Some of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA have been awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Players such as Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, and the greatest basketball player to ever live in Michael Jordan have all come into the league and won this award, and the award itself is a great indicator of who the possible faces of the league will be in the future. The Rookie of the Year Award is a great stepping stone to future team success, other individual accomplishments such as being named to All NBA teams, and even one day being an MVP.
There have been many that have launched their career upward after great rookie years, but there have also been some award winners that have had average to below average lives in the NBA after winning the Rookie of the Year Award. The NBA is all about making adjustments. After a players rookie season the league begins to take notice of their tendencies, and it is up to the player to make the proper adjustments to keep his opponents guessing. Some of the worst award winners were not able to become the superstars that many pegged them to be after great rookie seasons.
Here are The 15 worst Rookie of the Year winners in NBA history:
15 Emeka Okafor
Many thought that in the 2004 NBA draft Emeka Okafor would be the number one selection, but the Orlando Magic decided to select a big man coming out of high school in Dwight Howard allowing the then Charlotte Bobcats to select Okafor with the second pick. Okafor put up beastly numbers in his first season averaging 15 points and 10 plus rebounds a contest. Unfortunately this would be Okafor’s highest scoring output of his nine year NBA career, but he proved that he was an all-around great rebounder by consistently averaging in double figures in rebounding. Okafor was best known for being a great defensive player. He averaged nearly two blocks a game for his career, and he has recently been cleared medically to make a return to the NBA after missing the last three seasons.
14 Buck Williams
Buck Williams had a long career in the NBA that spanned 17 years, but most of the players who have won the NBA rookie of the year award are Hall of Famers. The Hall of Fame was never realistic for Williams who had career averages of 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. Williams was able to make it to three All Star games during his playing days, and was an all-around great defensive presence for his team. On four occasions Williams was named to an All NBA defensive team. He was also extremely efficient when he shot the ball, and he led the NBA in field goal percentage twice. Winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1982 was just the start of a great career for Buck Williams.
13 Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans seemed like a player coming into the league that was undoubtedly going to be a star, but looking back it now seems like he peaked during his rookie season. The 20 points per game that Evans put up as a member of the Sacramento Kings was his highest point per game total of any season. The poor play of the teams he played for certainly did not help with his development, and during his eight years in the NBA he has only made one playoff appearance in 2015 as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. Evans is now back with the Kings after four years in New Orleans. Perhaps Evans can rekindle the performances he displayed as a rookie when he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2010, and improve the Kings team as a whole.
12 Terry Dischinger
Terry Dischinger won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award all the way back in 1963 as a member of the Chicago Zephyrs, and Dischinger was sandwiched in between some of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen. The four previous winners of the award were Hall of Famers such as Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. The eight recipients of the award after Dischinger won it were all Hall of Famers also, but he was still able to have a good career in the NBA. In his rookie year he won the award while averaging 25 points per game. This would be his largest scoring output in a season during a career in which he skipped two seasons to serve in the military, and he averaged 14 points a game for his career to go along with six rebounds a game.
11 Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson was the last non lottery pick in the lottery era to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award until this past year when second round pick Malcolm Brogdon won the award, and Jackson was able to impressively average over 10 assists a night his rookie season. The Knicks were Jackson’s home town team which made Jackson more comfortably thriving in an environment he was fairly used too. Right before the Knicks became a powerhouse in the eastern conference Jackson was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Jackson never was able to become the superstar that many thought he could be after a great first year in the NBA. Jackson was no star in the NBA with career averages of nine points and eight assists per game put he parlayed his consistent play into a 17 year career in the NBA as a player.
10 Damon Stoudamire
Damon Stoudamire was the first ever draft pick of the Toronto Raptors in the 1995 NBA draft, and he did not disappoint in his rookie season when he electrified the fans in Toronto by scoring 19 a night and dishing 9 assists per game. Stoudamire cruised to the Rookie of the Year Award in 1996. His three years with the Raptors were the best of his career, and when he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in 1998 he failed to duplicate the numbers he put up with the Raptors for the rest of his NBA career. Stoudamire played over a decade in the league suiting up for the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs towards the end of his playing days. His production went down after he left Toronto, but he was still able to average 13 point and six assists per game for his career.
9 Chuck Person
Chuck Person had a solid NBA career that spanned over a decade, but his production started to lessen once he left the Indiana Pacers. The 1987 NBA Rookie of the Year Award was awarded to him after a stellar rookie season. He then went on a tear in 1988 by averaging over 21 points per game, and his nickname was the rifleman because of his three point shooting ability. After his six years with the Pacers he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, and Seattle Supersonics mostly as a reserve player. Person was still a great shooter and he proved this while on the Spurs by setting a then team record for three pointers made in a season with 190, and for his career he averaged 14 points and five rebounds per game.
8 Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams was drafted eleventh overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2013 NBA draft, and after the 2013-14 NBA season he seemed destined to be the next great point guard in the NBA. In his NBA debut, he recorded 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals to lead the 76ers to an unthinkable win against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Carter-Williams was unquestionably the Rookie of the Year Award winner, but the 76ers saw flaws in his game which led to them trading him to the Milwaukee Bucks for a first round draft pick that now projects to be a high lottery pick in 2018.
The Bucks gave up on Michael Carter-Williams also shortly after acquiring him. He is now buried on the Chicago Bulls depth chart, and his career averages of 12 points and five assists a game are trending downward.
7 Phil Ford
Phil Ford was one of the best college basketball player at the University of North Carolina in its illustrious school history, and he averaged 21 points a game in his senior year for the Tarheels. Ford was selected second in the NBA draft by the Kansas City Kings and did not disappoint early on. Ford won the Rookie of the Year Award, and was also named to an All NBA team after finishing fourth in the NBA in assists and fifth in steals. An eye injury sustained in the 1980-81 NBA season left Ford with double vision for the rest of his career. His play became less effective and the Kings traded him away. Ford went on to play for three more teams averaging 12 points and six assists a game over his career, but he never could get back to the level he had played at his rookie year.
6 Woody Sauldsberry
Woody Sauldsberry became the second African American to ever win the Rookie of the Year Award, and he was able to play professional basketball for over 10 years. The Harlem Globetrotters were the first team that Sauldsberry played for professionally starting in 1955. In 1957, he was drafted in the eighth round of the NBA draft, and despite being overlooked by 59 other players he was able to take home the Rookie of the Year Award in 1958. His career after this achievement was underwhelming only being able to score 11 points and grab seven rebounds a night for his career. Sauldsberry despite these low numbers from a Rookie of the Year Award winner was able to latch on with the Boston Celtics towards the end of his career, and in 1966 he won an NBA championship with the team.
5 Mike Miller
Mike Miller has had a long NBA career which has seen him win the sixth man of the year award, two NBA championships, and the Rookie of the Year Award back in 2001. Miller was the fifth pick in the 2000 NBA draft by the Orlando Magic out of the University of Florida. Miller won Rookie of the Year and proved just how durable he was by playing in all 82 games, and this durability has played a role in him playing over 15 years in the league. Miller is still active despite not averaging over double figures since 2010. His three point shooting has kept him around as a role player, and it played a small role for the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013 when the Heat went on to win the championship. Miller holds career averages of 10 points and four rebounds per game.
4 Malcolm Brogdon
Malcolm Brogden may be the least deserving of the actual award itself of any player on this list, but he has time to improve upon his numbers. Dario Saric and Joel Embiid had much better numbers than Brogdon but were snubbed of the award by the league. Brogdon had the lowest point per game total of any Rookie of the Year Award winner in the history of the award at 10 points per contest, and many speculate the only reason he got the nod was because his team made the playoffs. The 2017 rookie class was pretty disappointing clearing the way for Brogdon’s subpar stat line to win the Rookie of the Year Award. No second round pick has ever won this prestigious award before this year, and the young guard out of Virginia should be an aspiration for future later round picks in the coming years.
3 Ernie DiGregorio
Ernie DiGregorio was the third overall selection in the 1973 NBA draft by the Buffalo Braves after leading his home town Providence Friars to a final four appearance in his senior season. He had a fantastic rookie year by leading the NBA in free-throw percentages and assists per game, and he even averaged 15 points a game on the way to winning the 1974 Rookie of the Year Award. This unfortunately was the height of DiGregorio's NBA life. DiGregorio played for the Braves until 1977, and then he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers midseason. The Lakers waived DiGregorio before the end of the 1977-1978 NBA season. The Boston Celtics picked up DiGregorio for the remainder of the season, but this would be his last season in the NBA after his averages dipped to under 10 points and five assists per game.
2 Ray Felix
Ray Felix was the first African American to win the rookie of the year award in 1954 as a member of the Baltimore Bullets. He was thought of as a potential star in the league after averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds a game in his first season of play, but his numbers only went downhill from there. A trade to his hometown New York Knicks made his career spiral downwards, and by 1962 he found himself out of the NBA. His point per game average had dwindled down to 10 points per game by the time his career had ended. Felix was not the greatest of basketball players on the court, but his humanitarian efforts of helping run a men’s homeless shelter from 1962 till his death in 1991 show just how great a person Felix was off it.
1 Don Meineke
The NBA’s first official Rookie of the Year was Don Meineke out of the University of Dayton, and he also finds himself at the bottom of this list of Rookie of the Year winners. While at Dayton Meineke consistently scored over 20 points a game in his junior and senior seasons. This momentum of good play did not carry on to the NBA even though he played well enough to win the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1953, and he became most known for being disqualified from games.
Meineke set the record for disqualifications from games in a season with 26 in his rookie year and averaged five fouls a game for his career. During his seven years in the NBA Meineke only averaged seven points and five rebounds a game.
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