The NBA Draft is known to have a small margin of error for each team. The amount of surefire prospects in the draft is considerably less than other sports. Several years are needed to fully develop in the NBA, and on top of that, some of the prospects are still in their teenage years, which makes it more difficult to project what they'll do in the pros. It's really anyone's guess, and it's tough to say what will happen in a league as star-based and dominant as the NBA.
Over the years we've seen plenty of teams walk away from the draft like thieves, and some get burned on a pick that they thought would transform their franchise into a contender. It's always a risky proposition to take one prospect over another, and we've been able witness results on both ends of the spectrum. There's been a ton of notable names drafted since the 2000 season, with some of them working out better than others. Let's take a look at which picks fit the bill for each category, counting down from 2000, to last year's 2016 draft.
Ranked below are the biggest NBA draft bust and steal for every year since 2000.
17 2000: DerMarr Johnson (Bust) - Michael Redd (Steal)
Johnson was taken at 6th-overall by the Hawks, and was supposed to be a do-it-all player as a 6'9" small forward. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his career early, and though he did last seven seasons in the league combined, he never came close to starting for a full one, and ended up a pretty distinct disappointment, all things considered. Atlanta was expecting much more production from a top 10 pick.
On the contrary, Redd was able to be one of the best scorers in the NBA during his prime, and helped turn the Bucks (along with Ray Allen) into a formidable team in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee was able to land him in the 2nd round, so there's no questioning that this was the best value pick of the 2000 draft. Most players in the 2nd turn out to be non-factors, and Redd was just the opposite.
16 2001: Kwame Brown (Bust) - Tony Parker (Steal)
Once considered one of the top prospects in the nation, Brown was selected right out of high school by the Wizards with the 1st-overall pick, and was expected to be the next great big man in the NBA ranks. What resulted was a career that was largely ineffective, long enough as it was. He played for numerous teams, but that further reinforced his journeyman status. Not a good look for a 1st overall pick, which should be an All-Star caliber player.
In what was great fortune for the Spurs, Parker was immediately effective as the starting point guard, and he remains so in San Antonio to this very day. At the 28th overall pick, it's astounding that they were able to find such a high-quality player who contributed heavily to numerous title-winning teams. Parker is one of the best of his era.
15 2002: Jay Williams (Bust) - Carlos Boozer (Steal)
Williams was the 2nd-overall pick out of Duke, and was taken by the Bulls in hopes of resurrecting their franchise back to the dominance of the Jordan days. Williams had a decent rookie season in Chicago, but a motorcycle accident that violated numerous team and state rules, put him out of basketball for good. He never played another minute in the NBA, and is one of the ultimate "what if?" stories of his era.
Boozer was another Duke player, but was taken in the 2nd round by the Cavaliers instead. He was a scoring and rebounding force almost immediately, and made an impact right away. Boozer's career lasted well over a decade, and he contributed to some notable playoff runs, and was a factor just about everywhere he went. Very impressive for a player taken outside of the 1st round.
14 2003: Mike Sweetney (Bust) - Mo Williams (Steal)
It turns out the Knicks were making terrible decisions long before Phil Jackson came along. They drafted Sweetney with the 9th overall pick, and he only lasted four years in the league, only two in New York. It was an undeniable bust, and one that definitely hurt the Knicks at the time. For a top 10 pick, Sweetney was nothing less than garbage.
Williams went on to be one of the more productive scorers in the league for a long time. Even more impressive, he did on so many different teams, playing in so many different systems. He was able to adapt wherever he went, and for a player that was taken in the middle of the 2nd round, that's a great return on the investment. He just finished out his career last season in Cleveland.
13 2004: Luke Jackson (Bust) - Anderson Varejao (Steal)
Cleveland attempted to bolster their roster by adding Jackson with the 10th overall pick, but it just wasn't in the cards. He couldn't play effectively in the league, and on top of it all was hampered by injuries. He bounced around the league to several different teams, and played only two seasons for the Cavaliers. One of the worst top 10 picks of his era.
Varejao may not have ever made it as a full-time starter, but for an early 2nd round pick, becoming a really dependable big off the bench is still a great selection. For about a decade with the Cavaliers, he was a solid rebounder, and timely scorer coming off the pine, and it's a valuable role on any NBA team. It's not necessarily flashy, but it's an integral part of a winning team, which Varejao was able to prove playing alongside LeBron.
12 2005: Sean May (Bust) - Lou Williams (Steal)
Coming from an elite college program like North Carolina, many thought that May would actually be the steal of the draft at 13th overall, instead of a massive disappointment. He didn't last long in the NBA, only playing four years, and never living up to his total potential at all. Overall, the Bobcats definitely got burned on this one, and May was out of the league extremely quickly.
For Williams to be taken in the middle of the 2nd round, and become one of the best bench players in the league is definitely impressive. He's able to come off the bench and make a difference in the scoring column every time out, and he's done so on multiple teams, since starting with the Sixers in 2005. He's still going strong in the league, and probably has a few more productive years left in the tank.
11 2006: Adam Morrison (Bust) - Rajon Rondo (Steal)
There was no question about it, Morrison was a great college player who simply couldn't adapt to the NBA game. There were big questions on him coming out of Gonzaga, and the worst fears of the Hornets were realized when he was utterly ineffective as an NBA starter. He did have some injury problems as well that only made matters worse, but Morrison was a bust waiting to happen all along.
Rondo was selected at 21st overall, and to get one of the best point guards of the era at that position was a great call by the Celtics. He's consistently proven himself to be one of the league's best passers, having great command of the game from the top of the key. His current situation in Chicago may be a little rocky, but that doesn't change how good of a player that Rondo has proven himself to be over the years.
10 2007: Greg Oden (Bust) - Ramon Sessions (Steal)
There was a time when Oden was the biggest entity in the basketball world, and everybody really looks stupid now for showering him with praise. The 1st overall pick out of Ohio State, Oden was taken by the Trail Blazers, as he was considered to be the big man of the future in the NBA. He only played two partial seasons in Portland, before seemingly a million injuries hit him, and effectively ended his career. A huge disappointment.
Sessions' career was much more modest in scope, but he ended up being one of the most solid journeyman players of his era. That's not a slight to him, as he found ways to be productive on the bevy of different teams that he's played with over the years. Sessions is the kind of player that is useful on any roster to fill a part-time need, or to keep on the bench for a few years as a role player. Taken near the end of the 2nd round, that's an amazing value.
9 2008: Joe Alexander (Bust) - DeAndre Jordan (Steal)
In what was an overall strong draft, Alexander is the one major blemish on the 1st round board. Taken 8th overall, he was terrible in his two seasons with the Bucks and Bulls, and he quickly exited the league in due time. For a top 10 pick to bust so egregiously is really amazing, and this might be the worst 1st round pick in the history of the Bucks' franchise. Alexander was just awful.
Contrast that with Jordan, who has played like he has deserved to be the 8th overall pick in this draft. Jordan is one of the better rebounders in the league, and an integral starter on a Clippers team that has been consistent playoff entities in recent history. That's extremely impressive for a 2nd round pick, and Jordan has proven his worth in the NBA, even against all the odds.
8 2009: Hasheem Thabeet (Bust) - Danny Green (Steal)
As a 2nd overall pick, Thabeet has failed immensely in his career, and is probably one of the most wasted picks on this entire list. Spending roughly a season on the Grizzlies, he then went on to numerous other teams, always remaining a bench player at the absolute best. He never materialized into a full-time starter, which should be the floor for a 2nd overall pick in the NBA. Just a bad player all around.
Green now finds himself on the Spurs where he's transformed into a quality starter, despite being drafted well into the 2nd round. He was originally selected by the Cavaliers, but went to San Antonio following his rookie year. With Gregg Popovich at the helm, he's been an integral part of the team, and is likely to be there for a long time.
7 2010: Ekpe Udoh (Bust) - Hassaan Whiteside (Steal)
Chalk down Udoh as another big man that failed as a top 10 pick. He only played a single season for the Warriors, who egregiously spent such a high choice on him, and ended up moving around to three other teams in total, before calling it quits after the 2015-16 season. It didn't take long for Golden State to realize that he wasn't capable as a starter, and he ended up fizzling out of favor shortly thereafter.
Instead of being a no-name 2nd round player, Whiteside has transformed into a high-quality scorer for the Heat. He was selected by the Kings, but he wasn't quite ready for the NBA, and moved on to several miscellaneous foreign leagues, before being signed by Miami. Since then, it's not only been one of the best comeback stories in recent history, but Whiteside has legitimately turned himself into one of the better players in the league.
6 2011: Jan Vesely (Bust) - Jimmy Butler (Steal)
While some may be tempted to call Jimmer Fredette the biggest bust from this draft, Vesely was taken five spots higher by Washington, and is therefor a top 10 pick who was equally as bad. Another big that couldn't play in the pros, Vesely stunk it up for several seasons with various teams before throwing the towel. He was pretty nondescript, but ultimately a terrible selection that could have been used to get someone much better.
In contrast, Jimmy Butler was assumed to be a no-name player who is now one of the best players in the league. Taken 30th overall, he's now the top dog in Chicago, leading the Bulls in all phases on the floor. Butler is just hitting his prime now, and is only going to get better; he's truly one of the elite NBA players at the moment.
5 2012: Royce White (Bust) - Draymond Green (Steal)
White was the 16th-overall player selected in the 2012 draft, going to the Rockets, and he just had no business being on an NBA floor. Seriously, he was cut after just a single season in the league, that he ended up playing with the Kings. He then went on to some miscellaneously leagues, and his professional career in the NBA was over before it even began. He appeared in a grand total of 3 games in his career, and is easily one of the most disappointing players to ever (barely) put on a uniform.
Green on the other hand has worked his way up the ladder in Golden State, and is one of the best defenders in the league. His personality is also the subject of either ridicule or praise (depending on who you are), and he's really carved out a niche for himself in the league right now as one of its most notable players. Not too shabby for a 2nd-round pick.
4 2013: Anthony Bennett (Bust) - Giannis Antetokounmpo (Steal)
Bennett was supposed to transform the Cavs back into a contender, but as it turned out they would need the return of LeBron for that to happen. Bennett wasn't the answer as it turned out, and he's easily one of the biggest draft busts of his era. As the 1st-overall pick, many thought he would be a transcendent force in the paint. Instead, he was dead weight. He spent just four years in the league before departing.
As of the past two seasons, "The Greek Freak" has been one of the most surging names in the sport. There's no doubt that the Bucks have one of the marquee young players in the game right now at their disposal, and he's only going to get better with time. As a mid-1st-round pick, the return on him has been phenomenal, and he may end up being one of the very best of his era.
3 2014: Joel Embiid (Bust) - Zach LaVine (Steal)
While Embiid has shown that he can excel at the NBA level in the 31 games that he's appeared in so far, the injuries have just been too much of a concern to label him anything but a bust at this juncture. The Sixers could have a generational player on their hands right now, but more than likely he'll never reach his potential because he won't be on the floor. It's a shame, because he has a lot of talent, but Embiid is looking like dead weight at the 3rd overall pick.
LaVine has made himself known on the Timberwolves, and has more than lived up to his 13th overall selection. Even a pick in the top half of the 1st round isn't a guarantee in the NBA, and LaVine has shown that he can be an integral part of Minnesota's young and talented roster for the long-term.
2 2015: Willie Cauley-Stein (Bust) - Richaun Holmes (Steal)
Coming off of his lone year at Kentucky that was one of the bets college basketball rosters ever assembled in the modern era, Cauley-Stein hasn't shown that he's ready for primetime in the NBA ranks. Both his scoring and rebounding averages have been middling, and he isn't getting consistent time as a starter. For a 6th overall pick, he's going to have to do a lot in the proceeding years to show the Kings that he was worth the selection.
Holmes started off his career slow, but this season has been one of the foremost young talents on the Sixers' roster. He had a stellar defensive season this past year, and is vying for more time as a starter if the Sixers are unable to get their recent premium draft picks healthy and on the floor. As a 2nd-rounder, Holmes is proving his worth on an NBA floor, which is more than anybody expected from him.
1 2016: Georgios Papagiannis (Bust) - Malcolm Brogdon (Steal)
Taken at the 13th-overall pick in this past draft, Papagiannis has been a disappointment in his lone NBA season with the Kings. As a scorer, rebounder and everything in between, he hasn't shown much of anything in limited time off the bench. There's still time for him to work his way into a starting role and get more minutes, but given he was this bad on a mediocre Kings team, it doesn't bode well for his future in the NBA.
On the other hand, Brogdon showed himself to be the surprise rookie that nobody saw having any success. He appeared in almost every game for the Bucks, and even saw some starting action as a shooting guard. He showed he could pass and score effectively at times, and worked well in tandem with Antetokounmpo. It's too early to tell yet, but Brogdon and "The Greek Freak" could be a duo to watch out for in the coming seasons, and cultivate some serious playoff potential.
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