It's easy to live in a world of "coulda, woulda, shoulda" or "if only." There are countless stories of NBA Draft disappointments and busts. It's hard to say who is at fault for these players failing to reach expectations. Is it really fair to blame a kid for reaching out for a job that will pay them more money in one season than they may ever see in their lifetime?Heck no. The onus for these mistakes lies on the scouts and the management of the teams that select the individuals each summer.
Sometimes it's a case in which the talent seen overseas or in the NCAA does not equate to that of being ready for the NBA lifestyle. The constant travel and number of games along with the fact that they are playing against grown men is sometimes overwhelming for these young men, regardless of how talented they are or projected to be. It can also be a case in which for some players, they are drafted by the wrong team, one that is unstable or does not have the right mix of veterans to mentor the incoming rookie with sky high expectations put upon them. For every Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis or LeBron James, there is a Joe Alexander, Stromile Swift or Korleone Young who have been told that they will not only succeed, but star at the next level.
Unfortunately in the case of the following twenty individuals, when and where they were selected may not have been the best for both the player and the franchise.
20 Marvin Williams (2005 - 2nd Pick)
Should Have Been: 7th Pick
The former North Carolina Tar Heel freshman turned pro has managed to carve out a decent NBA career to date, but not one worthy of the 2nd overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Considering at the time the Atlanta Hawks were in need of a point guard, many questioned as to why they selected the swing forward rather than grabbing either Deron Williams or Chris Paul, two players that could have changed the direction of the franchise.
Although Williams managed to carve out a seven year stint with the Hawks, averaging points in the low teens and hovering around five rebounds a night, Marvin was never the star player he was projected to be coming out of high school. Other than CP3, the talent level of the 05' draft first round selections have been hit and miss. One could easily have seen Williams falling and yet succeeding in a place like Toronto (7th pick) playing alongside Chris Bosh and former Tar Heel, Vince Carter.
19 Greg Oden (2007 - 1st Pick)
Should Have Been: 16th Pick
It's hard to evaluate where Oden should have been selected in the 2007 draft, as injuries plagued his once projected dominating career. Before and after the Portland Trail Blazers selected the former Buckeye and the Seattle SuperSonics grabbed Kevin Durant, talks around the water coolers and locker rooms were how these two freshmen were going to dominate the North West corner of the United States basketball scene. Instead, each moment that Oden sat on the sideline became "coulda, woulda, shoulda."
Let's consider for a moment that Oden entered the draft in perfect health, the Blazers could have had a game changing combo of Brandon Roy on the perimeter and Oden inside. Had the Blazers taken into consideration how hard it is for players, especially big men, to return to a successful career following microfracture surgery, they no doubt would have selected Durant, which would have meant Oden's draft stock falling to potentially a late first round pick.
What if Oden were to have gone to Washington (16th pick) and teamed with Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Or imagine if Oden were to have slipped on the purple and gold, sharing minutes with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol for the Lakers (19th pick). Neither would have materialized into anything relevant if the big man wasn't able to stay out of the trainers room.
18 Dajuan Wagner (2002 - 6th Pick)
Should Have Been: 14th Pick
Dropping 100 points in a game will get you noticed, no matter who or where you are. For the Camden, New Jersey born Dajuan Wagner, it meant a lot of hype and attention that would soon lead to being selected with the 6th pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After one year with the Memphis Tigers, Wagner declared his intentions for the NBA and who is to blame him after averaging 21.2 points and nearly four assists during his one and done season with Coach Calipari. Wagner did not have a bad rookie season, as he finished sixth in scoring and third in point average for the struggling Cavs. However for a team that was having trouble getting out of the Eastern Conference basement, adding the teenager may not have been their best choice. For Wagner, going to a team with more committed veterans who he could of sat behind of may have been better for his career (though unfortunately due to health reasons it would be cut short).
Had Wagner been selected by the Indiana Pacers (14) or the Toronto Raptors (20) he could have learned the ropes from veterans Reggie Miller and Jalen Rose or Dell Curry and Antonio Davis.
17 Marcus Fizer (2000 - 4th Pick)
Should Have Been: 5th Pick
It's hard to look past a veteran college player who just captured his conference Player Of The Year Award (Big 12) and was also a First Team All-American, however with that being said, heads were scratched when the Chicago Bulls, who mind you just drafted a better version of Fizer in Elton Brand the year prior used the fourth pick on the Iowa State Cyclone.
It was thought that Fizer's college coach Tim Floyd wanted to convert the power forward into a wing player, something that was unrealistic. Fizer's career wasn't horrible, it was just that there was no rational made by the Bulls drafting him, a team that had Brand and then Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, three players who took up the front court, where Fizer was best suited. Had he gone to the Orlando Magic, who picked fifth, or the Cleveland Cavaliers who held the eighth pick or even the Sacramento Kings with the sixteenth pick and played backup to Chris Webber, Fizer may have been seen less of a bust. Although an ACL injury limited his NBA career, Fizer managed to put together a lengthy career resume overseas.
16 Rafael Araujo (2004 - 8th Pick)
Should Have Been: Second Round Pick
When the Toronto Raptors traded Antonio Davis to the Chicago Bulls for Jalen Rose, it opened up a gap in their front court, hence the need for a big man to help Chris Bosh in the trenches. Unfortunately after Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor, it was slim pickings for size in the 2004 draft. But adding Andre Iguodala or Kevin Martin would have just created a logjam in the backcourt.
However based on his talent, "Hoffa" was not what many would deem an NBA skilled big man. As the Vancouver Grizzlies did with Bryant Reeves years earlier, a big man who showed promise with a convincing senior season and a highlight performance in the NCAA Tournament can be very tempting for teams investing into the hype. Araujo wasn't worthy of the eighth overall pick and if Anderson Varejao had to wait until the second round to be selected, than so to should have his fellow countryman.
15 Shawn Bradley (1993 - 2nd Pick)
Should Have Been: 8th Pick
Maybe the Sixers thought that adding 7'6", 230lbs Bradley, one of limited offensive talents to a roster that already had 7'7", 200lbs Manute Bol, one of even less offensive skills would help get them to the promise land.
In reality, all it did was present the team with one of the worst versions of a "twin towers" in NBA history. Sadly, they gave up on drafting players such as Anfernee Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn and even Vin Baker had they been determined for front court help. For arguments, lets slot Bradley with a team in need of a big man in the '93 draft. Swapping Bradly for Baker with the Milwaukee Bucks 8th pick would have left the Bucks offensively challenged up front, but would have been a more realistic draft slot for the BYU product.
Adding him to the Denver Nuggets with the 9th pick and teaming with Dikembe Mutombo would have made for a better version of twin peaks (though still offensively challenged). Bradley would become a focal point for the Sixers seven year run of failure (even though he only spent two seasons in the City of Brotherly Love), until that Iverson fella turned it around.
14 Dennis Hopson (1987 - 3rd Pick)
Should Have Been: 19th Pick
Without a doubt, the New Jersey Nets spent most of the 90s kicking themselves for not selecting Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller or even the late Reggie Lewis. Although Hopson wasn't terrible during his three years in New Jersey, averaging 13 points and three rebounds during his three years with the club, he certainly wasn't to the caliber of the aforementioned trio of shooting guard/small forwards. Considering where the more polished players who provided their teams with lengthy careers were selected after the former Ohio State Buckeye, at best a more realistic draft position may have been with the Indiana Pacers, who drafted Miller with the 11th pick. In reality, falling to the LA Clippers (19), Dallas Mavericks (20) or the Detroit Pistons (24) may have been a more ideal selection for Hopson.
13 Darius Miles (2000 - 3rd Pick)
Should Have Been: 12th Pick
Tabbed as the next Kevin Garnett, Miles was part of one of the most mediocre NBA Drafts in recent history. Seen as the next big thing thanks to his high school highlights and covers on Sports Illustrated and SLAM Magazine, Miles entered the league with unreachable expectations.
The problem was, the 2000 Draft outside of Kenyon Martin and Jamal Crawford just flat out sucked. It wasn't fair to of the Clippers to select Miles and place him on a squad that was limited in mentors (only three players had more than five years of NBA experience). As with many of the young bucks on this list, a more stable franchise and veteran roster would have allowed Miles to progress with less pressure. Just imagine if Miles had fallen to the Dallas Mavericks and Coach Don Nelson's "Run and Fun" system. Adding Miles to a lineup of Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and Steve Nash would have made a lot more sense.
12 Jonathan Bender (1999 - 5th Pick)
Should Have Been: 12th Pick
Originally drafted by the Toronto Raptors and then traded to the Indiana Pacers as a replacement for the aging, but fan favorite workhorse Antonio Davis, Bender has been deemed a draft day bust.
Despite an eight year career, seven as a Pacer, Bender's time in the NBA was hampered by constant knee injuries. Drafted for his size, athleticism and talents that extended outside the paint, Bender joined the list of prep-to-pros that was sweeping the NBA during the 90s and 2000s. On a team filled with veterans it wasn't the worst place for Bender to end up, especially as the immediate expectations were minimal. However, using the fifth overall pick was questionably high for a player who was predicted to be a lesser version of KG, Jermaine O'Neal or even Rashard Lewis. The Raptors would have been better off drafting Shawn Marion with the fifth pick and then take a chance that Bender would be available with their twelfth pick. But again, this was a case of "potential".
11 Steve Francis (1999 - 2nd Pick)
Should Have Been: Anywhere Else
Talent wise, Steve Francis gave teams every reason to pick him with a high draft selection. Attitude wise, not so much and in the case of the Vancouver Grizzlies, this was a case in which "no means no!". When a player adamantly, flat out, straight to the point, completely blunt, looks you in the eye and says he doesn't want to play for your team, YOU DO NOT DRAFT HIM!
This bust of a pick was more the Grizzlies than it was Francis. When you consider that Wally Szczerbiak, Richard Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry (who is a Seattle native, only two hours from home!) and even Ron Artest were still on the board, you have to wonder what the Grizzlies brass were thinking. Heck they could have figured out a way to make it work with Lamar Odom and Shareef Abdur-Rahim (both combo forwards) or Baron Davis (a West Coast native) and Mike Bibby (both point guards). This selection was viewed by many as the beginning of the end for NBA basketball in Vancouver.
10 Jonny Flynn (2009 - 6th Pick)
Should Have Been: 2010 NBA Draft Pick
The 2009 NBA Draft was filled with a number of players who have made solid contributions to their team over the years. It has also produced at least one Hall Of Fame player (Steph Curry, who by the way was drafted 7th), All-Stars (Blake Griffin, James Harden, Demar DeRozan) and a couple of second round surprises (Patrick Beverley, Danny Green and Patty Mills).
The summer of Khan (as in former Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations), in which the team used the fifth and sixth picks in the draft to select point guards. Uhm, ya, that makes sense!?! And just for giggles, Khan drafted a third point guard, Ty Lawson with the 18th pick to join Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Of the three, only Flynn struggled to maintain a lengthy NBA career, lasting only four years (two in Minnesota). Capitalizing on his success at Syracuse, Flynn declared for the draft when in reality he would have been better off waiting until 2010, a draft weak in point guards other than John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
9 Adam Morrison (2006 - 3rd Pick)
Should Have Been: 10th Pick
The 2006 draft was one that did not have a definitive Superstar, but it did produce franchise components such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Roy. With the Raptors taking a flyer on Andrea Bargnani and Aldridge going to Portland, the remainder of the first round was wide open.
It's been said that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever, but in the same breath he has also been tabbed as one of the worst GMs, especially when it comes to drafting. Apparently Jordan, like some others, figured that Morrison, being the NCAA Player Of The Year would translate into a solid professional career, selecting the Gonzaga forward over players such as Roy, Rudy Gay, Rondo and second round surprise Paul Millsap.
It's hard to say that at that moment taking the best college player was a mistake and maybe he wasn't ready to be the face of a franchise, but if you take into consideration the lack of depth in the '06 draft, a spot between 10-15 may have been more reasonable. Heck, Patrick O'Bryant and Mouhamed Sene were top ten picks and Morrison still had a better career than both of them combined.
8 Michael Olowokandi (1998 - 1st Pick)
Should Have Been: Undrafted
Before "Lob City" there was the LA Clippers, a failure of a sports organization if there ever was one. Previous to the current roster, which for the most part has been together for a playoff run that has lasted the last five seasons, the Clippers managed to make the post season only four times in the 27 years that they had been in Los Angeles.
For whatever reasons, the Clippers front office felt that they struck it rich selecting the 7'1" Nigerian big man who had only played competitive basketball for three years. Sure he posted a double double average of 22 points and 11 rebounds during his final season at Pacific University, but last checked Pacific U wasn't a NCAA powerhouse. Nobody really knew how good Dirk Nowitzki was going to be, but the Clippers decided to pass on players such as Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce. With Kevin Duckworth, Stanley Roberts, Dwayne Schintzius and Lorenzen Wright as their big men, the Clippers were looking for someone to patrol the paint, hence drafting the "Kandi Man". Considering the options of the 98' draft, it may have been their best option, but in reality Olowokandi shouldn't have been selected until after the lottery selections at the very least.
7 Sam Bowie (1984 - 2nd Pick)
Should Have Been: 6th Pick
He who was drafted before Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton, all franchise changing Hall of Famers. Let's face it, at the time, the Portland Trail Blazers already had Clyde Drexler on their roster, so where would they fit a player like MJ? (The answer is, anywhere!). With a back court already set and a depleted front line, the addition of Bowie made some sense, except for the dreaded "big man leg injury" red flag. Although he was able to suit up for 76 games and average ten points and eight rebounds, Bowie's injuries would soon get the best of him to the point in which he would only play 63 games over the next three seasons for the Blazers.
While everyone says that they would have taken Jordan with the second pick, a more realistic selection may have been the "Round Mound Of Rebound". As for Bowie, falling four spots to the Washington Bullets and the sixth pick, or the 12th pick with the Cleveland Cavaliers may have been more reasonable slots to draft the former Kentucky Wildcat.
6 Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2002 - 5th Pick)
Should Have Been: Undrafted
Let's quickly look at who came after "Skita" in the 2002 NBA Draft. Nene, a solid sixteen years and counting. Amar'e Stoudemire, Rookie Of The Year and dominant beast of a player for his first eight seasons. Caron Butler, he of a fourteen year career,14 PPG and 5 RPG averages. Tayshaun Prince, NBA Champion and fourteen year NBA resume. Heck even Matt Barnes and Luis Scola, two late second round picks are still ticking.
As for the Nuggets fifth overall pick, well let's just say that the Minnesota Timberwolves were better off with a forfeited pick than the Nuggets were with the big man from the Soviet Union. One would think that at seven foot, 245lbs a player would be able to average more than 1.8 rebounds a game throughout his four year career. Projected to be the next Dirk, Pau and KG all rolled into one, Tskitishvili never stood a chance to match the expectations, but certainly he had to give the Nuggets something to work with. As for a re-draft, sometimes the Euros are better off staying on their side of the water.
5 Chris Washburn (1986 - 3rd Pick)
Should Have Been: Third Round Pick
Sadly, Washburn's drug habits and horrid career weren't the worst thing to come from the 1986 NBA Draft. With the death of Len Bias hovering over the league before he even stepped on the court for the Boston Celtics, failures like Washburn and Roy Tarpley were second thoughts.
For some reason, the red flags that were present during Washburn's time at North Carolina State did not deter the Golden State Warriors from using their first round pick on the 6'11" center. Considering the Warriors already had a troubled big man in Joe Barry Carroll, there was little need for his doppelgänger and they would have been better off selecting Chuck Person, Ron Harper or Johnny Dawkins to help with their backcourt. As for Washburn, despite his physical gifts that should have led him to a lengthy career, considering his baggage, his rightful place should have been between the third and seventh rounds. Unfortunately, talent and size was blinding back in the day.
4 Kwame Brown (2001 - 1st Pick)
Should Have Been: 2003 Draft Pick
Chances are if both Brown and the Washington Wizards could redo the 2001 draft, neither would have ended up with each other. In the prime of the prep-to-pro era, Brown was expected to be a Kevin Garnett clone with a handle. We all know how that ended up.
Considering how fragile Brown was mentally and the struggles that he went through during his time in DC, the Wizards would have been better off picking pretty much anyone else in the draft pool, but more specifically if they were looking for a big man, drafting Pau Gasol or Zach Randolph would have been ideal. As for Brown, he shouldn't have even been in the 2001 draft and would have been better off spending some time in the NCAA. Chances are the former first pick would have had a better career if he waited until 2003 or even the 2004 draft and come out as a well seasoned top five pick. However, who's to blame a teenager for seeing a chance to go pro and make millions of dollars rather than sitting in Class 101.
3 Darko Milicic (2003 - 2nd Pick)
Should Have Been: Second Round Pick
What Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons saw in Milicic that they didn't see in players such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade still baffles fans to this day. Sure with Melo and Wade they already had established player with Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton, but adding those prized rookies off the bench would have served for depth and future.
Instead they drafted the Human Victory Cigar, who sat on the bench and served no value whatsoever. The 2003 draft was a guard/wing heavy draft, but there were still some teams looking to add to their front line. However, with that being said, there would still be no reason for any team to waste a first round pick on the Serbian big man. If Milicic were to stay in the 03' draft, a non-guaranteed late second round pick would have been justifiable. If Zaza Pachulia and Matt Bonner could find NBA success as the 42nd and 45th pick in the draft, so to may have Milicic.
2 Hasheem Thabeet (2009 - 2nd Pick)
Should Have Been: 36th Pick
Fourteen years earlier, the Vancouver Grizzlies hitched their wagon to a big man from Gans Oklahoma by the name of Bryant "Big Country" Reeves. In 2009, the team figured they may have found their big man of the future, a defensive minded selection to help protect the Memphis end of the court.
Sadly, Thabeet offered little in terms of basket protection as he struggled to get on the court averaging about ten minutes of action per game in the two years that he was with the Grizzlies. Since that time, the former University of Connecticut Husky has bounced around the NBA and the NBDL, at the time holding the distinction of being the highest drafted player ever to be sent to the Development League.
Selected ahead of players such as Steph Curry, James Harden and DeMar DeRozan, Thabeet has been defined as one of the most recent draft busts in NBA history, something that has been common with big men. As the only center drafted in the first round of the 09' draft, a mulligan would have probably placed Thabeet in the second round where expectations would be a lot more fitting of his raw talent. Even if the Grizzlies were to have flipped their 36th pick, Sam Young for Thabeet, they would have received better production.
1 Anthony Bennett (2013 - 1st Pick)
Should Have Been: 25th Pick
It's a distinction that no professional athlete wants to be labelled as, "the worst draft pick ever". Sadly, Anthony Bennett is in a battle for top spot. After phenom Andrew Wiggins was selected with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, Canadians were giddy hearing Bennett's name as the first selection in the 2013 draft. At the same time, many were left shaking their heads wondering why the UNLV freshman was called across the stage first.
In a draft filled with component pieces rather than franchise players, the Cleveland Cavaliers must have selected Bennett based purely on the potential of becoming a modern day version of former Runnin' Rebel, Larry Johnson. If Bennett was selected later in the first round in a spot with less expectations, rather than the Cavs hitching their wagon to Bennett, he may have had a more successful career.
Currently on his fourth NBA team, Bennett has struggled to not only maintain a level of health, but more importantly a level of understanding and competitiveness at the pro level. As of now, the "Greek Freak" Giannis Antetokounmpo would easily supplant Bennett as the number one pick, while the Canadian would have been better off either waiting until the 2014 draft or at the very least going to a team like the LA Clippers (25th) or the San Antonio Spurs (28th), two teams that could have taken their time developing the combo forward.