The NBA Draft is more important than ever right now with the value of the Superstar. Every relevant team needs at least one Superstar and contenders now need at least two or three Superstars. The Golden State Warriors currently have four Superstars to show just how important top talent is. NBA teams with high lottery draft picks hope to find the next face of their franchise. Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Devin Booker show the ideal scenario of a rookie progressing in a couple of years to show Superstar status.
However, there have been way more busts than success stories. The past two NBA Draft events gave us great talent but also provided some unfortunate selections. 2016 Draft players have seen quite a few talented guys fail to get established as a credible player. The 2017 Draft is only a few months old with rookies trying to prove their worth. We’ll look at the least impressive players from these two drafts. The sample size is rather small, but you usually know how well a draft pick will do quickly. These are ten NBA Draft picks from 2016 and five NBA Draft picks from 2017 that already look like busts.
15. 2016 Draft: Denzel Valentine
The Chicago Bulls selected Denzel Valentine in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft with the hopes of him blossoming into a Superstar. Valentine performed well in college at Michigan State. While it is commendable that he spent all four years in college with Michigan State, that is usually a bad sign for the overall talent of a top prospect.
Valentine has done a poor job at getting acclimated to the NBA. Last season featured a lot of controversy with Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler clashing with coach Fred Hoiberg and some of the younger talents. Valentine is once again off to a lackluster start in a season that sees the Bulls trying to give playing time to their prospects. Unless things drastically change, Valentine will officially be a bust sooner than later.
14. 2016 Draft: Dragan Bender
The name Dragan Bender stood out in the 2016 NBA Draft for more than the unique nature of it. Bender was one of the top prospects at the time and would get selected with the fourth overall pick by the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix has struggled in recent years when it comes to making the most out of their lottery picks outside of Devin Booker.
Bender is off to a poor start in his NBA career after moving from Croatia. The fact that he must get used to an entirely new life in the United States adds more to his plate than the average young NBA prospect. Bender is playing horrible basketball currently averaging a little over five points per game on an atrocious 38% shooting from the field. Something needs to change, or he will lose any chances to get playing time.
13. 2017 Draft: Frank Ntilikina
The New York Knicks made a bold pick in the recent 2017 NBA Draft when selecting Frank Ntilikina with the eighth overall pick. Ntilikina comes from France and is struggling to adapt to his new surroundings in New York. There have been some small flashes of brilliance that will remind you why the Knicks believe he can be a future star. However, other rookies like Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell were picked after him and look significantly better.
LeBron James even unintentionally roasted Ntilikina when making fun of the Knicks for passing on Smith Jr. Ntilikina did show some spunk by getting in the face of James during the next game in which they faced off. There is still some hope for Ntilikina, but the horrible numbers and lack of playing time just indicates that he is not currently ready for NBA basketball.
12. 2016 Draft: Malik Beasley
Denver Nuggets second year prospect Malik Beasley is a name even diehard NBA fans have a hard time remembering. The talent of Beasley saw him get selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft. Beasley has struggled to get consistent playing time due to the lack of faith in him. Most young player prove they belong in the rotation if they are good, but Beasley just isn’t pulling it off.
Since getting drafted in the NBA, Beasley has averaged under four points per game and fails to impact the game in his limited work. The Nuggets looking to make the playoffs this season means that Beasley is likely not going to get much of an improved workload unless someone gets injured. Sadly, it is probable that he will be out of the league sooner than later.
11. 2016 Draft: Juan Hernangómez
Juan Hernangómez is another second year player on the Denver Nuggets struggling to get on the court. Denver has been giving Hernangómez about 14 minutes per game at the power forward position. Hernangómez is only averaging 3.7 points per game so far, this season compared to the lackluster but better 4.9 points per game last year.
The lack of contributions from Hernangómez during his time on the court means he will continue to see his playing time regress. Paul Millsap will be back from injury sooner than later and others have proven to be better backups. Hernangómez is teetering on falling into the developmental league or even being forced out of the league altogether. The best bet for him is Denver adding him in a trade and getting a fresh slate elsewhere.
10. 2017 Draft: Zach Collins
The Portland Trail Blazers have a solid roster but lack dynamic players in the front court. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are both elite guards in the back court. The play of Jusuf Nurkic has been impressive but they still need more bodies in the front court. Zach Collins was supposed to be a nice addition to team after he was picked tenth overall in the recent 2017 NBA Draft.
The talent of Collins has not delivered the goods as he fails to get playing time. Collins looks awful in limited time averaging just three points per game on 33% shooting from the field as of this writing. The Trail Blazers appear to be hoping to add him in a trade for a better player to be added to the front court before the playoffs. Some reports have suggested Marc Gasol could be on Portland’s radar. If they can only give up Collins and other role players, it would be a steal.
9. 2016 Draft: Henry Ellenson
The Detroit Pistons have taken a positive step forward this season with no help from Henry Ellenson. Detroit selected Ellenson in the 2016 NBA Draft in the first round with the hopes of him contributing right away. Unfortunately, Ellenson just doesn’t look to be good enough to play at the NBA level given how poorly he has performed so far in his short career.
Stan Van Gundy seems to have soured on Ellenson already and refuses to add him to the rotation. Ellenson rarely gets playing time and his time on court usually exposes him as being below average. The G-League seems to be where Ellenson will spend most of his NBA career jumping back and forth. Ellenson’s best case scenario is the Pistons falling apart before the final few months of the season and playing young players.
8. 2016 Draft: Georgios Papagiannis
The fact that most of you have no idea someone named Georgios Papagiannis is in the NBA means he is close to reaching the status of being a bust. Papagiannis is a member of the Sacramento Kings after being selected high in the 2016 NBA Draft. The Greek big man looked to have a lot of potential, but it has yet to come in the NBA.
Papagiannis has bounced back and forth between the Kings roster and the G-League. During his games with Sacramento, he has shown nothing that will give hope to fans that he can become a major player. The Kings are looking to find an identity following the trade of DeMarcus Cousins. Papagiannis will likely get more opportunities but the limited action at this point does not present much signs of optimism.
7. 2017 Draft: Jonathan Isaac
The star studded 2017 NBA Draft featured names like Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and De’Aaron Fox are all making fans excited about their team’s futures. Jonathan Isaac is a name that slipped under the radar. Orlando Magic management felt they had the most underrated pick when selection Isaac with the sixth overall pick in the recent draft.
Inconsistent playing time and poor play in the limited action each tell the story of his rookie season. Most top rookies are starting or getting regular rotation action. Orlando is taking a wait and see approach with Isaac. Teams going this route usually means they don’t believe the rookie is currently good enough for the NBA and don’t want to crush his confidence. If Isaac doesn’t get a spot in the rotation before the season ends, it will be a horrible sign for his future.
6. 2016 Draft: Wade Baldwin
Wade Baldwin was selected in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2016 NBA Draft. Wade Baldwin is no longer a member of the Memphis Grizzlies The rookie season of Baldwin was atrocious as he averaged 3.2 points per game on 31% shooting from the field. Baldwin was so bad that Memphis decided to waive him in training camp heading into this season.
The Portland Trail Blazers signed Baldwin but have kept him in the G-League all season. Baldwin doesn’t seem bound for a call-up to the NBA any time and it may never happen again for him. To put in perspective, the Grizzlies felt Mario Chalmers was worthier of holding down a roster spot than a 21 year old in his second NBA season.
5. 2016 Draft: Jakob Poeltl
The use of Jakob Poeltl by the Toronto Raptors has led to conflicting beliefs on his talent. Poeltl has looked solid shooting 69% from the field for a nice start to the season. However, the team doesn’t give him strong playing time due to a lack of faith in his overall skills. Toronto is a playoff team and allowing a young player to make mistakes isn’t something the want to risk.
Poeltl was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft proving he has a great deal of talent. The weak defense and inability to keep up with the credible names in NBA exposes him. Poeltl has a better chance than most to thrive in the league if he gets traded to a situation where the franchise is willing to wait on him. The more time that passes sitting on the bench in Toronto means the chances of becoming a bust is likely.
4. 2017 Draft: Josh Jackson
Many pundits believed Josh Jackson was the best overall player in the 2017 NBA Draft. Three teams passed on Jackson allowing the Phoenix Suns to select him with the fourth overall pick. Jackson has been dealing with a poor start to his NBA career. The average of nine points per game on an abysmal 37% shooting from the field is not what the Suns hoped for.
There is still a lot of time for Jackson to come around as he understands the life of an NBA player, but this is a deflating start given how well some of his peers are playing. Phoenix has created a terrible atmosphere that led to Eric Bledsoe quitting and coach Earl Watson getting fired. This is not how you want to introduce a top prospect to the NBA. We can only hope Jackson isn’t the next bust.
3. 2016 Draft: Marquese Chriss
Another Phoenix Suns young talent to have a tough time right now is Marquese Chriss. The Suns acquired Chriss after he was selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Chriss looked good last season and actually contended for Rookie of the Year for a short time. The weak rookie class and various injuries helped his mediocre rookie season look impressive.
Sadly, this season has seen a huge regression from Chriss. As of this writing, he is averaging a disappointing six points per game while shooting 39% from the field. Good players usually take a big jump forward in their second year. Busts tend to fall apart in their sophomore season. This is a horrible sign for Chriss as he still tries to figure out the NBA.
2. 2016 Draft: Thon Maker
The hype for Thon Maker has added pressure to him as he is having a horrible second season in the NBA. Maker was drafted with the tenth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. The talent of Maker is there, but he has yet to show it.
Retired legend Kevin Garnett predicted Maker would win the MVP Award at some point in his career before the season started and mentioned him as a potential Most Improved candidate. Maker is averaging four points on 39% from the field as of this writing. Milwaukee could become a contender in the East if Maker improves to what many analysts expect of him. However, his time on the court hurts them as he is a huge drop off from their talented starting core.
1. 2017 Draft: Lonzo Ball
The first few months of NBA action have welcomed Lonzo Ball to the professional level in a harsh manner. LaVar Ball’s big mouth made Lonzo the most talked about rookie since LeBron James but with considerably less talent. Many NBA players have targeted Lonzo due to this. The current shooting percentage of Lonzo is an abysmal 33% from the field as he averages nine points in 33 minutes per game as of this writing.
There have been times where the Lakers bench Lonzo in the fourth quarter due to his inability to shoot the ball. Lonzo has shown some signs of greatness, but the times where he kills the team have been more prominent. The Lakers will give Lonzo a lot of time to progress. Lakers fans are a different story as they believe they have a shot at signing LeBron James next summer. If Lonzo continues to look like a bust, the fans will turn on him soon.
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