Sometimes drafting an NBA star is a given. Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James are just but a few of those who were all but guaranteed to be icons. Then, another cast includes the likes of Manu Ginobili, Steve Nash and Draymond Green who have far exceeded the expectations that were set in front of them leading up to the annual June draft night.
Another crop of players includes the likes of Greg Oden and Joel Embiid, two players who had so much talent written all over them that Portland and Philadelphia both thought they were getting franchise altering big men. While the verdict is still out on Embiid, who after a few years on the sidelines is just starting his rookie season, both he and Oden did actually change their respective franchises negatively. Whether you have the number one pick or the 60th pick, there is always a certain level of anxiety and anticipation of making the right or wrong selection. It's easy to live in a world of hindsight, but the pressures of the War Room/Green Room can be on a whole other level as one wrong pick can put a franchise into a tailspin for years.
To be fair to some players on this list, they had no right being selected where they were, it was some NBA front office thinking that they had a diamond in the rough or were getting a player with (the dreaded word) "potential." Unfortunately the promise, potential and hype can easily be altered due to being selected by the wrong team, injuries, playing time, work ethic or just plain not being physically and mentally ready to enter the draft.
Defining a "bust" is often in the eyes of the beholder as some felt that a player like Joe Smith, who played over 1,000 games spanning a sixteen year career and posted averages of 10 and 6, would fall into the category of a bust. Everyone has different criteria, but for the most part, many would agree that the following 30 players did not live up to expectations.
31 Christian Eyenga
Unlike many on this list, the combo guard/forward was not a product of the NCAA Division One program, but rather, a member of the Spanish Third Division. Lucky enough to get selected in the round of guaranteed money, Christian Eyenga would bounce back and forth between the Cleveland Cavaliers roster and the D-League lineups.
30 Daniel Orton
He may have been part of the Kentucky Wildcats star studded 2009-2010 roster, but he was neither a star or a stud for Coach Cal. Drafted in 2010, Daniel Orton would last three years in the league, but had mailing addresses with three different zip codes. His best season would be his last as the Philadelphia 76ers figured they could make something of Orton that the OKC Thunder and the Sixers could not. What they made of him wasn't much, unless you consider 3.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG to be of value.
29 Priest Lauderdale
They say you can't teach size, which maybe is the reason why the Atlanta Hawks used the 28th pick in the 1996 Draft on the 7'4", 325 pound center from Chicago. His draft picture was pretty hilarious, towering the former NBA Commissioner who looks frightened by the giant he was welcoming into the NBA. Thankfully for Stern, this monster's career was short-lived despite all the hype.
28 Chris Jefferies
Carlos Boozer, Matt Barnes and Luis Scola all remained on the board when the Los Angeles Lakers selected Chris Jefferies and then immediately traded the Fresno State product in 2002 to the Raptors.
Jefferies was more of a defensive asset than an offensive threat, hence his lack of scoring during his two-year career. Following his rookie year, the Raptors traded Jefferies to the Bulls as part of a package for Jalen Rose and company. In 72 games split between Toronto and Chicago, Jefferies tallied just under 4 points per game during his NBA stint. He only managed to start 12 games in his entire professional NBA career which was a clear indication that not even his team and coaches saw the drat bust as a legit starter.
27 Ndudi Ebi
The Minnesota Timberwolves struck gold with Kevin Garnett as a prep to pro pick, so why not take a chance with the 26th pick in the 2003 NBA Draft? With incredible athleticism and a 6'9" frame that could run the lanes, the Wolves thought they had their duo of the future. Unfortunately, Ndubi Ebi was just a bunch of raw talent that would amount to a grand total of 19 games over two seasons in Minnesota before being given his pink slip.
26 Tim James
With such a late pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, it's hard to fault the Miami Heat for selecting home boy Tim James, who not only grew up playing high school ball in Miami, but was also a four-year star with the Hurricanes. At the very least, it would be a feel good story that could help sell tickets. After a single season in Miami, James found himself as part of a multi-player trade to the Charlotte Hornets. A handful of games into his second season and James would be waived by the Hornets only to be picked up by the Philadelphia 76ers. Nine games later and James NBA career would be done and over with.
25 Raul Lopez
Some thought Raul Lopez to be similar to many of the great modern day point guards in the NBA, unfortunately, such expectations were incredibly lofty and unfair to the Spanish point guard. Although he was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2001, it wouldn't be until the 2003-04 season that Lopez would make his debut. All things considered, 7 PPG and 3.7 APG in almost 19 minutes a night on average, was not a bad rookie season for Lopez.
24 Sergei Monia
What was it in 2004 that scared NBA GMs away from selecting Tony Allen and Kevin Martin (who went quickly after Monia)? What was it about the international players that got head offices so excited that they decided that those two weren't as worthy of a draft pick as some of the European players?
23 Joseph Forte
Joe Forte may have been BMOC during his time at North Carolina, but after two seasons at Chapel Hill, he declared for the 2001 NBA Draft. Sure Gilbert Arenas and Tony Parker were still available, but the Boston Celtics thought highly enough of Forte's talents to select him over a future Hall of Famer and a multi-time All-Star.
22 Pavel Podkolzin
The Russian name Podkolzin translates to "really big man" in English. Ok, no it doesn't, but it should. Standing at 7'5" and over 300 pounds, the Utah Jazz may as well drafted WWE's Big Show.
21 Paul Grant
After being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1997, it wouldn't be until two years later that the former Wisconsin Badger would make his pro debut thanks to a foot injury. Unfortunately, it really wasn't worth the wait for Grant or Timberwolves fans as he would only appear in four games with the team before being traded to Milwaukee as part of a three team deal featuring Stephon Marbury, Sam Cassell and Terrell Brandon.
20 Javaris Crittenton
In 2007, the Los Angeles Lakers could have taken a flyer on Rudy Fernández but instead they drafted a point guard out of Georgia Tech after one season. As for his time on the Atlanta campus, Crittenton would last only twenty games with the Lakers before being involved in the epic Pau Gasol deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. In his first year with the Grizz, Crittenton would show some promise, averaging almost twenty minutes of floor time and 7.4 points per game.
19 Mirsad Turkcan
The first Turkish player to ever suit up in the NBA, Mirsad Turkcan was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1998, but due to the NBA lockout and a couple of transactions, he didn't step on to an NBA court until the 1999 season and it would be in a Knicks jersey.
Known mostly for his rebounding ability, the 6'9" forward would find himself parked on the New York bench for all but seven games before being waived in early February. The Turkish dream didn't end there though as the Milwaukee Bucks kept the hope alive for the remainder of the season.
18 Cal Bowdler
No professional basketball player wants their claim to fame being known as the only player in history to foul out of a regular season game with seven fouls. Due to a score-keeping error, the former Atlanta Hawks big man managed to make it through the night with extra fouls.
During the draft, despite James Posey and Andrei Kirilenko still being on the board, not to mention Manu Ginobili who went much, much later, the Hawks selected Cal Bowdler with the 17th pick in the 1999 Draft. Following two uneventful seasons to kick-off his career, Bowdler saw an increase in playing time during what would be his third and final NBA season. That increase would equate to double digit minutes, just over 3.1 points per game and 2.1 rebounds.
17 Troy Bell
He may have been a two-time Big East Player of the Year and a multiple time All-American selection, but those accolades didn't translate to a successful NBA career for the former Boston College point guard.
16 Frederic Weis
His claim to fame can be found on posters, wallpapers, screenshots and highlight videos around the world. Something that very few on this list can have the honor of holding. Unfortunately for Weis, the caption on each of those reads "Le dunk de la mort," from the time Vince Carter posterized 7'2" center at the 2000 Olympics. Weis is also known among New York Knicks fans as the pick selected before hometown Queensbridge hero Ron Artest, who seventeen years later would eventually don a Knicks jersey.
15 Mateen Cleaves
One of the great NCAA leaders, Mateen Cleaves struggled to transition into a valuable asset in the NBA, unless you consider towel waving to be a solid contribution. After doing everything for the Michigan State Spartans for four years, Cleaves entered the 2000 NBA Draft and was selected by his hometown Detroit Pistons. After appearing in 78 games with the Pistons in his rookie year, Cleaves would play in 89 games over the next five years with the Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers and Seattle SuperSonics.
14 Julian Wright
If the Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats) were looking for a small forward at the time, they probably would have been better off with Wilson Chandler, Jared Dudley or even Swaggy P. Instead, the Hornets looked at the show that Julian Wright put on during the 2007 NCAA Tournament. During his time with the Kansas Jayhawks, Wright was more of a presence away from the ball than with it, but still able provided his team with a little bit of everything.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, they were drafting on a risky word, "potential." In just 231 NBA games, Wright struggled to provide, with both the Hornets and the Toronto Raptors, any serviceable stats, averaging about 13 minutes of floor time, along with 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
13 Aleksander Radojevic
Hmm, European big man bust or Robert Swift, a high school big man turned drug abusing washout? Tough call here. Let's go with the Euro guy shall we, based purely on the fact that Swift actually has some NBA stats behind his name.
12 Fran Vázquez
A "coulda, woulda, shoulda" pick for the Orlando Magic in 2005. Something pretty much every single team on this list though of years after making these horrid sections...
11 Luke Jackson
After four standout seasons at the University of Oregon, Luke Jackson's pro career was of an equal length, but of the opposite level of success. In two years as a Cavalier, one split between the Clippers and Raptors and a final season in Miami, the small forward struggled to get any playing time, primarily because he was stuck behind that LeBron James fella and then dealt with injuries for the remaining two years.
Unfortunately "Cool Hand Luke," a moniker given during his time as a Duck for his sweet shooting stroke, was never able to live up to the college hype as he struggled with his shooting percentages at the pro level (35.7% field goal percentage). After a run through the NBDL and Israeli League, Jackson has found more success on the sidelines than he ever did as a pro player as he is the current head coach of Northwest Christian University. Those who can't, teach.
9 Patrick O'Bryant
Someone who shall remain nameless once took a flyer on Patrick O'Bryant with his fantasy basketball team. Oh be quiet, it was a deep league and a big man was needed with a late pick! Geez.
Only once in his five year NBA career did the big man from Bradley University average double digits in minutes played and, even at that point, it was only 11.3 minutes per game and it was during a thirteen game stint with the Raptors. Standing at seven feet and possessing a 7'6" wingspan, one would think that a player of his size would average more than 1.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game. Now sure, it may be hard to do when you have limited playing time, but if you are born with those gifts, you should damn well do something with them!
8 Lancaster Gordon
If you don't know who Lancaster Gordon is, chances are you aren't alone. For those you that are aware however, we applaud your brilliant intelligence pertaining to such a horrid draft selection. Or in reality, you are one of those uber basketball fans that do nothing other than read box scores and lineups for a living. We joke, we joke!
7 Eddie Griffin
With all due respect to the unfortunate passing of Eddie Griffin far before his time, his selection as the seventh overall pick in the 2001 draft by the New Jersey Nets (then traded to the Houston Rockets) was not a wise choice. Although he had been named the Parade Magazine National Player of the Year in high school and the Freshman of the Year in college, Griffin had a number of behavioral issues that should have thrown up a few red flags for any professional franchise. However, talent often supersedes off-court issues and the Rockets felt a three for one deal was well worth the drama.
6 Russell Cross
You would hope that with any high draft selection, a player would have a lengthy and effective career that contributes to the success of the team. In the case of Russell Cross, neither was an option much to the dismay of the team that selected him.
Drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1983, the former Purdue Boilermaker center would find action in only 45 games during his one and only season in the NBA. Although he signed on with the Denver Nuggets for the following season, Cross would eventually be waived after not seeing a tick of floor time.
5 Nikoloz Tskitishvili
They thought he would be the next Dirk Nowitzki, but he became the first "Skita." Despite having the same build as the Dallas star, the game and talent level was nowhere similar. There was a decent amount of depth in the 2002 NBA Draft, but for reasons only they know, the Denver Nuggets decided to hang their draft cap on the head of the seven foot foreigner. Maybe high school stud Amar'e Stoudemire scared them off with his athleticism or Caron Butler's solid two year stint at UConn turn them off. They were both top 10 picks in this draft.
Although he lasted four years in the league, he once saw a significant amount of action once, which was in his 81 game rookie season. Averaging 16.3 minutes per game, Skita managed only 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds. Hardly worthy of a fifth overall pick and the hype that Mike D'Antoni brought about the Georgian.
4 Marcus Fizer
There really wasn't a "Superstar" player in the 2000 NBA Draft, but the Chicago Bulls could have made a better choice than the former Iowa State Cyclone.
3 Adam Morrison
He was a great NCAA player, in fact so good, that he was named a finalist for the Naismith and Wooden Award as well as being named the Chevrolet Player Of The Year and the Co-Player of the Year by the Writers Association. So one would think that would equate to a solid pro resume.
2 Sam Bowie & Darko Milicic
Jordan, Barkley, Stockton versus Melo, Bosh and D-Wade. What an incredible battle of the what if "X" team took "X" player with the second pick! Yes, the Blazers already had Clyde Drexler, but somehow, someway, you have to think that they could have figured out the shooting guard/small forward spot between him and Jordan. Or what about teaming up Drexler and the "Round Mound of Rebound?" Or would the pick and roll game work as well between Drexler and Stockton as it did with Stockton and Malone? Answers to questions that we will never know. Instead, they took Sam Bowie, the 7'1" center who turned out to be a huge bust.
1 LaRue Martin / Anthony Bennett
One is retired and the other plays like he may as well be retired. In 1972, the Portland Trail Blazers selected the 6'11" big man out of Loyola University. Unfortunately for the Oregon franchise, LaRue Martin's pro career was far from his collegiate success. In four years with the Blazers, Martin never started a single game and averaged just under 15 minutes of action per night throughout his career. Throw in 5.3 PPG and 4.6 RPG for a big man and you can pretty much understand why his name sits atop the worst selections ever. If the Blazers really wanted a serviceable big man, Mr. Bob McAdoo was available with the second pick and further down the ladder was Dr. J.
For a more modern day reference for worst overall selection with a number one pick, sadly a fellow Canadian tops the list as the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the number one choice in the 2013 Draft. Since that time, Bennett has been with four teams in four seasons, including a NBDL squad. After a season in Cleveland, the former Runnin' Rebel's passport has been stamped in Minnesota, Toronto (and the Raptors 905 team) and currently in Brooklyn. It may have been easy to see some comparisons to former Rebel, Larry Johnson, when Bennett was in Las Vegas, but since that time, chances are Grandmama could take the Canadian forward in a game of one on one. The 2013 draft was not a great one by any means, but Victor Oladipo and C.J. McCollum have had far better careers than Bennett.
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