The NBA Draft is very important for the teams in the league looking to contend. While most teams in the lottery won’t contend in the immediate future, it is the best chance to add future Superstars. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the other elite stars in the league are not going to sign with a losing team in free agency. The best bet is hoping you make the right pick in the draft. This has been most recently shown with the Philadelphia 76ers seeing the combination of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons make them relevant after being terrible for many years.
Other teams have paid for trading away their draft picks. The Brooklyn Nets' rebuilding process is taking longer than expected due to past trades sending their picks away up until this very season. However, not every lottery pick is going to give you a Superstar. In fact, there are more disappointments than stars drafted in the top ten each year. It all comes down to having good talent scouts to evaluate the right personnel that can thrive in the NBA. We will look at some of the worst selections in recent memory with the worst top ten pick from each year going all the way back to 2000.
18 2017: Jonathan Isaac
The 2017 NBA Draft is still fresh with everyone selected playing their rookie season. Many would argue that Lonzo Ball looks like the biggest bust, but he has had enough standout games to provide some hope. Markelle Fultz has dealt with injury issues, so we don’t know how he will look. Jonathan Isaac looks like the biggest bust out of the top ten picks right.
The Orlando Magic selected Isaac with the sixth overall pick expecting him to have star potential. It doesn’t look good early on with Isaac struggling to get in the rotation. Orlando will likely give him a bigger opportunity later in the season as they officially get removed from contention for a late playoff seed. Isaac needs to start figuring out the NBA game soon before the Magic quit on him.
17 2016: Dragan Bender
Aside from having a cool name, Dragan Bender has done nothing of note in the NBA. The product of Croatia was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 Draft by the Phoenix Suns. Bender showed great potential overseas before making the jump to the NBA. The three players selected before him are the only ones that look like obvious success stories going forward, but Bender is the worst of everyone in the top ten.
Phoenix doesn’t give him much playing time since he hurts them any time he is on the court. Despite being a 7-foot-tall big man, Bender struggles to shoot the ball well. Most taller players will have the ability to hit the most of their shots. Bender does the opposite and looks overmatched in the NBA. Don’t be surprised if he’s out of the league within the next year or two.
16 2015: Mario Hezonja
Mario Hezonja was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the fifth pick in the 2015 Draft. Orlando felt he was going to be the steal of the draft slipping under the radar playing in Spain. Hezonja has failed to adapt to the NBA landscape. Currently in his third season, Hezonja has not yet averaged over 20 minutes per game and struggles to get playing time.
As mentioned earlier, Orlando hasn’t been in the best spot to contend for a playoff spot. This means they have nothing but incentive to play recent draft picks over the past few seasons. Hezonja not getting playing time this late into his career shows the Magic has zero faith in him being a star. It will be a tough road for Hezonja to save his NBA career.
15 2014: Noah Vonleh
The 2014 NBA Draft gave us some players that are tearing it up today. Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid and Aaron Gordon all proved to be worthy of their top ten spots in this draft class. Most of the players in the top ten are still contributing to their team today with signs of getting better. The biggest bust was the ninth overall pick Noah Vonleh.
The Charlotte Hornets selected Vonleh and traded him after one season. Vonleh has been a forgotten man on the Portland Trail Blazers failing to get playing time. Considering Portland badly needs someone to step up in the front court, it shows just how little they believe in Vonleh. The lack of production makes him the worst top ten pick from the 2014 Draft.
14 2013: Anthony Bennett
You can’t have a list about recent NBA Draft busts without mentioning Anthony Bennett. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Bennett with the first overall pick in 2013. Most top overall picks will at least provide some sort of production. Bennett seemed lost from day one and never showed any signs of getting it together.
Cleveland traded Bennett with future top draft pick Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Minnesota quit on Bennett quickly and a few other NBA teams would follow them in realizing he didn’t have what was needed to succeed at such a level of competition. Bennett was bounced out of the NBA and is currently in the G-League trying to make it back. It doesn’t look good and Bennett is considered one of the biggest busts of all time.
13 2012: Thomas Robinson
The 2012 NBA Draft is one of the most underrated in recent years. Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond all have had strong careers with All-Star contention. Harrison Barnes, Dion Waiters and a few others will be in the league for many years. One top ten pick stands out for the wrong reasons.
Thomas Robinson was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Sacramento Kings. Robinson was an instant flop getting traded in his rookie season for minimal in return. Various NBA teams gave him a chance, but he never got over the hump. Robinson is no longer in the NBA and decided to take his talent to Russia. The NBA clearly wasn’t the right fit for Robinson and he is trying to make it big overseas.
12 2011: Jan Vesely
Jan Vesely is one of the worst decisions made by the Washington Wizards in recent years. The international success in Serbia convinced Washington Vesely was good enough to take with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Sadly, he couldn’t cut it in the NBA and struggled during his first few seasons in the league. Vesely was bad enough to convince Washington to get rid of him after three seasons never topping more than 20 minutes per game.
The Denver Nuggets took a chance on him for half of a season, but he still couldn’t find success. Vesely left the NBA shortly after to return to EuroLeague and still plays there today. Washington fans still feel the pain of this pick today. To make matters worse, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker were all taken after Vesely.
11 2010: Ekpe Udoh
The Golden State Warriors hit home runs with the draft picks of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green over the past decade. However, even the smart management team in Golden State made some mistakes. 2010 saw them select Ekpe Udoh with the sixth overall pick in the draft with the hopes of him becoming their center of the future.
Udoh was selected with future stars like Paul George, Gordon Hayward and Eric Bledsoe all still on the board. Following two disappointing seasons with the Warriors, Udoh was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Neither team could find success from Udoh and he was out of the NBA after five seasons. Udoh currently plays internationally in EuroLeague since no team in the NBA wants to take the chance of signing him.
10 2009: Hasheem Thabeet
Hasheem Thabeet will haunt the Memphis Grizzlies fan base for many years. Memphis selected Thabeet with the second overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. This was back when teams still believed size was more important than athleticism or shooting. Thabeet somehow got drafted with the second pick despite being less impressive than other names heading into the draft.
Stephen Curry, James Harden and DeMar DeRozan will all be All-Star starters this season and are at the top of the NBA today. All three men were selected after Thabeet as the Grizzlies passed on them for a chance for the big man. Memphis quit on Thabeet in his second season and he was out of the NBA after five seasons. Thabeet currently is playing in Japan as a distant memory for most NBA fans.
9 2008: Joe Alexander
Joe Alexander is not a name many fans remember and that is why he deserves to be considered the worst pick of his draft class. The 2008 NBA Draft saw future All-Stars like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Brook Lopez become great top ten picks. Alexander was selected with the eighth overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the draft.
The scouts believed Alexander was the best athlete in the draft, but injuries derailed him. Following a disappointing rookie season, Alexander never received another noteworthy chance in the NBA. No one wanted to take the chance of giving him a roster spot. After a few years in the D-League, Alexander signed to play professionally in the EuroLeague. Unless you’re an angry Bucks fan, you likely have no idea who Alexander even is.
8 2007: Greg Oden
There are few draft stories as depressing as Greg Oden’s. The 2007 NBA Draft featured both Oden and Kevin Durant as the two elite prospects expected to have legendary careers. Durant was selected second and is still dominating the NBA with a Hall of Fame worthy career. The Portland Trail Blazers made the poor decision to go with Oden over Durant with the first overall pick.
Oden’s size and athleticism seemed made for the NBA, but injuries ruined it all before he could get a fair chance. The NBA career of Oden only saw him play more than 21 games just once. Even when on the floor, Oden was never effective. It looked like a bad pick right away and evolved into an all-time bust. Oden’s injuries forced him away from basketball and he is currently back in college at Ohio State while working as a student manager for the men’s basketball team.
7 2006: Adam Morrison
The college success of Adam Morrison at Gonzaga convinced the Charlotte Bobcats that he was going to be a huge star. Michael Jordan made many terrible decisions in the draft while running the Bobcats. This was among the top ones as Morrison would get selected by Charlotte with the third pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.
Morrison looked terrible during his short tenure with the Bobcats shooting horrible percentages from the field. It became apparent he wouldn’t become a shooting threat in the NBA, which was his main value. Morrison was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers after a season and a half with Charlotte. Lakers fans grew frustrated with Morrison and he was gone after another season and a half to never return to the NBA.
6 2005: Ike Diogu
Chris Paul was the only major success story from the 2005 NBA Draft with other players like Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut having strong careers. Of the disappointing top ten picks, Ike Diogu stands out as the worst pick. The Golden State Warriors selected Diogu with the ninth overall pick hoping he would bring them to relevance many years before they formed the dynasty we see today.
Diogu was traded away from the Warriors after a year and a half. A constant for many players on this list is teams giving up on them quickly into their careers. Diogu played for six teams during his seven seasons in the NBA proving no team believed he was worth committing to. The basketball career of Diogu has continued in China after it became clear he was no longer welcomed in the NBA.
5 2004: Rafael Araújo
The Toronto Raptors made the worst draft pick of 2004 when taking Rafael Araújo with the eighth overall pick. Araújo was a big man and this was the era where teams would rather take the chance of a mediocre center in hopes of striking gold. During three seasons in the NBA, Araújo never averaged more than 3.3 points per game.
Toronto gave up on Araújo after two seasons and he had one more season with the Utah Jazz. It was obvious that Araújo couldn’t hang in the NBA and found his way out of the league much faster than most top ten picks. Araújo continued playing overseas trying to save his career. It was never enough to get back to the NBA and he was clearly the biggest bust from 2004.
4 2003: Darko Milicic
Darko Milicic is the biggest disappointment from arguably the greatest draft in NBA history. LeBron James being selected first overall makes it an iconic draft alone as it gave us the best player of his generation. Milicic was selected with the second overall pick by the Detroit Pistons. Detroit lucked into the pick from a prior trade and were already contenders. They felt Milicic was the best choice to join the roster of veterans to contend now.
Sadly, this meant passing on the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. Milicic was horrible failing to contribute to the Pistons during his time there. Detroit won the 2004 NBA Championship with Milicic on the bench, but it was still the worst choice. Milicic bounced around the league for almost a decade with multiple teams trying to tap into his potential. Instead, it turned into disaster every time as he was an all-time bust.
3 2002: Nikoloz Tskitishvili
The career of Nikoloz Tskitishvili is forgettable despite his potential getting drafted in 2002. Tskitishvili was selected fifth overall by the Denver Nuggets after they scouted him in Italy. The big man struggled right away and could never find his way to success in the NBA. Denver tried to give him a few seasons to mature into the NBA landscape, but his best numbers were 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
Tskitishvili played for three more teams in his NBA career as his size afforded him opportunities. Unfortunately, he played poorly throughout his entire NBA stint leading to the end. Tskitishvili has been playing internationally for the past decade and is still going far removed from the NBA time. The fact that Tskitishvili was selected before Amar’e Stoudemire hurt Nuggets fans for many years.
2 2001: Kwame Brown
There is no other choice for the 2001 NBA Draft when it comes to the biggest bust. Kwame Brown was drafted out of high school as the top overall pick by the Washington Wizards. Michael Jordan was running the Wizards and decided the potential of Brown was worth banking on. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady were all proving not every star needed college and it fooled Jordan.
Brown was outmatched right away, and it hurt his confidence entering the league that young. Jordan returned to the court as a player for Washington and this played as a negative. Brown would get yelled at and cursed out every single practice. This played a huge role in him never getting his confidence back. Brown spent a decent amount of time in the NBA as a bench player, but the fall from his expectations made him arguably the biggest bust of all time.
1 2000: DerMarr Johnson
The 2000 NBA Draft is considered the worst in NBA history by many basketball experts. Kenyon Martin, Michael Redd and Jamaal Magloire were the only players from the draft class to make an All-Star team, and none of them are viewed as memorable stars today. Most of the top ten picks were disappointments, but DerMarr Johnson stands out as the biggest bust.
The Atlanta Hawks selected Johnson with the sixth overall pick expecting his athleticism to make him a superstar. Johnson did nothing of note during his two seasons in Atlanta. He bounced around the leave as a role player for the next few seasons. There was not a good fit for Johnson as he would get end up out of the NBA faster than expected. Johnson played overseas for the rest of his professional career before recently retiring.