Every year in the NBA, we see brand new opportunities for each of the 30 teams in the league. After all that goes down in the regular season, we get left in the spring with the eight best teams from each conference to battle for basketball supremacy in the NBA Playoffs. However, with 16 teams in the playoffs, that of course leaves 14 teams on the outside looking in as mere spectators. The one key advantage to each of these non-playoff teams is that by missing the playoffs, they instantly become prime contenders for the draft lottery, where each team will be placed in great position to acquire one of the next bright, young stars in the league (unless of course they traded their first round pick for that draft, in which case, sucks to be them).
In any case, being a lottery pick in the NBA entails a load of pressure. These young men are asked to come in fresh out of college and change the fortune of the franchise. That isn’t an easy task to complete, especially in what is considered to be “A Grown Man’s League”. Much like many members of every draft class in about every team sport, there are those who take on the grand task given to them by the teams they were drafted by and excel, and well – there are plenty more that just don’t.
This is a list that will include 10 of the most head scratching decisions made by some teams, and 5 wonderful ones; 10 picks that kept teams back from making any real progress, and 5 that successfully rejuvenated a franchise. Here are The 10 Worst NBA Lottery Picks Since 2010 (And The 5 Best).
15. Worst – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Let me explain here because Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is in no way a total bust or even a bad NBA player. Kidd-Gilchrist earns a spot on our list because for a guy who was a pretty significant piece to a National Championship winning Kentucky Wildcat team in 2012, he has been largely ineffective on what has been a very inconsistent Charlotte Hornets (then Bobcats) team since he arrived in the NBA. There is also something to be said about being picked right after Anthony Davis, the best power forward in the entire NBA, and right before Bradley Beal, who is part of one the very best back court tandems in the league with John Wall out in D.C. In a league where scoring and ball movement has become the key component to team success, Michael Jordan may have been better off not drafting a player who for his career averages less than 10 points and 2 assists a game.
14. Worst – Jeremy Lamb
Speaking of the Hornets, coming next for worst lottery pick in recent memory is current Hornets guard, Jeremy Lamb. Much like our previous entrant on our list, Lamb is not an awful player. However, similarly to other players to come, he has grossly underachieved as an NBA player in his career. If you can remember, Lamb received a lot of praise as an NBA prospect when he was drafted 12th overall in 2012. He was looked at as a player with a high ceiling and with plenty of star potential. You ever wonder how James Harden ended up in Houston? Jeremy Lamb is how. The Oklahoma City Thunder took a chance on Lamb, sending a package including Harden to Houston in exchange for a package centered around Lamb. The expectation was that he would grow into that key offensive ignition off the bench that James Harden used to be. Instead, OKC basically gave away a future superstar player for a guy who gave them 3 seasons worth of 7 points a game. A lopsided trade to say the least. To this day, Lamb is yet to pan out as he was expected to in the league.
13. Best – Ben Simmons
In the past generations of the NBA, there have really only been two players with a power forward’s body and a point guard’s skill set: “Magic” Johnson and LeBron James, two of the all-time greats in the history of the league. Let me introduce you to the next one: Ben Simmons. The 1st overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft missed all of last season due to injury, but so far this year he has done more than impress, being one the biggest impact players in the league and nearly averaging a triple-double stat line a game. Since his arrival, the Philadelphia 76ers have gone from being a mediocre bottom feeder to a borderline playoff contender, and largely without the services of 2017 1st overall pick, Markelle Fultz. Simmons has been able to facilitate all this change only in season 1 of his NBA career. Just imagine the damage he’ll be able to do in the years to come as he enters his prime.
12. Worst – Trey Burke
Alfonso Clarke Burke III was a highly touted prospect going into the 2013 NBA Draft. He was named the 2013 National Player of the Year by the NCAA in the final season of his college basketball career and led his Michigan Wolverines to the National Title game, where he fell just short of completing one of the best single season performances in recent memory. Despite coming up just short of winning it all, Burke did more than enough to up his draft stock and as a result was drafted 9th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. He was average at best, not nearly the impact player that he was expected to be when the Utah Jazz picked him up on draft night. It certainly doesn’t help the Jazz that C.J McCollum was drafted right after Burke, and he turned out to be one of the better young shooting guards in the league.
11. Worst – Wesley Johnson
The 2010 NBA Draft class had its fair share of bad selections. I contend that none were more costly than Wesley Johnson at no.4 overall. Johnson definitely earned his spot as a lottery pick after showing out in his final season at Syracuse. Unfortunately, much like most of the the other entries on our list, his game did not translate well into the league. Through seven seasons in the NBA his career averages come up to a mere 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists a game. This man was drafted right in front of DeMarcus Cousins. You know DeMarcus Cousins – a perennial all-star, the best center in the league. Had Minnesota drafted him instead of Johnson they could have possibly had one of the best front courts in the game with him paired with Kevin Love. Safe to say the Timberwolves would want a do-over with this pick.
10. Best – Kristaps Porzingis
During his tenure with the New York Knicks as the President of Basketball Operations, Phil Jackson will probably tell you himself that he made a lot of questionable decisions; drafting Kristaps Porzingis was not one of them. Of all the young stars from the 2015 NBA Draft class, KP looks like arguably the best of them all so far into his career. This 7’3 forward from Latvia came in and took the league by storm with his put-back dunks, long range shooting, incredible length, and exquisite ability to block attempts at the rim with relative ease. He doesn’t seem to show any signs of letting up either. With Carmelo Anthony’s recent departure from the Knicks and Porzingis being crowned as the new face of the franchise as a result, KP is averaging 25.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field. New York is in good hands with this guy leading the way.
9. Worst – Thomas Robinson
Robinson wasn’t nearly as highly touted a prospect as some other entrants on our list, but is still deserving of a spot. After finishing a standout junior season with the Kansas Jayhawks with 17.7 points and 12 rebounds a game, Robinson was drafted as the number 5 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. At the time this seemed like a pretty good idea. Sacramento already had a young stud at the 5 spot in DeMarcus Cousins, so bringing in Robinson to be a nice complimentary teammate in the front court made a lot of sense. Just one problem, Thomas Robinson was not and is still not a good NBA player – like at all. In fact, he performed so poorly that he didn’t even finish his rookie season in Sacramento. His career numbers include 5 points, and 5 rebounds a game. That’s pretty disappointing for the Kings, especially when you realize that one of the best guards in the league today, Damian Lillard, was the very next pick in that draft.
8. Worst – Jimmer Fredette
NBA fans from 2011 remember this guy. As stacked as the 2011 draft class was with guys like Jimmy Butler, Isaiah Thomas, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, and many others being introduced to the NBA, all the talk was about college phenom: Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer’s last season at BYU saw him shoot the lights out in nearly every game he played, averaging a staggering 28.9 points per game. He was supposed to come into the league and do much of the same with his elite shooting prowess. People thought he was going to be what Stephen Curry ended up being: a player who revolutionized the game and influenced the style of play in the NBA today. His game just did not translate when he entered the league with the Kings (Quick Tangent: The Kings really messed up with some of their picks. No wonder they still couldn’t make the playoffs). In his short lived NBA career, Fredette averaged a woeful 6 points a game. He’s breaking ground overseas now, but he was an absolute bust in the NBA.
7. Best – Klay Thompson
Unlike Jimmer Fredette, the guy drafted after him had things go perfectly for him. The 11th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Klay Thompson, was no household name during his time at Washington State, thanks in large part to the light show that was Jimmer Fredette. However, his well-respected shooting prowess still made him a lottery pick and got him to the best possible place he could have went to: the Golden State Warriors. Being paired up in Golden State’s back court with another long range shooting aficionado, Stephen Curry, made for the deadliest shooting back court in league history. Together, the two would lead the Warriors to prominence, revolutionizing the way in which the game is played, winning two world championships, and breaking league records. Curry is looked at as the better player, but lest we forget about how dangerous Klay is. He is after all the current record holder for most points scored in a quarter with 37 points. In addition to that, he is the only player to score 60 points – in three quarters – while dribbling the ball only 11 times. On top of all that, his 6’7 stature makes him a formidable defender for the best offensive player on any opposing team.
6. Worst – Doug McDermott
The former 3x All-American out of Creighton was a highly revered prospect coming into the NBA. Much like Jimmer Fredette, Doug McDermott’s scoring prowess was unmatched for the majority of his collegiate career. Going into the 2014 NBA Draft, he wasn’t the star that took up all the headlines but was looked at as someone ready to come in and be an effective scorer for any team that drafted him. I mean, that’s what you would expect from a guy that averaged 22 points a game on 55% shooting in college right? The Chicago Bulls sure did, which is why they traded up in the draft to get him. Sadly, that did not work out in their favor. Through three NBA seasons, Doug McDermott has yet to average more than 10 points a game. For someone who was a lottery pick because of his scoring ability, that’s a little disappointing to say the least.
5. Worst – Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams was the 2nd overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. In his two seasons at Arizona, he averaged 17.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. With numbers like that you would have probably expected him to have gone early in the draft. It was after entering the league, where everything went wrong. In 6 NBA seasons he has already been on 5 different teams. For Minnesota, the team that drafted him, they had to have been shaking their heads when looking back on the other prospects they could have taken instead of Williams, who was a career 9 points per game scorer. Some of the prospects they could have drafted instead with the 2nd pick in that draft include the following players: Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Klay Thomson, either of the Morris Twins, Kawhi Leonard, you get the point. The fact of the matter is that it was pretty hard to miss on a pick in the 2011 draft, yet somehow, they still missed.
4. Best – Kyrie Irving
While the 2nd pick in the 2011 draft never quite panned out, the 1st pick from that year’s draft certainly did. Kyrie Irving is a world class NBA player. You can question him for his theory that the earth is flat all you want, that doesn’t change the fact that he is one of the elite players in the game, and one the most unique talents to grace an NBA court. His ball handling skills is unmatched by any player in the league today, his ability to break down defenses and make his way to the rim is awe-inspiring, and his ability to score in the biggest moments in any game is something to marvel at. For his career, Irving’s career numbers come up to 21.9 points and 5.5 assists a game, and he helped Cleveland end its 52 year championship drought by hitting one of the biggest clutch shots in NBA history. When it boils down to it, you simply wouldn’t be able to tell the NBA story of the last few years without good ol’ Uncle Drew.
3. Worst – Mario Hezonja
Let me give you a brief summary of the 2015 NBA Draft: First was Karl-Anthony Towns, then D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis, and then came Mario Hezonja. You see the drop off right? While the first four picks have looked pretty solid at the very least so far, Hezonja – to say it has been disappointing would be an understatement. When drafting Hezonja, the Magic were looking for a guy that can space the floor, shoot the rock, and as a result open up the floor for the other key players like Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, or Aaron Gordon. It was a good idea, except they drafted the wrong guard. Hezonja has massively underachieved, with a career average of 5.4 points a game. Had the Magic drafted the next shooting guard taken in that draft, Devin Booker, the guy people compare to Kobe Bryant, maybe things would have turned out differently. Just a hunch.
2. Worst – Anthony Bennett
You can’t possibly give me a player more deserving of this spot than Anthony Bennett. The 2013 no.1 overall pick will go down as one of the biggest busts in NBA history. In what was one of the weaker draft classes in recent memory, there were quite a few prospects that could have went 1st overall. To the surprise of many, the Cleveland Cavaliers for some reason took their chances on the Canadian freshman out of UNLV. In fairness to the Cavs, Bennett did look rather impressive in his only season in college, averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds a game. In any case, when you – forget that he went 1st overall – when you are a lottery pick, you’re supposed to be a star. This man averaged a measly 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game. In the end, he did make some impact: he made Cleveland miss LeBron James even more than they already did before he was drafted. An accomplishment fitting for the worst lottery pick of the decade.
1. Best – DeMarcus Cousins
We can talk about the reported attitude issues. We can talk about how he is apparently hard to get along with. You can say what ever you want about the guy, the fact of the matter is this: the 5th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, DeMarcus Cousins, is one of the most talented centers in NBA history. In past years we saw the great centers who have played this game like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and others who were all dominant back-to-basket post players. Because of these gentlemen and how they dominated the league, we had a built-in mindset of what we would want out of our franchise big men. After Golden State happened and made distant shooting the new way of the game, centers were progressively becoming an obsolete position in the league. That’s where guys like Cousins came in. He, along with other top tier big men like Anthony Davis, has revamped the center position. Today, Cousins spends his days in New Orleans as one of the leagues top scorers, best rebounders, and skilled passers, with a monster stat line of 26.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. In terms of greatness he isn’t where the guys I previously mentioned are just yet, but he is without a doubt the best lottery pick in the NBA since 2010.
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