The NBA Draft is arguably the most significant selection process of any one involving the four major North American professional sports leagues. Unfortunately for organizations in dire need of a transformative player, the draft is an absolute crapshoot and nobody is destined for greatness. For instance, as has been endlessly noted, the Portland Trail Blazers took celebrated University of Kentucky center Sam Bowie over University of North Carolina shooting guard Michael Jordan with the second choice in the 1984 draft. The 7-foot-1, 235-pound Bowie was constantly shelved with chronic leg and foot injuries throughout his disheartening 11-year career. In stark contrast to Bowie, Michael Jordan blossomed into a global icon and NBA Hall of Famer on the hardwood.
More recently, infamous center Greg Oden was chosen by the Trail Blazers first overall in 2007 out of the Ohio State University. The 7-foot, 275-pound Oden was expected to develop into the most overpowering big man since Shaquille O’Neal. Instead, Oden fought insurmountable knee and leg injuries that robbed him of his skills on the court. Oden unwisely sought alcohol to dull his physical, personal and professional pain and he retired from the sport in October 2016.
"I'll be remembered as the biggest bust in NBA history," said Oden, 29.
"But I can't do nothing about that. Don't get me wrong. If I was healthy, I would love to continue playing, but I'm not healthy."
Per usual, although many players remain youthful and have ample time to rally on the hardwood, the association’s top overall selections this decade have been a mixture of superstars and colossal busts. Circumstances notwithstanding, let’s recall the 15 worst NBA Draft picks this decade and see where they are today.
16 TAUREAN PRINCE
Much to the Atlanta Hawks’ chagrin, small forward Taurean Prince often played for the Long Island Nets during the 2016-2017 campaign. Following a three-team deal, the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Prince became a Hawk with the 12th pick in 2016. Prince sporadically soared as a rookie Hawk in Atlanta. However, in a “humbling experience,” the former Baylor University Bear was sent to Long Island to become a better defender.
“We are in the NBA because we can score,” said Prince, 23, a 2016 first-team All-Big 12 selection.
“We’ve all showed an ability to do that in one point of time. I think one of the big things to get better at and my main focus was defensively, not necessarily on the ball but off the ball. Being in the right spots, playing team defense and trying to get better.”
In all likelihood, Prince will develop into a solid Hawk. Regardless, it must be frustrating for Atlanta’s hierarchy that the 12th pick spent much of last winter playing for a minor league basketball organization.
15 GEORGIOS PAPAGIANNIS
Greek center Georgios Papagiannis has all the necessary tools to excel in the association. Hence, at 20 years of age, the 7-foot, 240-pound Papagiannis is presently only a mild failure. The Sacramento Kings acquired Papagiannis with the 13th choice in 2016. Regrettably for the Kings, despite showing glimpses of upside, Sacramento demoted Papagiannis and assigned him to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League. Papagiannis is confident that he drastically improved while competing as a Bighorn.
“I’m a whole different player,” said Papagiannis.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. When it’s going to happen, I’m going to be ready for it – that’s all I can say.”
Papagiannis averaged 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 22 contests as a King.
14 RASHAD VAUGHN
The Milwaukee Bucks chose 18-year-old shooting guard Rashad Vaughn out of UNLV with the 17th pick in 2015.
"There was a real need for shooting on our roster," said former Bucks general manager John Hammond.
"With Rashad Vaughn at the 17th pick, we looked at him as, at that time, the best player on the board for us, particularly because he can really shoot the basketball."
Vaughn hasn’t had many opportunities to “shoot the basketball” with the Bucks. In fact, the past Rebel primarily played for the Canton Charge before getting obtained by the Westchester Knicks. Vaughn averaged 3.2 points, 1.2 boards and 0.6 dishes over 111 games with Milwaukee. The 21-year-old Vaughn remains in Westchester trying to resuscitate his career. He hopes to be with the big clubs soon.
13 JAKOB POTL
Austrian center Jakob Pöltl is a 21-year-old guy with ample time to become a force in the NBA. Still, the 7-foot, 230-pound Pöltl can presently only be considered a bust. The Toronto Raptors took Pöltl out of the University of Utah ninth overall in 2016. The 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year played sparingly as a rookie and averaged 3.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.2 assists over 54 games as a Raptor. To gain more experience on the hardwood and hone his skills, Pöltl was frequently sent to compete for Toronto’s D-League affiliate, the Raptors 905.
“I’m still not the most physical player but at least I’ve got adjusted to the new level of physicality in the NBA,” said Pöltl. “But that was definitely a challenge to start the season, getting used to playing against bigger bodies and stronger guys.”
Again, Pöltl remains a youngster with tremendous potential. Nevertheless, it’s discouraging that he received multiple assignments to participate with the Raptors 905.
11 SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD
Shooting guard Shabazz Muhammad was a gleaming prospect in Tinseltown. Hence, the Utah Jazz chose the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Muhammad out of UCLA with the 14th selection in 2013. Almost immediately thereafter, the Jazz traded the decorated Bruin to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Injuries and a minor feud with Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau derailed Muhammad’s progress in Minnesota. Pundits were certain that Thibodeau would opt against re-signing Muhammad after his contract expired in July. Somewhat surprisingly, scribes are now reporting that Minnesota wants Muhammad to return to the Twin Cities.
“Free agent guard Shabazz Muhammad is finalizing a deal to return to Minnesota, league sources tell ESPN,” Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweeted on September 12.
The Timberwolves are a budding juggernaut and it’s difficult to envision Muhammad receiving much playing time in Minnesota. To date, Muhammad’s averaged 9.7 points, 3.0 boards and 0.6 assists in only 235 games with Minnesota.
10 ROYCE WHITE
The Houston Rockets chose power forward Royce White out of Iowa State University with the 16th selection in 2012. Alas, crippled by clinical anxiety, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound White, a 2012 first-team All-Big 12 selection, couldn’t launch in Space City. Mortified by traveling by airplane, White refused to play for the Rockets and he was prepared to permanently trash his high-top sneakers by January 2013. The mammoth Minnesotan had brief stints in 2014 with the Sacramento Kings and Reno Bighorns. Following a year away from the sport, White inked a pact in December 2016 with the London Lightning of the NBL Canada. White’s flourished on the hardwood north of the border. In fact, he earned the NBL Canada Most Valuable Player Award this past May.
“When you consider where I’ve come from, this is really emotional for me,” said White, 26.
“I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea if I was going to be healthy, no idea if I was going to be successful, if my body was going to keep me going the whole year, if I was going to be able to get through the change in country. I had no idea.”
While White has shown courage and determination, the NBL is not exactly akin to the NBA.
9 SERGEY KARASEV
The Cleveland Cavaliers took Russian shooting guard Sergey Karasev 19th overall in 2013. The 6-foot-7, 208-pound was heinous in Cleveland and he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in July 2014. Karasev averaged 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists over 95 games with the Cavs and Nets. Realizing he couldn’t compete in the association, Karasev inked a two-year deal in July 2016 to play for Zenit Saint Petersburg of Russia.
“In my first year, I wasn’t quite ready for the league,” said Karasev.
“I was a young boy that lacked physicality and many qualities in my game. In my first year, when I moved to Brooklyn, I got the chance I wanted. But in the NBA you need luck. If you’re in the right team playing for the right coach, it makes no difference who you are. White or black, strong or weak. If he sees you in the team’s system, then you will play.”
The 23-year-old Karasev had zero “luck” in the NBA.
8 DERRICK WILLIAMS
Forward Derrick Williams has terribly underachieved since he vacated Tucson. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Williams with the second overall pick in 2011. Williams, the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2011, performed decently from the outset and made the 2012 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Alas, Williams unraveled in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and was traded to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for forward Luc Mbah a Moute in November 2013. Williams lasted a mere two seasons in Sacramento before he became a glorified journeyman. The New York Knicks, Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers subsequently employed the native Californian. In 426 games in the association, Williams has averaged 8.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists. The 26-year-old Williams is currently a free agent.
7 KENDALL MARSHALL
Kendall Marshall was a standout point guard for the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Regrettably for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Marshall, his skills weren’t conducive to the association’s style of play. The Phoenix Suns grabbed Marshall, a 2012 third-team All-American, with the 13th choice in 2012. Phoenix relegated Marshall to developmental squads before he was traded to the Washington Wizards. The Virginian never dressed for the Wizards and he ultimately rode the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
The Reno Bighorns of the D-League acquired Marshall in November 2016. In 160 games with the Suns, Lakers, Bucks and 76ers, Marshall averaged 5.0 points, 4.9 dishes and 1.6 boards. The 26-year-old Marshall is a free agent.
6 XAVIER HENRY
The Memphis Grizzlies chose shooting guard Xavier Henry out of the University of Kansas 12th overall in 2010. Although supremely gifted, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Henry has battled injuries and never met expectations on the hardwood.
“It’s been difficult both physically and mentally for him, his family and me as well, knowing what type of talent he is and the ability and skill he has,” said Mark Heusman, a conditioning expert who has worked with Henry since he was in high school. “It’s just been difficult to see him struggle through this and not be able to show off what he has.”
Following one season in Memphis, Henry was sent to the New Orleans Hornets as a part of a three-team swap in January 2012. Henry found life difficult in the Big Easy and he was demoted to the Iowa Energy in March 2012. The Oklahoma City Blue now employs the 26-year-old Henry.
5 ANDREW NICHOLSON
Canadian Andrew Nicholson didn’t exactly find Orlando to be "The Most Magical Place On Earth.” The Magic selected the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Nicholson out of St. Bonaventure University 19th overall in 2012. Following four lackluster seasons with the Magic, Nicholson and the Washington Wizards agreed to a four-year contract worth $26 million in July 2016. Roughly seven months after relocating to our nation's capital, Nicholson was sent to the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets’ C-level executives tired of Nicholson and shipped him to the Portland Trail Blazers on July 25. A little more than a month later, Portland waived Nicholson. Nicholson averaged 6.0 points, 3.0 boards and 0.4 dishes over 285 games in Orlando, Washington and Brooklyn. The 27-year-old Nicholson is presently a free agent.
4 JIMMER FREDETTE
Shooting guard Jimmer Fredette was a quasi-celebrity throughout his senior season for the BYU Cougars. Following a flurry of moves on draft night, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Fredette eventually became a Sacramento King with the 10th pick in 2011. Fredette rarely performed as a King and he was cut by the organization less than three years later in February 2014. A brilliant scorer, Fredette also failed to impress as a Chicago Bull, New Orleans Pelican and New York Knick. However, the 2011 National Player of the Year found his niche in China and is a legitimate superstar for the Shanghai Sharks.
“Obviously, I’m from the USA and the NBA is the greatest league in the world, and if I have the opportunity to play in the NBA that’s where I would love to play,” said Fredette, 28, who was born and raised in Glens Falls, New York.
“But China is a great opportunity. The fans have been great to me, more than I can imagine.”
3 LARRY SANDERS
The Milwaukee Bucks chose power forward Larry Sanders out of Virginia Commonwealth University with the 15th pick in 2010. The 6-foot-11, 230-pound Sanders, a first-team All-CAA selection in 2010, was a middling Buck. A pothead with a propensity for violence, Sanders essentially forced the Bucks to abandon him in February 2015. After a one-year hiatus, the Cleveland Cavaliers gambled and signed Sanders to a contract in March to compete for its developmental squad, the Canton Charge.
"The plan right now, we talked to Larry in the beginning about the possibility of using the D-League and he was excited about that," said former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin. "We have a plan in place now where he's going to spend probably two weeks there on and off."
Sanders was unreliable in Canton and the organization waived him on April 12. The 28-year-old Sanders is a free agent without any known suitors.
2 JAN VESELY
The Washington Wizards chose towering Czechoslovakian center Jan Veselý with the sixth pick in 2011. The 7-foot, 240-pound Veselý was a feeble presence in the paint for three uninspiring seasons in our nation's capital. The Wizards’ decision makers tired of Veselý’s ineffectiveness and sent him to the Denver Nuggets in a three-team trade in February 2014. Predictably, Veselý descended in the Mile High City and the Nuggets opted against re-signing him. Shortly thereafter, in August 2014, Veselý agreed to a two-year deal with the Turkish club Fenerbahçe.
“A great season has finished but nothing is over,” Veselý said following his second campaign in Turkey.
“Fenerbahce has big goals and it’s a really big club. I’m sharing those goals and I believe that I can improve myself both as player and character by staying in the club. So I’ve decided to stay at Fenerbahce. I’m thinking only about the next season. I’m proud that I’m a part of Fenerbahce family. Everybody has to know that we still have a lot to do.”
The 27-year-old Veselý remains a member of Fenerbahçe.
1 ANTHONY BENNETT
The Cleveland Cavaliers chose power forward Anthony Bennett out of the University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV), first overall in 2013. The 24-year-old Bennett, a Toronto native who became the first Canadian to be drafted with the top selection, was an utter disaster in Cleveland. Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin quickly realized the organization’s blunder and shipped the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a three-team deal in August 2014. The disappointing Rebel sunk in the City of Lakes and was released by the Timberwolves in September 2015. Bennett somehow managed to secure employment with the Toronto Raptors in September 2015 and then with the Brooklyn Nets in July 2016.
Fenerbahce of the Turkish Basketball League waived the unthreatening Rebel in May and he remains a free agent.