Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, and Buddy Hield are just a few of the many rookies who are very excited about the 2016-’17 NBA season getting underway. With that said, in a few years, these rookies will be examined and probed in debates about who is the biggest bust of their draft class. We can make a few predictions now, however, we would rather the season play out before we start naming players.
Every sports organization is going to have a bust in their annual draft. It’s guaranteed like death and taxes that somebody is going to drop the ball. A player could be a bust for a number of reasons, as he can never fulfill his potential, get hurt constantly, or have a life altering accident. Our apologies if we stirred any old memories for the Portland Trail Blazers fans, but they know exactly what we’re referring to. You can also research the 1984 NBA Draft and read about how Michael Jordan was passed over by the Trail Blazers for Sam “Who” Bowie. If Jordan can be passed over for a bust, anything can happen in this league.
We decided to cover the last 20 years of the NBA Draft starting with 2015. You may remember some of these players, while others will have you shaking your heads as to why a team picked them. Either way, we hope you enjoy.
20 2015 - Mario Hezonja
It’s still too early to tell who the biggest disappointment of the 2015 NBA Draft will be, but after one season under their belt, Mario Hezonja is the first name that comes to mind. Drafted fifth overall by the Orlando Magic, the Croatian small forward averaged a measly 6.1 points and 1.4 assists per game last season. If you double his points average, it still wouldn’t be better than the first four players in last year’s draft (Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, and Kristaps Porzingis).
Even several players that were drafted behind Hezonja outperformed him last year. This includes Willie Cauley-Stein, Emmanuel Mudiay, Myles Turner, and Devin Booker. There’s still a lot of time for Hezonja to turn into a better player, but as the moment, the Magic thought they were getting pixie dust but instead just got the dust.
19 2014 - Joel Embiid
Under the tutelage of Bill Self at the University of Kansas, Joel Embiid became an absolute monster during his collegiate years. Even though a back injury kept him out of the NCAA Tournament, Embiid earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Second-Team All-Big 12, and Big 12 All-Newcomer Team. In the 2014 Draft, Embiid was selected third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.
They selected him over Julius Randle, Zach LaVine, and Marcus Smart. It’s been over two years since the draft and Embiid finally played his first NBA game this season. You read that right, Embiid hadn't played a single minute in the NBA due to several injury setbacks. The towering seven foot center could make an impact for the 76ers if he ever gets healthy, and stays that way, but until then, he’s the biggest bust of the 2014 Draft.
18 2013 - Anthony Bennett
We go back to the 2013 NBA draft to find one of the biggest head-scratching picks in the history of the game. Bennett had a decent run for the University of Nevada, averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in his only season there, but the consensus remains that he should have never of been drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He was drafted over budding stars such as Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. McCollum, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. In three full seasons, Bennett has produced just 4.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 12.8 minutes per game. If you care about plus/minus stats, he owns the worst out of anyone in the first round with a -6.0 score. The one perk Bennett did have was having played with Kyrie Irving and getting signed by his hometown Toronto Raptors before being released.
17 2012 - Thomas Robinson
The 2012 draft has been one of the richer classes in recent memory, but the Sacramento Kings got it wrong when they selected Thomas Robinson with the fifth overall pick. Sure, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters were already off the board, but do you know who wasn’t? All-Star players like Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond, who both went in the next four picks, making this selection even more terrible.
There were also great role players like Harrison Barnes, Terrence Ross, Jared Sullinger, and Evan Fournier to choose from. However, the Kings decided to select Robinson who has produced only 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in his career. There’s still some time for Robinson to be as great as those drafted before and after him, but that time is running out and doesn't appear as though it's coming. Until he breaks out, he will be known as the biggest bust of the 2012 draft.
16 2011 - Jan Vesely
With the sixth pick in the 2011 Draft, the Washington Wizards selected power forward Jan Vesely. Coming from the Czech Republic, Vesely didn’t have a collegiate career to help transition to American basketball and he sure could have used the experience, as he only averaged 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game during his short, three-year NBA career. After just three seasons, Vesely left the NBA and went back to Europe. Talk about a bust.
The Wizards could have drafted Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, or Kawhi Leonard, but somehow chose Vesely. Those are some premium players that can catapult a team to the playoffs or play an important role from the bench. It’s scary to think how good the Wizards would be if they drafted one of these players over Vesely. Maybe there’s a chance he comes back and becomes a legend, but we don’t see it happening.
15 2010 - Ekpe Udoh
The Golden State Warriors have built an incredible team recently out of smart draft picks before Kevin Durant signed with the team. However, the Warriors selecting Udoh with the sixth pick was a rare blunder from the team. The power forward from Baylor University has already left the league for European basketball and we doubt any Warrior fans miss him. In 270 games, he averaged 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
He also had opportunities with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, however, he couldn’t even crack their rotation. Now imagine if the Warriors drafted these guys who went right after Udoh; Greg Monroe, Al-Faroui Aminu, Gordon Hayward, and Paul George.
We decided to give the bust label to Udoh, but there are two other stars from the 2010 Draft who could've been considered, Evan Turner (Second) and Wesley Johnson (Fourth). Since both are still in the NBA, though aren't as good as we thought they'd be, they avoided being selected here.
14 2009 - Hasheem Thabeet
He was a considered the best defensive player entering the 2009 NBA Draft, winning the NABC Defensive Player of the Year Award twice during his collegiate years at Connecticut. How can you not go crazy for a 7’3” monster with legit basketball skills? Memphis Grizzlies took the bait and drafted Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick in the draft. It has been one of their biggest mistakes to date as a franchise.
Thabeet would be hampered by injuries and never blossomed into a productive basketball player. He couldn’t even come off the bench and provide energy for his team. The giant averaged just 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game during his career. The Grizzles could have selected James Harden (who was selected by OKC with the next pick), Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, or DeMar DeRozan.
13 2008 - Joe Alexander
We were tempted to give this infamous award to Michael Beasley after a stellar collegiate career which led to average NBA production, however, Joe Alexander deserves it more after playing just two years in the NBA. At least Beasley is still in the league and has become a solid role player in the NBA. Drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the eighth overall pick in 2008, Alexander averaged just 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in just 67 games during his career.
The Bucks could have drafted a plethora of players that could have contributed right from the start, such as Brook and Robin Lopez, Jerryd Bayless, and Roy Hibbert. Since Alexander left the NBA, he has played over in Europe. He’s a stark reminder that any team can have a bust pick, even when the class is loaded with decent talent.
12 2007 - Greg Oden
Before Thabeet and Embiid, there was another towering center that became an unbelievable bust. With the first pick in the 2007 Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden. With the Trail Blazers hopes and dreams anchored onto Oden’s health, the Ohio State University product sailed away, leaving Portland with nothing but despair. Oden would have a long list of injuries and retired from the NBA after appearing in only 105 games.
This draft was eerily similar to the 1984 NBA draft when the Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Similar to the Bowie and Jordan fiasco, the fans got to witness Oden getting selected over Kevin Durant, who turned into one of the best players in the world. In fairness to Portland, many experts also had Oden going ahead of Durant, while the Bowie over Jordan pick was more out of left field.
11 2006 - Adam Morrison
It was "MorrisonMania" during his last year of collegiate basketball when he represented Gonzaga University. He was the nation’s leading scorer with 28.1 points and won numerous awards, such as WCC Player of the Year, First-Team All-American, and NABC Co-Player of the Year. When the Charlotte Bobcats selected Adam Morrison with the third overall pick back in 2006, many fans were excited to see him transition into the NBA.
His career was short-lived, as he only played in 161 games in three seasons. He finished his NBA career with just 7.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game and is a symbol that the highest scorer in the nation during college can also be a big bust. Even though it was a very weak class, the Bobcats would have been better off drafting Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, Rudy Gay, or J.J. Redick, who all went before the 11th pick.
10 2005 - Marvin Williams
Marvin Williams has become a solid role player in the NBA and has been a key cog on several playoff caliber teams, however, he’s still considered a bust as much more is expected out of the second overall pick. He was taken second overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2005. It was a hard to choose between Williams, Martell Webster (sixth) and Ike Diogu (ninth) for the biggest bust of this draft, but because Williams has never been the one to put a team on his back and be a force, though he was expected to, he lands with the spot on this list.
He’s never won an NBA Championship and has never been invited to an All-Star game. Sure, he is a solid role player, but for the second overall pick in an NBA draft, you should be lights out. The first overall pick Andrew Bogut hasn’t been lights out either, but he has contributed more in his career. Hawks could have drafted Deron Williams or Chris Paul instead, who were the next two picks, but decided on the forward in a weak draft class.
9 2004 - Shaun Livingston
Shaun Livingston has had a small resurgence as a backup point guard playing for the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors over the past three years, however, we’re pretty sure the Los Angeles Clippers were thinking he would be a viable starting option when they drafted him with the fourth pick in the 2004 NBA draft. Livingston has never lived up to where he was picked in the draft, mostly due to serious knee injuries he suffered early in his career, averaging just 6.7 points and 3.4 assists for his career.
The Clippers would have been better off selecting Devin Harris, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, or Al Jefferson that night. We’re glad to see the journeyman find a home with the Warriors of late, but his status as a draft bust isn’t going to change because he subs in for Stephen Curry. Regardless of what type of player he is, he’s not as bad as the next player on this list.
8 2003 - Darko Milicic
It’s one of the richest draft classes the NBA has ever seen. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony are some of the faces of the NBA and have been for quite some time now. All four of those men were selected in the top five of the 2003 NBA Draft. However, the Detroit Pistons decided to draft Darko Milicic with the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. That’s right, the Pistons selected Milicic over Anthony, Bosh, and Wade.
Whatever the General Manager was drinking that night, can you pass some to us? You know how sometimes you try to be cute with an answer or decision and then it back ires in your face? Well, this is one of those incidences. Instead of going with a bonafide collegiate beast, like the other three men we mentioned, the Pistons went with an unknown entity from Serbia. He would average just 6.0 points and 3.2 rebounds for his career before heading back overseas.
7 2002 - Jay Williams
Williams is not a bust because he couldn’t play basketball, otherwise, Nikoloz Tskitshvili would be here in his place. Williams is a bust because he was involved in a motorcycle accident that ended his career after just one NBA season. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists per game during his rookie year. The Duke Blue Devil could have had a decent to stellar career, but we will sadly never know.
He’s a perfect example as to why teams don’t want their players near anything that can permanently injure them. If the Bulls could have a do-over, we’re pretty positive they would have selected Amar’e Stoudemire, Drew Gooden or Nene Hillario. Williams has a great career as an ESPN college basketball analyst and we might see him cover NBA games in the future.
6 2001 - Kwame Brown
What is it about big men and busts in the NBA? If you ever draft a center with a top-five pick in the NBA, you’re rolling the dice. That’s exactly what Michael Jordan did when he drafted Kwame Brown with the first overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft for the Washington Wizards. Maybe he liked Brown’s raw talent as a high school kid jumping straight to the NBA or maybe he just liked the name. What we do know is Brown is one of the biggest busts in NBA history and only averaged 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in his career.
The Wizards could have drafted Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, or Joe Johnson (all top 10 picks), but they went with the untested teen instead. Jordan even came out of retirement to help the young rookie out, but even the G.O.A.T. couldn’t mold Brown into a great player.
5 2000 - Stromile Swift
The best player to come out of the 2000 NBA draft was Michael Redd, who was drafted 43rd overall, which shows you how poor this draft class was. Sure you had Kenyon Martin, Jamal Crawford, and Hedo Turkoglu, but after them, that’s it. If we had to pick a bust, it would be the defunct franchise Vancouver Grizzlies' pick, Stromile Swift, who they selected second overall out of Louisiana State University.
Maybe they were thinking he could have saved the franchise, but that just wasn’t the case. He would play nine years in the NBA and average 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds. It’s not bad, but for someone drafted second overall in an NBA draft, it’s not good either. Mike Miller, Joel Przybilla, or Desmond Mason would have been better choices, but like we said, there were slim pickings in this draft.
4 1999 - Jonathan Bender
Jonathan Bender is another story of a player with a high-ceiling literally crumbling before our eyes because of injuries. After being drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the fifth overall pick, Bender ended up playing just 262 games in eight seasons. He would average a pitiful 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in his career and retired in 2010 after a failed comeback with the Knicks.
Instead of picking Bender and trading him to the Indiana Pacers, the Raptors could have selected Richard Hamilton, Wally Szczerbiak, Shawn Marion, or Jason Terry. Even Manu Ginobili, Andre Miller, Andrei Kirilenko, and Metta World Peace were still on the board. If only we had hindsight as a sixth sense.
Like Kwame Brown, Bender came straight from high school and serves as a great example of why drafting high school players was a huge risk in the NBA, before they changed rules on drafting them.
3 1998 - Michael Olowokandi
Michael Olowokandi's numbers wouldn’t be considered terrible if he wasn’t drafted first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1998 NBA draft and used as a role player. Clippers thought different about how Olowokandi could help the team and decided to take the plunge and draft the center from the University of the Pacific, hoping he could lead them to the playoffs.
In nine seasons and 500 games, the first overall draft pick averaged just 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Like we said, not a bad stat line for an NBA career, however, if you’re drafted first overall, you need to do a lot better. The Clippers shot themselves in the foot because they could have drafted Hall of Fame talents like Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, or Paul Pierce, who were all top 10 picks. It’s astonishing how wrong some General Managers can be.
2 1997 - Antonio Daniels
The 1997 NBA draft changed the course of the league and made one team that was a decent playoff squad into a dynasty that would be involved in many NBA championship games. The San Antonio Spurs selected Tim Duncan with the first overall pick and the rest is history. The Vancouver Grizzlies, instead, selected Antonio Daniels with the fourth overall pick and no one remembers a positive thing about the pick.
Granted Duncan, Keith Van Horn, and Chauncey Billups were already off the board, but the Grizzles missed the boat, as they could have drafted legend Tracy McGrady (9th overall) or Ron Mercer (6th overall). Daniels would play 13 seasons but finished with just 7.6 points and 3.4 assists per game for his career, while the two players we mentioned above averaged double digits in points.
1 1996 - Lorenzen Wright
The first six picks from the 1996 NBA Draft turned out to be viable and excellent players for their respective franchises. Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, and Antoine Walker all helped their teams become successful. With the seventh pick in the 1996 NBA draft, the Los Angeles Clippers selected Lorenzen Wright from the University of Memphis.
Wright was a solid worker, but could never muster an All-Star season or become the face of a franchise. He averaged 8.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 13 seasons for his career. The Clippers once again dropped the ball in a draft because they could have selected one of the greatest players ever in Kobe Bryant. Steve Nash, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O’Neal wouldn't have been bad choices either.
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