As I've said enough times in the past, the NBA Draft is a crapshoot...so in other words, who's ready for the Boston Celtics to blow the top overall pick?
In all seriousness, landing a top three pick in the NBA may sound fun on paper, but there's been enough times in history (looking at you, Sam Bowie) where teams completely bomb the pick entirely (looking at you, 2007 Portland Trail Blazers). In fact, there's been enough of those occurrences recently for us to do an article on this. How convenient!
Before we start, there's a couple of important disclaimers that I feel the need to put in place.
- The 2014-16 NBA Drafts will not be included on this list because it is still too early. If Joel Embiid had missed this season, however, he would have been included for the 2014 spot.
- The only other two draft classes not on this list are the 2004, 2010, and 2012 NBA Drafts. With all things considered, each of the top three picks in that draft - Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, and Ben Gordon in 2004; John Wall, Evan Turner, and Derrick Favors in 2010; Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bradley Beal in 2012 - have each carved out solid careers for themselves. Though we could easily suggest that DeMarcus Cousins should have gone over Turner or Drummond over Beal, that's more of a topic best suited for a re-draft article.
- Not every player on this list fits into the definition of a bust because this is not so much a bust list as it is simply the worst picks. Some of these players were reaches, some ended up here because their careers were shortened, and some were...well, busts.
Ready to look back at some of the worst top-three picks in recent NBA history? Let's do it.
12 2000: Stromile Swift, Vancouver Grizzlies (Second overall)
We start this list off with the second overall pick of the dreadful 2000 NBA Draft in Stromile Swift, who some older Nets fans will remember as the player traded to New Jersey in exchange for Jason Collins during the 2007-08 season - and a dominant force in the paint in NBA Live 09, but we digress. Swift is a perfect example of why we put that disclaimer into place, as he wasn't really a bust - the guy averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds a game from 2000-09 - and was a solid front court option alongside Pau Gasol in the mid 2000s for the Grizzlies when he came off the bench.
There are some real busts on this list, trust us when we say that, but Swift doesn't deserve that title. No, he never was the dominant center that the Grizzlies likely figured they were getting, but he was a valuable role player and a beast in the paint. What more could you ask for if you were a title contender?
11 2001: Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards (First Overall)
I understand that you’re already questioning how I haven't begun this entry with an insult, but the top pick in the 2001 NBA Draft at least managed to carve out a nice NBA career for himself after all of the lows that started it. No, we’re not saying that Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards deserve a pass for putting Kwame so low - and you know what, we’re not even denying that Brown is among the top busts of all time - but think about how many players would have simply taken the money and ran.
Regardless of what happened, Kwame Brown kept trying in his time with the Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers, even if the fans didn’t necessarily support him (which we don’t blame them for because Brown should have been much better than he was). Is that a weird defense for putting Brown so low on this list? Maybe. Do we stand by it? Yep.
10 2002: Jay Williams, Chicago Bulls (Second Overall)
Here come the haters who think I'm being too harsh on Jay Williams, best known now for his broadcasting. Well, Williams had a pretty good rookie season with the Bulls in 2002-03, averaging 9.5 points per night on .399 percent shooting as a 21 year old and showing enough promise that we all figured he'd improve on the advanced stats (Williams only had a 12.2 PER and a -0.1 VORP)...and then got himself into a motorcycle accident without wearing a helmet and not having a license.
Come on, Jay, you have to be an idiot to risk your NBA career for a motorcycle ride. Jay’s at least been able to catch on with ESPN, but when you end your career because of your own stupidity...yeah, you’re ending up near the top of an actual bust list.
9 2003: Darko Milicic, Detroit Pistons (Second Overall)
Where do we even start with this one? Taken ahead of Carmelo Anthony (ouch), Chris Bosh (woof), Dwyane Wade (WOOF), Chris Kaman (yeah, woof still applies) and David West in that uber 2003 NBA Draft, Darko Milicic is justifiably a laughing stock in NBA circles. Listen, I’m not going to pretend I’d be better than Darko in a one-on-one match like other writers would because, well, I wouldn’t, but come on - we all know this was the wrong pick.
Why would the Pistons go for Darko when they could have had an immediate superstar in either Anthony, Bosh, or Wade? Millic would only last three seasons with the Pistons, averaging 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per night in 96 games, only two of which he started. Why would you draft someone that high and not start him - oh, right, because they already had the front-court depth!
The irony, if there's any, is that Millic was starting to come into his own for a time, averaging 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per night from 2007-11 with the Magic, Grizzlies, Knicks, and Timberwolves.
8 2005: Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks (Second overall)
Is Marvin Williams a bust? Some people like to argue yes because he was taken above Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, and Danny Granger, but I wouldn’t really call Williams a bust. Here, we have an example of a decent player getting much more hate than he deserves because of his draft spot and who followed him; if Williams was putting up his career numbers of 10.6 points on .443 shooting from the field (and .35 from long-range) and 5.3 rebounds a night in 28.9 minutes a game after being selected eighth or ninth overall, would we really call him a bust?
Even if Williams was taken sixth after Andrew Bogut and the four mentioned above and putting up those numbers, I don’t think the word ‘bust’ would apply. Really, Williams is only on this list because the Hawks took him over the ‘other Williams’ and Chris Paul, but that’s not a knock on Marvin.
7 2006: Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (First overall)
In Andrea Bargnani's defense - oh my goodness, I'm actually defending Bargnani - he's so low on this list because he was better than people give him credit for. I mean, he was really the lone option after Chris Bosh left Toronto for Miami, but Bargnani took advantage and fooled the New York Knicks into giving up a first-round pick for him? Wait, it was a future first-round pick for the 2016 NBA Draft? What???
While the on-court statistics look nice, Bargnani's VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) with the Raptors was a measly 1.1, with his best total being 0.8 in the 2009-10 season. Yes, Bargnani had 16.1 win shares over that time and that may look as nice as the 18.0 points per night average, but don’t get fooled into thinking he was an All-Star. Bargnani was decent, but worth being taken first overall in a draft that also featured Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, and Kyle Lowry? Nope.
6 2006: Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats (Third overall)
Can I stop laughing yet? Taken third overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, Morrison showed that Michael Jordan - then the new Manager of Basketball Operations for the Bobcats - STILL hadn't realized how to draft. Morrison had flashes early on, actually scoring 30 points in a December win over the Pacers, but the 'White Mamba' was relegated to the bench by midseason.
After missing the 2007-08 season with a torn ACL, Morrison was mediocre off the bench in the 2008-09 season, averaging 4.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per night. And yet, Morrison still won two rings with the Los Angeles Lakers after he and Shannon Brown went to Tinseltown in exchange for Vladimir Radmanović. If there’s any positive to come out of this, it’s that Jordan has had much more success drafting and adding players over the past decade.
5 2007: Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers (First Overall)
For all intents and purposes, Greg Oden and Jay Williams nearly had identical careers. Yes, they're both busts - the injuries definitely do play a factor - but here’s my thinking: when Greg Oden was actually on the court, the guy was pretty good! If you take the statistics he put up over 105 career games with the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat and put them as a per 36 minutes, the guy averaged 14.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
For reference's sake, DeAndre Jordan's per 36 minutes over the past three seasons have been 13.3 points and 15.3 rebounds per game. Is that to say that Greg Oden would have been a better center than DeAndre Jordan if the ex-Ohio State center stayed healthy? Probably not. Should we take Oden’s injuries into consideration when thinking about some of these other guys? Yes.
There’s no denying that Portland made a mistake taking Oden over Kevin Durant, but I’m a staunch defender of the 29-year-old center. Did I really use the word staunch in a sentence? Let’s move on.
4 2008: Michael Beasley, Miami Heat (Second overall)
Like with Marvin Williams, I don’t think Beasley is a bust if the definition of bust that we use - and the consensus definition that sports fans use - is someone who either barely played or never played up to the level that he was supposed to. Beasley played and played at an extremely high level at times with the Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves early in his career, especially when he averaged 19.2 points on .450 shooting, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.2 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per night as a 22 year old for the T-Wolves in the 2010-11 season.
But, when you look back at the 2008 NBA Draft and see who the Heat could have added as a playmaker to team up with Dwyane Wade - Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love leading the way, with Brook Lopez a bit of ways behind - it’s hard to defend the selection of Beasley. Granted, he did help the Heat win their two NBA Finals with the Big Three because he had to be dealt for cap space, but the point remains.
3 2009: Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies (Second overall)
On the other hand, Hasheem Thabeet being among the worst players on this list is one I think we can all agree on. Drafted second overall in the 2009 NBA Draft over James Harden (ouch) and Stephen Curry (even more of an ouch, but we give the Grizzlies a slight pass because they already had Mike Conley), Thabeet was so bad in his rookie season that the Grizzlies demoted him to the D-League midseason.
While Thabeet showed flashes with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2012-14, the Grizzlies are most likely still regretting drafting the ex-UConn star. In a draft class that also saw the Grizzlies add DeMarre Carroll and Sam Young, NBADraft.net's Adi Joseph wrote, "The Grizzlies wanted to improve their rebounding, defense and overall toughness. In those regards, this was a great draft. Thabeet certainly makes a lot of sense here and has tremendous potential."
2 2011: Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves (Second overall)
Like fellow #2 overall pick and former teammate Michael Beasley, I think it's important to give Derrick Williams some credit for also trying to carve out a nice NBA career for himself; even though some may be disappointed to know he's only started 41 games since the beginning of the 2013-14 season, the still-only 25 year old forward has excelled in a bench role and shot a career-best .505 from the field (and a career-high .404 from three-point range) in 25 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers down the stretch.
But to defend the Timberwolves taking Williams over Tristan Thompson, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, and even Kawhi Leonard (though Leonard was also the only one of those four to really be a fringe lottery prospect) with the second overall pick back in 2011? Even I'm not that crazy.
1 2013: Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers (First overall)
The most recent pick on this list because it’s still way too early to criticize the 2014-16 NBA Drafts - and because, with the exception of Joel Embiid, all have been pretty good so far (I’m taking Embiid’s lone season with a grain of salt) - Bennett was put into a rough situation because the Cavaliers weren’t expecting to wind up with the top pick. True, the Cavaliers had a 15.6 chance to win the lottery, but the majority of people figured they'd be around the third or fourth pick. Is that an excuse for taking Anthony Bennett? No, of course not!
In his lone season with the Cavaliers, Bennett averaged 4.2 points and three rebounds in 12.8 minutes a night without ever starting a game. Why would you draft a guy first overall without wanting to really play him? It's not like the Cavaliers were the current Boston Celtics and benefiting because of a bad trade; they were a rebuilding trade looking for a superstar to replace LeBron - or, if Kyrie Irving was going to be that guy, which he was, to help Kyrie. Bennett wasn't either of those things!
Which players do you think were the worst top-3 picks in NBA history? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!