that features ex-NBA players and players who are unable to compete at an NBA level. Other players in the CBL are Al Harrington, Josh Childress, and Shawn Marion among others.
6. Hasheem Thabeet
Thabeet was an incredibly talented 7’3″ center who appeared to be primed for a decade plus of defensive dominance in the NBA. Drafted second overall in 2009, Thabeet was selected ahead of players like Steph Curry, James Harden, and DeMar DeRozan. Once he got to the NBA, it was clear that his skills were not going to transfer. In his second season he became the highest drafted player to be sent to the D-League. Thabeet was traded after only two seasons in Memphis. After being traded the first time, Hasheem bounced around the league like a pinball, playing for five teams in three seasons. Thabeet was given a chance to play at every stop, and every time, he found himself playing in the D-League before being released or traded. Thabeet spent last season fighting for time with the Grand Rapids Drive, a D-league affiliate for the Detroit Pistons. Coming into this season, Thabeet is a free agent looking for another chance to earn a roster spot.
5. Kwame Brown
When I think of Kwame Brown, I immediately think of Michael Jordan. That may seem a little strange seeing as Jordan is probably the greatest player to ever play, and Brown never averaged over 11 points in his career. The bond between these two comes when you realize that Brown was the first major move Jordan made as a general manager. In 2001, the Washington Wizards had the first overall pick in the draft, and Michael Jordan was in his first season as team president and GM. With players like Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, and Tyson Chandler in the 2001 draft, it is clear Jordan shot a major airball drafting Brown.
After 11 underwhelming seasons, Kwame decided to hang em up. However, in 2016, he signed with Interperfomances, a player agency, in an attempted NBA comeback. This comes as a surprise to almost all basketball fans, especially since Kwame earned millions of dollars in his career and is also creeping up on 35 years of age.
4. Darko Milicic
Darko will forever be linked to four Hall of Fame Players — LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. Darko was the player selected ahead of three of those four players in the 2003 draft. After LeBron was drafted first by the Cavs, the Detroit Pistons decided to get cute with their pick. Rather than draft one of the remaining three can’t-miss prospects, the Pistons went with Serbian-born Darko. This move proved to be one of the greatest mistakes in NBA draft history. Darko played for six teams in nine seasons, ending his career with the Boston Celtics in 2012.
Once he retired from the NBA, Darko seemed to be on a mission to prove himself or something. In 2012, he took his lanky 7′ frame and became a professional kickboxer. The kickboxing career lasted less than a year, and in 2013, Milicic signed with a professional basketball team in Serbia. After one season there, he finally decided to stop playing basketball. Today Milicic is a farmer in his native Serbia.
3. Adam Morrison
In 2005, Adam Morrison was on top of the college basketball world. He helped lead Gonzaga University to a deep run through the NCAA tournament, along the way drawing comparisons to the great Larry Bird. Morrison was a lanky white dude with a mean jumpsuit, so naturally there were Bird comparisons. After his co-player of the year junior season, Morrison entered the NBA draft. In 2006, the Bobcats, whose president at the time was Michael Jordan, swooped Morrison up with the third overall pick. It didn’t take long for the Bird comparisons to fly out the window. Morrison’s best season was his rookie year when he averaged just over 11 points per game.
After a couple of seasons overseas, Morrison was given a job by his college coach Mark Few. Adam resides in Spokane, Washington, which is where Gonzaga University is located. He works with the University’s basketball program and lives with his girlfriend and their three children. Although his career never panned out as many thought it would, Morrison will always be able to say he is a two-time NBA champion as part of the Kobe- and Pau-led Los Angeles Lakers teams.
2. Greg Oden
As one of the most athletic seven-footers to ever play college basketball, it appeared Greg Oden was on his way to dominating NBA centers for a decade plus. As a freshman at Ohio State, Oden averaged ten rebounds a game, and an astounding 3.3 blocks per game. Unfortunately for Oden, and the Portland Trail Blazers who selected him first overall, as soon as he became an NBA player, he began to deal with injuries. Greg was forced to miss his entire rookie season due to micro fracture surgery on his right knee.
His career would end up being filled with various knee and ankle injuries that forced him to miss months at a time throughout his stops around the league. Oden spent last season playing professionally in China. This summer, Oden was given a job with Ohio State University while going back to school to finish his degree. Greg is currently the student manager for the men’s basketball team. He has said he is doing the job while he waits for an offer from a team in China.
1. Jay Williams
Jay Williams was on the fast track to being an NBA superstar. He had it all — speed, ball-handling, court vision, defense, and basketball IQ. He even had the personality of a superstar. Williams was the second overall selection in the 2002 draft by the Chicago Bulls, and he was seemingly on his way to a promising career. During his rookie season, he had some ups and downs, but all in all, he was successful, even positioning a triple double that rookie year. During the offseason after his rookie year, Williams crashed his motorcycle, and in the process, ended all hopes of his career as a basketball player. Williams’ injuries included a severed main nerve in his leg, fractured pelvis and three dislocated ligaments in his left knee, including the ACL. Once it became clear that Williams would likely never return to basketball, the Bulls released him.
Williams tried a couple of times to return to the NBA, but he was never the same, and was unable to make an NBA roster again. Williams, however, had an incredible personality and basketball IQ. So with those tools, Jay transitioned himself into a sports analyst and commentator. He currently works for ESPN as one of their main college basketball experts and enjoys many of the perks he missed when he had the horrific motorcycle accident.