The 2014 NBA draft contained one of the most elite draft classes of all-time. Not since the 1996 class of Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Derek Fisher had there been so much potential superstardom in one year’s draft class.
With strong defence and freakish athleticism, the third overall selection, Joel Embiid possessed such an impressive scouting report that he could have been selected first overall in basically every other draft class in recent history, perhaps with the exception of Anthony Davis and maybe Blake Griffin.
Likewise, since the day his scouting report was released, Andrew Wiggins has drawn comparisons to Kobe Bryant, not only by analysts, broadcasters and reporters but by the Lakers great himself. Jabari Parker could just have well been the first overall pick.
Draft classes like these are rarities. For every Derrick Rose, there is a Michael Beasley. A talented player who for some reason, maybe injuries, maybe publicized lifestyle issues, sometimes by no fault of his own, will not live up to his “on paper” potential. And sometimes, a team will opt for the Beasley over the Rose, unaware of the difficulties and challenges their potential franchise player will encounter.
Typically, it can not be confirmed that a team made the correct choice with the coveted number one spot selection until years after, once the team has had the chance to see how the player that they could have selected pans out in the big league. In 1994, the Milwaukee Bucks took Glenn Robinson. His inability to translate from a great college to a great professional player stung a little more because the Bucks passed over Grant Hill to take him in the No. 1 spot. In his day, Hill put up LeBron-type points.
Hill is far from the only future Hall of Fame caliber player to be passed over in favor of a player who's promise quickly faded once he entered the NBA.
With that said, here are the ten worst first overall draft picks of all-time.
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10 Pervis Ellison
Pervis Ellison was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 1989. Before the draft, he looked like the typical first overall draft pick. A ready and capable center that would compliment any NBA team.
In college, Ellison had scored 2,000 points and put up 1,000 rebounds as a Louisville Cardinal. College statistics can often be misguiding, especially when it comes to the centre position. In college, centre's can typically slide by on size and dominance. In the NBA, where there is a deeper talent pool, these weaknesses are very quickly capitalized on.
Unfortunately, these performances were not repeated in Sacramento during his NBA career. Ellison was sidelined with knee injuries for more than half of his rookie season. In the next three years, Ellison would improve to become a decent player, but he would never reach his expected potential.
9 Joe Smith
Joe Smith is without a doubt, one of the greatest busts in the NBA's history of draft busts. Smith somehow managed to find his way onto 12 different NBA rosters, mainly as a role player. Smith had his ups and downs but it was mainly downs once he got into the big league.
The worst thing about Smith is what could have been for the Golden State Warriors.
And that is Kevin Garnett, who went 5th in the 1995 draft.
8 Andrea Bargnani
Andrea Bargnani is by no means the worst first overall draft pick ever, but Bargnani has never been the Dirk Nowitzki-type calibre player that the Toronto Raptors imagined he would when they drafted him in 2006. He’s not the worst thing to ever happen to the Raptors but he’s also not winning an MVP award anytime soon.
Three seasons into his NBA career, Bargnani began to show some promise. While, a great shooter like Dirk, he lacked Nowitzki’s talent in every other area of the game. Eventually, Bargnani would be traded to the New York Knicks and since then he has become yet another chapter in the Raptors’ thick book of mistakes.
7 Anthony Bennett
To begin with, the 2013 NBA draft was not the most talented draft class to ever see ESPN primetime. Anthony Bennett most likely found himself in the No. 1 spot because of his size and perhaps also that he is flexible enough to move between the small and power forward positions.
Bennett was not ranked well coming out of high school. He attended the University of Nevada rather than a school with a highly elite basketball program, such as Kentucky or Duke. Under a more competitive and rigorous program, Bennett's weaknesses would have been better exposed and therefore developed.
As a result of this, and probably other factors, Bennett had a historically bad rookie season. He did not have a double figure performance in a game until late January in his rookie season. However, Bennett did end up, in a sense, being a strong asset for the Cavaliers when they were able to trade him for Kevin Love. There's still time for him to turn it around, but it's not looking good.
6 Kent Benson
The Milwaukee Bucks drafted the University of Indiana's “Mr. Basketball” in 1977. When people think about now Kent Benson, it is most likely because they saw a video on YouTube of Kareem Abdul-Jabber breaking his hand while punching Kent Benson. Truly a classic sports moment. If they had Twitter in 1977, this video would have gone viral.
Then, like most other lackluster first overall draft picks, Benson shuffled around the NBA’s lower tier teams for the rest of his playing career. He averaged 9.1 points per game in 680 regular season games. Not a bad career average if he were drafted late in the second round.
5 Art Heyman
Art Heyman averaged 15.4 points per game as a small forward and made the NBA All-Rookie Team in his first season with the New York Knicks. He was actually named the Player of the Year by the Sporting News and the Associate Press.
However, a bad temper and frequent outbursts caused Heyman’s career with the Knicks to deteriorate after only two seasons. He would leave the NBA two years later but find some success in the American Basketball Association where he carried out a career until 1970.
Heyman retied in 1970 with 4,030 NBA/ABA points.
4 Andy Tonkovich
Andy Tonkovich was drafted by the Providence Steamrollers in 1948. It was only the second ever draft to ever have taken place.
Sadly, the point guard didn't make it long enough to see the playoffs. Tonkovich would go on to average 2.9 points and 0.6 assists in his 17 games in the league before ending his NBA (Then Basketball Association of America) career.
This is pretty much the worst case situation for every player and sports franchise.
3 Michael Olowokandi
In 1998, the Los Angeles Clippers selected Michael Olowokandi. In drafting him, the Clippers passed on Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Vince Carter. This is a pretty typical classic Clippers move. Not the new $2 billion dollars Clippers. The make Billy Crystal cry Clippers.
However, it is slightly odd that then Clippers owner Donald Sterling didn't push for the white guy.
By 2006, Olowokandi had made his way to the Minnesota Timberwolves. After a short campaign, he was acquired by the Boston Celtics as a part of an insipid multiplayer trade. By this time, Nowitzki, Pierce and Carter had all accumulated multiple All-Star nominations and positioned themselves among the best players in the league.
The Clippers got another chance nearly 10 years later when Blake Griffin would find himself seeded with the difficult responsibility of turning the franchise around when they drafted him first overall in 2009. At least they knocked that one out of the park.
2 LaRue Martin
In 1972, LaRue Martin was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers. The 6-foot-11 center out of Loyola University Chicago, seemed to have a lot of potential after coming off an excellent collegiate campaign.
The Portland Trail Blazers had every reason to take Martin first overall. He had a proven record of success and as a result, Martin's expectations as a NBA player were excitingly high. He was the obvious number one pick.
This did not translate into a successful NBA career. In fact, Martin’s NBA career would almost be comical if it had not been so sad.
He seemed like the most unlikely bust ever coming into the league, out playing Bill Walton in college and then being drafted before Julius Erving, who would go on to win almost every honour and award in the book, at least once.
The most notable statistic on Martin is that in four seasons in the NBA, he averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game before retiring.
1 Kwame Brown
Kwame Brown was deemed as the ideal NBA center due to his strong defensive abilities. In 2001, he was drafted straight out of high school after completing a picture perfect high school career. On top of this, Michael Jordan handpicked Brown as the Washington Wizards first overall draft pick during the basketball God’s tenure as the Wizards' president of basketball operations.
After a disappointing four years, the Wizards traded Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers, where not even Phil Jackson could save him. He would be heavily booed by both Wizards and Lakers fans on several occasions.
Brown would start for the Lakers after starting center Chris Mihm went down with injury. Brown would quickly be replaced by Andrew Bynum.
Today, all that is left of Brown’s NBA legacy are some fabulous photos of Kobe Bryant yelling at him and a story about him requesting that Bryant not throw him the ball. During a game.
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