Rebuilding or adding to a sports team is a tough task. It is almost impossible to see who has the tenacity and skillset to really survive the greatest level of competition before actually gaining that experience and walking that line. Some guys just never work out, whether it be lack of talent, IQ, or often injury. Others will take longer to develop or go to a crappy team and in turn, provide crappy results. They are a product of their environment. They pack all of their talent into a suitcase upon arrival waiting for the day that they hear the words, “you have been traded.” Once they hear that, they turn into the NBA players in Space Jam when MJ wins back the talents of Barkley, Bogues, Johnson, Ewing and Bradley. They have it! It’s back!
There is so much unknown in the world of sports and seeing who will rise to the challenge and who will fall. The list below explains situationally, why each of these draft picks are awful in their own way. They have been a hiccup in the drafting process for one reason or another. At the end of the day, they were once NBA players and there is something to be said for that. You have reached the highest level. The only problem, they were the worst of the absolute best..
30 Atlanta Hawks – Shelden Williams (5th overall)
Shelden Williams arrived at Duke University two years removed from the school securing it’s 3rd Championship. For the next 4 years, he was a dominant force playing every game like he was going to make it back and win one for himself. Unfortunately for himself and his teammates, it wasn’t enough at the time. The great thing for Williams was that he was a beast both offensively and defensively. He was powerful, could score around the rim, and could block anything in the paint as shown as he was the coaches Defensive Player of the Year twice! His senior season, he gave the Blue Devils 18.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per game.
29 Boston Celtics – Fab Melo (22nd overall)
The Boston Celtics have hung their hat on good defense over the Doc Rivers days at the helm. Within four years of their NBA Championship, the roster was lacking young athletes and the once superstars in Garnett and Pierce, were noticeably aging. The Celtics went after a defensive minded athletic inside presence in the 2012 draft to develop under Rivers and Garnett. The result was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Fab Melo from Syracuse with the 22nd overall pick.
28 Brooklyn Nets – Terrence Williams (11th overall)
After the Nets lost in the NBA Finals in both 2003 and 2004, the organization has been on a steady decline. Now they have drafted some quality talent in this time, but they have not drafted consistently nor any true star to put the team into a consistent playoff contender, let alone a contender even once in a while. As of late, the team is similar to the Browns or Jaguars in the NFL.
27 Charlotte Hornets – Adam Morrison (3rd Overall)
There are many guys who stand out for being picked extremely high in the NBA over the last 16 years. Many. But Adam Morrison’s name is almost cemented in the top 3 of all of those reaches. He was a machine coming out of Gonzag, standing at 6’8 and scoring at will. He dropped 19 PPG as a sophomore and 28 PPG as a junior before declaring for the 2006 NBA Draft.
26 Chicago Bulls – Jason Williams (2nd overall)
The sad story of Jason aka Jay Williams brings us to Chicago’s worst 1st round pick since 2000. Drafting Williams with the 2nd overall pick in 2002 was a no-brainer. Yao Ming went of the board at #1, and Jay Williams was your reigning National College Player of the Year winner available at #2. Chicago needed just about everything from a rebuilding standpoint, why not try a 25 PPG and 6 APG guy from a highly respected basketball program in Duke?
25 Cleveland Cavaliers – Anthony Bennett (1st overall)
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had some blunders over the years. The buzzer beater from Michael Jordan in the Eastern Conference Finals, the array of draft picks, falling short multiple times in the NBA Finals with LeBron James. Something has been against Cleveland gaining success over the years. This pick was just another hiccup in the course.
Anthony Bennett was a pick that you see and genuinely wonder… Wait, they took who? Number 1 overall out of UNLV, Bennett was supposed to lighten the load for the young core of Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. The problem was that Bennett wasn’t averaging the 16 points and 8 rebounds he was in college. In fact, it took him 33 games to record a game with double digit points. Numbers show two thirds of #1 overall picks drop double digits in their first game.
24 Dallas Mavericks - Maurice Ager (28th overall)
Including 2016, the Dallas Mavericks have had limited opportunities to upgrade and reinvigorate their roster through the NBA draft. They have had four picks that were theirs in the 1st round, and eight total picks between rounds 1 & 2 that the Mavericks have had the rights to since 2000. The other 19 picks have been drafted and traded or the Mavericks didn’t have the rights to such player.
23 Denver Nuggets - Nikoloz Tskitishvili (5th Overall)
Before Denver could grab ahold of Carmelo Anthony in 2003, they had the 5th pick in 2002. Needing help in virtually every position, the Nuggets jumped on the not so small forward from the Country of Georgia, Nikoloz Tskitishvili. If the video game NBA Live wasn’t around, it is tough to say who would really know this name. Tskitishvili was amazing on NBA Live.
22 Detroit Pistons – Darko Milicic (2nd overall)
The pick heard round the world.. The draft class from 2003 was absolutely stacked. From top to bottom, stacked. Over a quarter of the picks from 2003 are still in the league in 2017, roughly 14 years later! LeBron James was the easy pick for Cleveland at #1 overall. The 2nd pick belonged to the Pistons. Melo, Bosh, Wade? Nope, the question mark from Serbia, Darko Milicic.
21 Golden State Warriors – Ekpe Udoh (6th overall)
Warriors, come out to play… Ekpe Udoh must have missed the memo? In 2010, in the midst of the rebuilding process and a year after finding a gem in Steph Curry, the Warriors wanted to find an inside presence to complement their outside scorers in Curry and Monta Ellis (who didn’t hang around Golden State much longer). Udoh was supposed to be the guy. He transferred from the Big 10 - Michigan to Big 12 – Baylor and seemed to hit stride. Doubling his points and rebound averages from the following year.
20 Houston Rockets – Royce White (16th overall)
Royce White had only played one season at Iowa State under the guidance of Fred Hoiberg, but that was enough to convince the Houston Rockets to take the versatile forward with the 16th pick in 2012. While in school, White’s style was very comparable to the way that Draymond Green plays on the offensive end today. He led his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. He was a jack of all trades on the basketball court.
19 Indiana Pacers – Tyler Hansbrough (13th overall)
If we are referencing just statistics on the basketball court, Tyler Hansbrough is in the discussion for the best ACC Player of all time. The lowest points averaged throughout his four years spent at Chapel Hill was 18.4 PPG. The kid was a stud and proved it by pulling in National Player of the Year honors his junior year and pushing UNC to their National Championship win in his senior season.
18 Los Angeles Clippers – Yaroslav Korolev (12th overall)
Before CP3 and Blake Griffin gave the Clippers a respectable look, the little brother team in Los Angeles was in shambles for a long time. Even with some of the high draft picks that they would receive, they couldn’t ever really pull it together to make a consistent and strong NBA team.
17 Los Angeles Lakers – Javaris Crittenton (19th overall)
The Los Angeles Lakers franchise has a rich history and the 2nd most NBA titles behind the Celtics. They have had great management under the Buss family and they are the team of Los Angeles. In 2007, the franchise was looking to get a bench scorer to fill the void because Kobe couldn’t play all 48 minutes. They threw Javaris Crittenton into the pot and took him with the 19th overall pick, one of the few mistakes of this privileged franchise.
16 Memphis Grizzlies – Hasheem Thabeet (2nd overall)
The draft class of 2009 was deep and the Grizzlies were in a good position to take full advantage. Headliners and current stars include guys like Blake Griffin taken #1, Harden, Curry, DeRozan, Teague, and the #2 overall pick of the Grizzlies, Hasheem Thabeet?! His 7’3 frame and college success intrigued the Grizzlies as they are typically a defensive oriented team, but Thabeet wasn’t the same guy he was at UConn.
15 Miami Heat – Wayne Simien (29th overall)
Similar to the Dallas Mavericks draft picks over the past 16 years, The Miami Heat have been involved in a lot of draft day trades. They have hardly kept any of the talent over the past 10 years that they have drafted, and the ones towards the beginning of the millennium are mostly second round picks. Now, with that being said, they have had major success with their few first round picks with guys like D-Wade, Caron Butler and Michael Beasley.
14 Milwaukee Bucks – Joe Alexander (8th overall) / Yi Jianlian (6th overall)
Based on potential and expectation, Yi Jianlian is without a doubt the winner of the worst first round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks organization. In Yi’s defense he did end up playing five seasons and at one point averaged 12 PPG, however that was not in his lone year in Milwaukee. For those reasons and a few more, I have to drop this award in the hands of Joe Alexander, the small forward from WVU that was selected 8th in 2008.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonny Flynn (6th overall)
The depth of the 2009 draft has already been noted with Griffin, Harden, DeRozan and Curry as the headliners. What hasn’t been discussed is how badly the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted with three picks in the top 20. At #5, the Wolves took a shot on a fancy ball distributor in Ricky Rubio. Some European players have been known to be drafted, yet wait to play in the NBA for a season or more. As in insurance policy, the Wolves took point guard Jonny Flynn with the very next pick at #6. They then, took a 3rd point guard in Ty Lawson at 18! What?!
12 New Orleans Pelicans – Hilton Armstrong (12th overall)
The New Orleans Pelicans aka the New Orleans Hornets at the time, had started to lay a solid foundation to be a team not to be overlooked in the future. As they were looking to strengthen a promising young core in J.R. Smith, CP3, David West, Brandon Bass and Tyson Chandler, they wanted another inside force to really solidify that front line. They took Hilton Armstrong at #12 to fill that void.
11 New York Knicks – Renaldo Balkman (20th overall)
In 2006, the New York Knicks were in desperate need of a revamp. They had names of some NBA stars, but some were getting old/injury prone and trying to have them play as a unit was another story. Three years prior in 2003, New York whiffed on the Georgetown stud Mike Sweetney at #9. It turned out to be beneficial to them, as they ended up trading Sweetney and others to snag Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis. That alone kept Mike Sweetney from being the worst pick.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder – Robert Swift (12th overall)
Another failed early entry high school pick was made in 2004 by the then Seattle SuperSonics. Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Vlad Radmanovic gave Seattle a good shooting core, and they had veteran depth at the point guard position. They needed a center and saw the 7 foot high school stud Robert Swift at #12. He wasn’t the fix.
9 Orlando Magic – Fran Vazquez (11th overall)
Who is Fran Vazquez? A year after the Magic had selected Dwight Howard #1 overall and improved team record by 15 games, their draft pick climbed a little in 2005. With the 11th pick, the Magic wanted a partner for Dwight in the front court and selected Fran Vasquez.
8 Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner (2nd overall)
It is almost amazing to me how good the players are that have been drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers when it seems like they have been horrendous since the day Allen Iverson left for Denver. They have had a ton of studs come through their ranks, but they either weren’t there together, or they have developed into gems after their time with Philly either through trades or free agency. Lou Williams, Thad Young, Iguodala, Dalembert and Holiday have all been Philly draft picks.
7 Phoenix Suns – Kendall Marshall (13th overall)
The 13th pick in the 2012 NBA draft has played for four different teams in four different NBA seasons. He has been a part of some awful teams and when not injured, has been an even worse addition to those teams. Now, his time is being spent in the NBA D-League trying to make it back to the big stage.
6 Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden (1st overall)
Is it fair to label an athlete a bust if they never really had the opportunity to play or to compete? No, probably not. But for this list, heck yes. The Portland Trail Blazers took Greg Oden, the center from Ohio State at #1 in 2007 and he may be the biggest bust of the millennium. The Blazers seem to have some bad luck when it comes to drafts. One year prior, they took Brandon Roy who was phenomenal until he ran out of cartilage in his knees, causing an extremely early retirement.
5 Sacramento Kings – Thomas Robinson (5th overall)
If a player has been on more teams than they have been years in the league, that typically isn’t a good sign. This is the case for Thomas Robinson who the Kings selected 5th overall in 2012. The class of 2012 had some serious talent with Anthony Davis as the headliner but guys like Andre Drummond and Damian Lillard were something to see. They were both taken after Robinson and are All-Star talents. The Kings were looking for that All-Star talent and someone to sure up the post area with Boogie.
4 San Antonio Spurs – James Anderson (20th overall)
In what could possibly be the most overlooked franchise in all of sports, the San Antonio Spurs exude consistency and greatness all without the hype and noise. Guys like LeBron James have a Sportscenter update whenever they sneeze. The Spurs have won 50 or more games each of the last 19 seasons, not including a lockout-shortened season of 1999. That kind of greatness and consistency doesn’t exist yet it's like San Antonio is never given their due respect or attention. They do this through the culture of Gregg Popovich and drafting team oriented talent. Almost anyone can fit into the Popovich system.
3 Toronto Raptors – Rafael Araujo (8th overall)
In his first season, Chris Bosh was an up and comer for the Toronto Raptors. He had good size and athleticism, as well as the basketball IQ to get it done on both ends of the floor. Although young, he showed promise early but needed other weapons to provide some assistance. In the year following Bosh’s rookie season, Toronto took a shot on the man they thought to be his sidekick, Babby Araujo from BYU.
2 Utah Jazz – Morris Almond (25th overall)
Historically, if a player is to be picked in the first round by the Utah Jazz, they should go on to have a long career in the NBA although not always with Utah. Morris Almond was a 1st round pick, but he did not have a long career with Utah or anyone else for that matter. Out of Rice, the 6'6 Almond was built like a thicker Michael Jordan, but in no way shape or form was he close to Michael.
1 Washington Wizards – Kwame Brown (1st overall)
Number 1 overalls picks are either phenomenal or busts; it is almost as if nothing in the middle exists. You can’t get away with just being a solid role guy if you were no.1, that almost counts as a bust. With no.1’s there is no guarantee that they will save an organization, nor with any pick after. Kwame Brown was not a good role player nor an organization savior. He would be a certified bust.
The Wizards took the athletic big man out of high school in 2001. Kwame couldn’t live up to the hype and didn’t have the drive to make himself elite. Even with a few seasons playing with the GOAT Michael Jordan, MJ couldn’t transform Brown’s game into superstardom. The Wizards grew tired of waiting around and ditched Brown after four subpar seasons. His career numbers are 6 PPG and 5 RPG. His size and potential kept him in the league for 12 seasons, but he is now 34 and has been on the side of retirement for over four years.
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