Not only is the NBA Draft high in stakes, but it offers a challenging puzzle that proves costly for scouts, executives and teams every year. Identifying each year's draft busts has become a fundamental part of the widespread, breathless coverage of the league's annual selection process, right along with mock drafts and pick-by-pick analysis. While you might expect those who fizzle out of the league amidst lofty expectations to be quickly forgotten, the biggest victims of falls from grace have entered something of a connected brotherhood on account of their ignominious, infamous NBA existences.
While NBA fans may be happy to slap an eternal 'bust' label on these under-performing prospects, these men are still young even as they leave the Association and can still pursue a fresh start once their NBA careers come to an end. Let's catch up with 15 notorious NBA busts who have either found new life by pursuing other interests, continue to soldier along with their basketball dream or have fallen off the map entirely.
14 Joe Barry Carroll
Sometimes even the story of an NBA bust stumbling out of the league can have a happy ending. Not only was Joe Barry Carroll an underwhelming No. 1 pick for the Golden State Warriors, but the laid back big man's selection was made infamous when the Warriors gave up Robert Parrish and the pick that would become Kevin McHale for the right to draft him.
Rather than dwelling on his bust label, Carroll changed the narrative by finding success in the corporate world following his 10-year playing career. Now an entrepreneur, Carroll has founded a wealth advisory company, but is also a published author, philanthropist and socially engaged activist. There are plenty of words that can be used to describe the successful 59-year-old, just don't call him a bust.
13 Andrea Bargnani
Few qualities will excite NBA talent observers more than size and shooting touch and Italian seven-footer Andrea Bargnani was believed to have plenty of both. The Toronto Raptors certainly believed so, taking him first overall in 2006, one pick ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge. While Aldridge was named to five All-Star Games, Bargnani didn't participate in any.
And it doesn't look like he's about to, either. After getting waived by the 21-win Brooklyn Nets in 2016, Bargnani returned to Europe with the Spanish League. But the player and his club mutually agreed to part ways after just 31 games of an injury-marred first season, leaving Bargnani without a pro basketball home.
NBA scouts earn their living by trusting their eyes, but sometimes a little common sense helps too. Marvin Williams tantalized scouts with an array of physical tools coming into the league, but also couldn't get off the bench on a talented North Carolina Tar Heels squad. Still, he was taken second overall, with Chris Paul and Deron Williams still on the board.
Williams has actually carved out a respectable 12-year career and remains a key rotation player for the Charlotte Hornets. But No. 2 overall? The 31-year-old has more than 850 games under his belt, but has never averaged 15 points per game and trails CP3, who was selected two picks later, nine All-Star appearances to none. You think that the Atlanta Hawks might like to have that pick back?
12 Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Almost immediately, Tskitishvili looked hopeless trying to keep up with the NBA game. He averaged 3.9 points in his rookie season and never played more than 39 games in a season again. The next year, Denver drafted a guy named Carmelo Anthony to play the three. Still active at 34 years of age, Tskitishvili is now toiling in the Iranian League for Chemidor Tehran.
11 Shawn Bradley
The Philadelphia 76ers executives who were behind the drafting of Shawn Bradley second overall in 1993 would surely be delighted to learn of the vast number of basketball posters the 7'6" giant would appear on. They probably would rather not know how many of those posters would feature Bradley getting dunked on.
The impossibly tall shot blocker did swat away an average of 2.5 shots per game over his 12-year career, including a remarkable four a game in one season, but he remains better remembered for his immobility and being a liability on offence. Quite frankly, people looked at Bradley's size and expected him to be better than he was, especially given that he was picked immediately before Penny Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn. In his post-playing days, the devout Mormon has dipped his toe into politics and championed numerous philanthropic causes.
10 LaRue Martin
To be clear, Martin was a draft bust long before anyone knew what the phrase meant. And with Portland's drafting of Bill Walton two years later, it wasn't long before he didn't have a future with the Blazers. Though he didn't deliver on his promise in the NBA, Martin soon became a master in delivery, rising up the ranks with UPS after retirement. He is now one of the senior managers with UPS' Illinois branch.
9 Adam Morrison
One of the preeminent scorers in NCAA history and a legendary figure in Gonzaga lore, things went south for the moustachioed Adam Morrison as soon as he left campus. The third overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft had a decent enough rookie season for the Charlotte Bobcats, but a knee injury sidelined him for his entire sophomore campaign and he played all of 83 games thereafter without once scoring so many as 20 points.
The notorious non-conformist still boasts the greasy-looking locks and a wispy moustache, but is now a father of three back in his hometown of Spokane, Washington. Living a simpler life, the 33-year-old is now an assistant coach at Mead High, his former high school team. Though his NBA career is remembered as an abject failure, Morrison did come away with nearly $17 million in career earnings and two championship rings with the Lakers.
8 Sam Bowie
Many NBAers would kill for a career that produced over 500 games played and a career average of 11 points per game. For Sam Bowie, however, there wasn't much short of an all-time great Hall of Fame resume that could have lifted the burden of being the guy taken before His Airness.
With the second pick in 1984, after the Houston Rockets had nabbed Hakeem Olajuwon, the Blazers already had a superstar shooting guard in Clyde Drexler, so they passed on Michael Jordan in favor of Bowie, a versatile big man out of Kentucky. The comparisons to Jordan, while unfair, are unavoidable and Bowie will never live down being taken before the best player ever. Yet, he seems content with his life, breeding and training horses for harness racing back in Lexington.
7 Michael Olowokandi
Holding the top pick in the 1998 NBA Draft the Los Angeles Clippers, who have been known to flub a draft pick or two, were unable to resist the allure of the seven-foot rim protector with the ready-made nickname. Though hard to believe in hindsight, Michael "the Kandi Man" Olowokandi was widely considered the consensus top choice in a draft that also featured Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce.
After a year overseas, the immature Olowokandi soon showed that all the physical tools in the world can't overcome a lack of dedication. The former Pacific star arrived to camp out of shape and tuned out the advice of NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabber, thus sealing his bust fate. These days, Olowokandi is... well, no one really seems to know. The 42-year-old has stayed completely out of the public eye since exiting the league in 2007.
6 Rick Robey
It was 1978 and the Indiana Pacers just happened to find themselves with the No.3 pick in a draft that featured a hometown hero out of Indiana State. No-brainer, right? Well, not quite. Pacers brass were so enamoured with Kentucky centre Rick Robey that they opted to pass on the "Hick from French Lick", Larry Bird.
Robey was a solid, albeit underwhelming, option at centre, while Bird became Larry Legend in Boston. Ironically, Robey would wind up in Beantown thanks to a 1979 trade as a serviceable teammate of Bird's before being shipped out in a deal that brought All-Star Dennis Johnson to the Celtics. Nowadays, Robey is a successful real estate agent in Florida. His son, Sam, played for the Florida Gators football team.
5 Hasheem Thabeet
We are learning through this list how dangerously alluring size can be in the NBA Draft. In 2009, it was the Memphis Grizzlies' turn to get sucked in by the 7'3" frame of Tanzanian giant Hasheem Thabeet, who they took with the second overall pick in a move that looks worse with each passing year.
As Thabeet currently toils for the Yokohama B-Corsairs of the Japanese league and the Grizzlies slowly fade from perennial playoff contention in the tough West, other Conference rivals thrive thanks to other 2009 draftees. The powerhouse Golden State Warriors are buoyed by Steph Curry, the Houston Rockets are led by James Harden after Oklahoma City traded the bearded one and Blake Griffin remains the biggest star on the LA Clippers.
4 Darko Milicic
Few names have come to be as synonymous with the failure to live up to draft day expectations as Darko Milicic. The sad tale of Milicic combines the disappointment of wasting a No. 2 draft pick on a guy who would average just six points per game over his career and the nightmare-ish disaster of swinging and missing in the historically loaded 2003 draft.
Though the Serbian big man did manage to squeeze out 10 NBA seasons and even won a title as a glorified bench warmer on the Detroit Pistons, his production was a far cry from that of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, all superstars drafted after him. Part of the problem was that basketball was never the seven-footer's passion. What he is passionate about however is harvesting crops on a fruit farm that he owns back home, where he exports apples, cherries and other fruits.
3 Anthony Bennett
For all of the bad draft picks that adorn this list, it's hard to find another one that has seemed as instantly regrettable as Anthony Bennett. The No. 1 choice of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers was even considered a reach at the time, so much so that Bennett's draft moment is probably best remembered for the abject bewilderment of then-ESPN commentator Bill Simmons immediately after the pick.
Bennett lived down to the expectations of his doubters, failing to make an impact in Cleveland before being packaged in the Kevin Love deal. From there, the Toronto native bounced around four teams in four years, offering underwhelming returns at each stop. After a quick trip overseas with the powerhouse Turkish club Fenerbahce, the Phoenix Suns have now given some life to the 24-year-old's NBA dreams, signing Bennett to a non-guaranteed deal and training camp tryout.
2 Greg Oden
Draft busts can often be consumed by that identity, regardless of the success that may have come before it or after it. Greg Oden, for instance, was regarded as a can't-miss phenom who starred all the way through to Ohio State. Now, however, he is either - depending on your perspective - 'the Guy Picked Before Kevin Durant', 'the Guy Who Texted Pics of his Penis' or 'the Old-Looking Guy with Bad Knees'.
Another failed Blazers pick, Oden endured injuries and under-performance while stumbling through parts of three NBA seasons without making much of a mark. He wasn't much better during a season in the Chinese league, prompting him to quit basketball entirely. The 28-year-old is now the father to young daughter Londyn and has re-enrolled as a student at Ohio State.
1 Kwame Brown
The preps-to-pros era built a full spectrum of results, offering case studies supporting the argument for jumping from high school to the NBA and other examples highlighting is dangers. But just as there was no other success story like LeBron James, no one could match the spectacular flameout that was Kwame Brown.
Like James, Brown was heralded as a generational talent when he was selected first overall in 2001. But that's where the comparisons stop, as the biggest draft decision of Michael Jordan's managerial tenure with Washington lacked the maturity and competitive fire to succeed in the NBA. He hasn't given up, though, playing for seven different teams over 12 seasons and, more recently, plying his trade in Ice Cube's start-up Big3 league.
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