The 2016 NBA draft class has had its share of ups and downs as rookies. The number one overall pick Ben Simmons has failed to play due to injury, and Malcolm Brogdon has surprised many by being a contender for the rookie of the year award after being selected in the middle of the second round. The top of the draft usually provides teams with players who can have an instant impact for their teams. The 2016 draft class has been a bit underwhelming more than halfway into the 2016-17 NBA season.
The 2016 class was not exaggerated as one of the best there ever was, but many thought there would be a few that could immediately help the team that drafted them. Some of the high picks have under performed early on in their young NBA lives. Other draftees were highly rated high school players who didn’t play great in college and have continued this trend into the NBA. The 2016 NBA draft class has been one of the least exciting classes in recent memory, and some of the guys who heard their name called on draft night are in danger of being branded a bust.
Here are 16 NBA rookies who already look like busts:
16 Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown was the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and when you are selected this high you are expected to produce in the NBA quickly. This has not been the case for the young man out of California. Brown was selected by the Boston Celtics, a team that is already close to contender status and has a solid small forward/power forward in Jae Crowder. This has stunted the development of Brown but is not an excuse for his poor play.
Brown scores a little under 6 points a game which is not a great clip, and the 2 rebounds per game that he grabs is very disappointing for a guy with his 6-foot-7 and 226lb frame. Brown still has time to turn it around but the Celtics may be regretting not trading their 2016 first round pick when they had the chance.
15 Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn was not a one and done player coming out of Providence which prompted many to believe he would have an immediate impact in the league. The people who thought that are still waiting for him to emerge as a starting caliber player for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and his slow development may be a reason that the Timberwolves have held onto Ricky Rubio. If Dunn wants to shed the possible bust label from himself he is going to want to improve his horrendous 37 percent field goal percentage. The Timberwolves have great young players in Anthony Wiggins, Zach Levine, and Karl-Anthony Towns, so it’s unfathomable that Dunn only averages two assists per game this far into the season. Luckily for Dunn, bad shooting can be corrected with good coaching which is present in Minnesota.
14 Thon Maker
Thon Maker was drafted at the back end of the 2016 NBA lottery, and he was a bit of an unknown coming into the league. He was one year removed from high school which made him eligible for the NBA draft despite not playing any college basketball. This is what intrigued the media about Maker, and a lot of people saw raw talent in him. The Bucks are pretty weak at the center position. This makes it a mystery as to why Maker hasn’t gotten more playing time throughout the course of the season, and this points to him not progressing much in practice with the team. Maker only plays eight minutes a game and it is mind boggling that he only averages 0.3 blocks per game at seven plus feet tall.
13 Tyler Ulis
Tyler Ulis was a second round pick so it is hard to classify him as a total bust, but after a very respectful college career at Kentucky he was expected to be a little bit more of an impact player at the next level. Ulis was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the thirty fourth pick in the draft. In college Ulis was very accustom to success, and in his sophomore season he won SEC player of the year and SEC defensive player of the year. At the NBA level he has mainly rode the bench in Phoenix and has even been demoted to the Suns D league affiliate the Northern Arizona Suns. It has been tough finding minutes in the NBA, but Ulis just recently in mid-February scored a career high 13 points against the Houston Rockets.
12 Jakob Poeltl
Believe it or not, Jakob Poeltl is the first Austrian to ever be drafted into and to play in the NBA. The Raptors were coming off a successful 2015-16 campaign in which they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before they fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and were lucky enough to have a lottery pick in the 2016 draft as well. They selected Poeltl so that they would have a viable back up to Jonas Valanciunas. In 10 minutes per game off the bench Poeltl is putting up very pedestrian averages of two points and three rebounds a game. Valanciunas cannot afford to get hurt again in the playoffs like he did last season, and if he does Poeltl could be exposed even further as a bust.
11 Buddy Hield
Buddy Hield was heralded as the national player of the year in college basketball, and many thought due to him using all four years of his eligibility in college, he would adapt the quickest of any rookie in the 2016 draft class. The Pelicans selected Hield with the sixth pick in the NBA draft, but just recently decided to go in another direction when they traded him to the Sacramento Kings. In college Hield was renowned for his incredible shooting, but at the NBA level he is shooting below 40 percent from the field. His nine point per game average was much less than many expected on a Pelicans team that doesn’t have great shooters. Sacramento may be the change of scenery that Hield needed to turn his career around, but the Kings have seemed to be a typical landing spot for busts.
10 Malachi Richardson
Malachi Richardson willed Syracuse deep into the 2016 NCAA tournament, despite many questioning them even being qualified to participate in college basketball’s playoff system. After just one season with Syracuse, Richardson would forgo his final three years of eligibility to enter the 2016 NBA draft. The Charlotte Hornets selected Richardson with the twenty second pick in the draft and traded his rights to the Sacramento Kings. He has had little impact with the Kings. This is a bit surprising due to the Kings lack of wing players with Rudy Gay sidelined for the rest of the year. Richardson has also been sent down to the D league multiple times, and he will need to prove he is worthy of contributing on the NBA roster if he wants to have a future in the league.
9 Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram was compared to Kevin Durant during the entire draft process, but Durant was a generational player who scored in double digits easily on a nightly basis in his rookie year. At Duke, Ingram was known as a consistent scorer who could shoot lights out. His three point shooting percentage in the NBA is under 30 percent, and it looks like he is shooting the ball with no lights on in the gym with percentages that low. His overall field goal percentage is only 37 percent. These low percentages have attributed to Ingram only averaging nine points a night, and with the departure of Lou Williams the Lakers leading scorer he will need to be more offensively efficient than he has been. The expectations on Ingram have been extremely high based on him being selected second overall in the 2016 NBA draft but he has failed to live up to those expectations so far.
8 Wade Baldwin IV
Wade Baldwin IV was a first round selection of the Memphis Grizzlies after a successful career at Vanderbilt where he averaged nine points, four rebounds, and four assists a game. The Grizzlies planned to use Baldwin as Mike Conley’s back up, and were expecting someone who could be a productive player off the bench, but Baldwin has been highly disappointing more than halfway through his rookie season. His numbers shed light on just how poorly he has played by only averaging three points and two assists per game. His shooting has been horrendous at 31 percent, and his poor performances have led to him being sent down to the D League on numerous occasions. Baldwin needs to prove he was worthy of being a top 20 NBA draft pick sooner rather than later.
7 Henry Ellenson
Henry Ellenson was a guy that ranked towards the top of almost every mock draft that came out prior to the 2016 NBA draft. Many did not really get to see much of Ellenson while he attended Marquette, but he was a double double machine averaging 17 points and a little under 10 rebounds a game for the Golden Eagles. Many thought his rise would continue when he was selected eighteenth overall by the close to home Detroit Pistons. His progress has been stunted at the NBA level as he has only been able to score a combined 21 points all season long, and has spent more time in the D league than with the big club. Ellenson has a lot of work to do to get out of Stan Van Gundy’s metaphorical dog house.
6 Denzel Valentine
Many people expected Valentine to be a steal in the draft for the Chicago Bulls as he fell to the end of lottery. Valentine had a successful four year stint at Michigan State University, and followed it up with an impressive summer league outing. Many thought Valentine could have more of an impact than the one and done players that so frequently get drafted high and take time to develop. More than halfway through the season Valentine has failed to live up to the expectations that were placed on him, and has failed to play a major role for the Chicago Bulls thus far.
Valentine is only putting up four points, two rebounds, and one assists a game. Valentine was seen coming into the league as someone who was versatile because he can play both guard and small forward positions, but he has only earned 13 minutes of playing time a game from coach Fred Hoiberg.
5 Skal Labissiere
Skal Labissiere was at the height of popularity coming into college at Kentucky. This was based off the fact that he was ranked as the number one recruit coming into college by Rivals and Scout, beating out Ben Simmons who would go on to be selected number one overall in the 2016 NBA draft. But the praise soon turned into disappointment. Labissiere struggled at Kentucky only averaging six points and three rebounds a game. This caused him to slip to end of the first round where he was selected by the Phoenix Suns and traded to the Sacramento Kings, and he has struggled to get much playing time with the Kings. Labissiere has been frequently assigned to the Reno Big Horns who are the Kings D League affiliate.
4 Cheick Diallo
In 2015 Cheick Diallo was the MVP of the McDonald's All American game, and many thought he was destined for greatness after choosing to play his college basketball at Kansas. Kansas was a nightmare for Diallo, and he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. In his lone season at Kansas he only managed to average three points and two rebounds a game. He entered the 2016 NBA Draft despite his substandard outing at Kansas and was selected 33rd overall by the Clippers. He was traded to the Pelicans on draft night, but in his rookie year he has spent more time in the D league than with the Pelicans. The Pelicans are now stacked with big men after the addition of DeMarcus Cousins. Diallo has a lot to overcome to shed the label of possible most disappointing McDonald's All American game MVP ever, and he may have to do it on a different team next season.
3 Diamond Stone
Diamond Stone was a participant in the McDonald's All American game in 2015, and seemed destined for a great professional career. He did not fully live up to his potential at the University of Maryland only averaging 12 points and five rebounds a game. Despite not having a standout season at Maryland Stone went the one and done route, and was fortunate to get drafted in the second round by the New Orleans Pelicans. He was traded on draft night to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers have rarely used Stone even though their first round pick Bryce Johnson has been sidelined due to Injury. Stone has spent time with the Santa Cruz Warriors and the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA D League, and if Stone ever wants to live up to the hype that once surrounded him he will probably have to do it on another team.
2 Dragan Bender
Dragan Bender has been a major disappointment since he was selected fourth overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2016 NBA draft. Bender did not have much of a track record coming from overseas, but NBA front offices saw the success that Kristaps Porzingis had at the NBA level in the 2015-16 NBA season and this helped Bender move up the draft boards. Bender has failed to assimilate as easily as Porzingis has. He is shooting poorly at 37 percent from the field, and possesses strikingly low averages of three points and two rebounds per game.
The Suns are in the process of a rebuild, and next season will give Bender an opportunity to improve upon his poor start to his career. If he can’t figure out how to improve next year he will join the ranks of Shawn Bradley and Kwame Brown as big men who struggled after being drafted highly.
1 Ben Simmons
Whenever a first overall pick doesn't play a single game of his rookie season, no matter the reason, there is cause for concern. The 76ers took Ben Simmons first overall last summer and there was hope in Philly that the Sixers' long drought would finally come to an end. However Simmons suffered a fracture in his fifth metatarsal bone last September. He was expected to return at some point this season, but shortly after the trade deadline, the Sixers announced Simmons would miss the rest of the season.
Simmons was recently given a bone marrow injection to accelerate the healing process, so we'll see if he's able to bounce back next season. Any way you slice it though, the injury has to be concerning to the Sixers. Hopefully Simmons is off this list and tearing the league up next season. We sure don't want his career to go down the injury riddled path of Greg Oden.