Top 15 Biggest First Round Busts In The NBA Today

Considering the overwhelming lack of parity in the NBA, team executives suffer an immense amount of pressure to draft well, which is no small task, because the NBA Draft may very well have the smallest margin of error of any draft in professional sports. With only two rounds to work with, as opposed to seven in the NFL and NHL, or an ungodly 40 in the MLB, and basically any pick outside the top three rounds being considered a gamble or a long term project, building a great team through the draft is an almost Herculean undertaking, especially when a team's front office is incompetent (*Cough* Sacramento *Cough*). That's not to say it's impossible, though. The Golden State Warriors acquired their championship winning core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in the draft, and the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in back-to-back-to-back drafts (Which famously turned out SUPER WELL!).

For every out of left field draft steal, like Jimmy Butler (30th overall), Nikola Jokic (41st overall), and Isaiah Thomas (60th overall), there are a dozen players who were supposed to be franchise-saving stars that never lived up to the lofty aspirations their teams had for them. Without further ado, this list is dedicated to the most infamous first round busts playing in the NBA today. While they may not be all bad and they're all still in the league, in one capacity or another, they definitely fell short of their draft stocks or, in some cases, the promise they showed early in their careers. Also, a quick note: as bad as players like Andrea Bargnani and Adam Morrison were, they're no longer in the NBA, so they don't qualify for this list. RULES!


15 Mario Hezonja

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The first few entries on this list are dedicated to young players that have so far been busts, but theoretically have a chance of turn their careers around. First up is Mario Hezonja, a.k.a. Super Mario, a.k.a. The Beast. Drafted 5th overall in 2015 by the Orlando Magic, ahead of Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, and Devin Booker, Hezonja was supposed to be a once in a lifetime player, a dazzling, versatile, aggressively European wunderkind. Instead, he's been immensely disappointing, averaging only 5.5 points on a dreadful 40.1% shooting, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 142 games. To be fair, he's only played 16.3 minutes per game, but his production in that limited time doesn't inspire much optimism, especially this season, as he's declined in almost every major statistical category.

14 Nik Stauskas

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Some people likely won't categorize Nik "Sauce Castillo" Stauskas as a bust, considering that's played for the Sacramento Kings and the Philadelphia 76ers, neither a paradigm of franchise stability, and he's arguably improved in each of his three seasons. However, those improvements only look good in a vacuum. Drafted 8th overall in 2014 by the Kings, ahead of Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic, and Nikola Jokic, Nik Stauskas was supposed to be the sharpshooting Robin to DeMarcus Cousins' enormous, irritable Batman. That didn't exactly happen, as he averaged only 4.4 points on 36.5% shooting, including 32.2% from deep, in 73 games. He was traded to Philadelphia in 2015 and while his numbers have technically gotten better, his still tremendously inefficient. In 78 games this season, he's averaging 9.3 points on a very bleak 39.7% shooting, 36.7% from beyond the three-point line, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, in almost double the minutes he played in his rookie season.

13 Ben McLemore

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Another failed experiment from the basketball hell-scape that is Sacramento, Ben "Young Sav" McLemore was taken into Sac-Town for the same reason as Nik Stauskas: to be Boogie Cousins' running mate. While the franchise was clearly behind him, playing him 26.7 minutes per game in his rookie season, he has yet to meet their lofty expectations. Drafted 7th overall in 2013, ahead of C.J. McCollum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Rudy Gobert, McLemore was thrust into a starting role, starting 55 games right off the bat. He averaged a somewhat promising 8.8 points per game, albeit on poor 37.6% shooting. In his sophomore season, he upped that to 12.2 points per game on 43.7% shooting. However, his playmaking abilities and defense got worse, and recently, he's seen his minutes pulled back. As a result, he's down to 7.9 points per game this season, despite a solid 42.9% field goal percentage, and 38.8% from deep.

12 Emmanuel Mudiay

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A lot of people, probably everyone, were very wrong about Emmanuel "E-Man," "Mudy" Mudiay. In a mere two seasons, he went from one of the league's most enticing prospects to his team playing MUCH better when he's on the bench. Drafted 7th overall in 2015 by the Denver Nuggets, the same year as Mario Hezonja, Mudiay was an athletic phenom who skipped college in favor of playing overseas. He was considered a mystery by many, but his upside was enough that he was considered the draft's #2 point guard behind D'Angelo Russell. In his rookie season, he averaged 12.8 points per game on a painful 36.4% shooting, 31.9% from deep, 5.5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds, and a baffling 3.2 turnovers, in 66 games. This season, he's down across the board, averaging 11 points on a still-awful 37.7% shooting, 31.6% from deep, 3.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds in 55 games, and while his turnovers are down, he ranks as the league's worst defensive point guard.

11 Terrence Ross

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"But wait," you may be thinking to yourself, "how can Terrence Ross be a bust when he once scored 51 points in a game?" And to be fair, he did do that, and it may have been the most unlikely 50-point game in NBA history. However, one great outburst doesn't take away the fact that he's never lived up to his draft stock. Drafted 8th overall in 2012 by the Toronto Raptors, ahead of Andre Drummond, Jae Crowder, and Draymond Green, Ross was supposed to be DeMar DeRozan's high-scoring backcourt partner. In his rookie season, he averaged 6.4 points on 40.7% shooting in just 17 minutes per game, then in his sophomore season, he averaged 10.9 points per game on 42.3% shooting in 26.7 minutes per game. Since then, his highest scoring season has been just 11.2 points per game, his shooting percentages have fluctuated, but mostly remained mediocre, and his playmaking abilities and defense have never risen above a shrug.

10 Michael Carter-Williams

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Very few athletes have ever had a start as promising and a fall as disappointing as Michael Carter-Williams. In just a few short years, he went from winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award, albeit in a fairly weak rookie class, to coming off the bench for the Chicago Bulls behind a washed-up Rajon Rondo. Drafted 11th overall in 2013 by the Philadelphia 76ers, the same year as Ben McLemore, Carter-Williams broke out in his very first game, registering damn near a quadruple-double of 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals in an upset win over the Miami Heat, the defending NBA Champions at the time. Although he displayed numerous flaws as a rookie, particularly his utterly broken jump shot and tendency to turn the ball over, he still averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.9 steals in 34.5 minutes a game. Unfortunately, his minutes and production faded as he failed to fix the glaring deficiencies in his game, no matter where he played.

9 Tristan Thompson

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This entry may be the most controversial on this list, as Tristan "Double T" Thompson was indeed the starting center on a championship team less than a year ago. However, if you look past his team's recent accomplishments, it's fairly clear that Tristan Thompson hasn't exactly lived up to his talent or his high draft selection. Drafted 4th overall in 2011 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, ahead of Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Isaiah Thomas, Thompson was drafted to be a core player alongside Kyrie Irving for the new-look Cavs after LeBron James' Vitamin Water endorsed move to South Beach.

Thompson quickly emerged as one of the league's best offensive rebounders, averaging 3.4 per game on his career, and was considered a potential breakout candidate for a few years, but that breakout never came. He's never averaged even 12 points per game in a season, and while he's become much more efficient with his limited scoring in recent years, he has no passing game to speak of, and his defense has, at best, been average, although, again, it has improved as of late. While Thompson hasn't been a train wreck by any means, it's hard not to see him as a bust considering the talent drafted after him, his untapped potential, and his $82 million dollar contract.


8 Raymond Felton

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While for many people, Raymond "Felts" Felton is just that guy who's seemingly always been in the league and was probably the best point guard the New York Knicks had had in the past decade (Cry it out, Knicks fans), Felton was a great collegiate player at the University of North Carolina and was once considered one of the best young prospects in the game. Drafted 5th overall in 2005 by the Charlotte Bobcats, immediately after Deron Williams and Chris Paul, and ahead of Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, and David Lee, Felton showed flashes of his college greatness as a rookie, averaging 11.9 points, 5.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. Unfortunately, he never ascended past that point. He struggled with bad shot selection and he was just not good on defense. His best season came in 2010-2011, when he averaged 15.5 points, 8.3 assists, both career highs, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game.

7 Enes Kanter

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The NBA's best Freddie Mercury impersonator, Enes Kanter has an a unique career. He was shipped off the Utah Jazz for being a nuisance, and on the Oklahoma City Thunder, he's slowly seem his role shrink, despite the high numbers he posted when first coming to town. Drafted 3rd overall in 2011 by the Jazz, the same year as Tristan Thompson, it took the Turkish big man until 2013-2014 to find his groove in the United States, when he averaged 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. However, after that season, he developed a weird, Kanye West-like ego, referring to himself as one of the best players of his generation. The problem is, despite the gaudy numbers he can put up, his game had serious downsides: his defense is abysmal, he has no range, and he's an almost non-existent passer. He's a big man from a bygone era. This past season, he averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game off the bench in OKC, with a -1.9 defensive box plus/minus to boot.

6 Evan Turner

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Evan Turner is one of the weirdest players in the NBA. He was an All-American at Ohio State, a forgettable, bad player on the Philadelphia 76ers, a weirdly important, versatile cog for the Boston Celtics, and now, the Portland Trail Blazers fall into shambles whenever he sees the court. Drafted 2nd overall by the Sixers in 2010, ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, and Paul George, Turner didn't really do anything of note until the 76ers got really bad, averaging 17.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 54 games in the 2013-2014 Tankapalooza before being traded to the Indiana Pacers midseason, when he promptly went back to doing nothing. He hasn't averaged more than 10.5 points per game since that season and his success in Boston, which he parlayed into a $70 million dollar albatross of a contract with the Blazers, seems to have come from the system he was playing in, more than his own, incredibly inconsistent talents.

5 Andrew Bogut

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On one hand, Andrew Bogut has amassed a handful of career honors, including All-NBA Third Team (2010), NBA blocks leader (2011), and NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2015), so his career certainly hasn't been devoid of success. However, his career hasn't come close to scratching the surface of what's expected of a first overall draft selection. Drafted 1st overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005, ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, Bogut looked to be next in a long line of dominant centers, having averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore at the University of Utah. He simply never reached that ceiling in the NBA. He averaged double-digit points in six different seasons in Milwaukee, but never more than 15.9, and his defense and rebounding were good, but rarely elite. The Bucks were never putrid under his leadership, but they never won anything, either. He simply didn't move the needle the way a 1st-overall pick should.

4 Tyreke Evans

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What happened to Tyreke Evans? He seemingly went from winning Rookie of the Year in 2010, albeit in the absence of an injured Blake Griffin, to being the fourth or fifth-best player on a generally bad New Orleans Pelicans team in no time at all. Drafted 4th overall by the Sacramento Kings, Evans had a rookie season for the ages in 2009-2010, averaging 20.1 points on 45.8% shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.5 steals in 37.2 minutes per game. He did all that as a rookie shooting guard in Sacramento, the place where basketball dreams die! Unfortunately, after that season, Evans gradually fell off. His averages in points, rebounds, and assists slid downhill and his already blase defense got worse. To be fair, he dealt with a magnitude of injuries in his career, but even in his best years, he was never able to recapture that rookie season magic.

3 Marvin Williams

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If you've never really heard of Marvin Williams, no one would fault you. At the moment, he's the starting power forward for the Charlotte Hornets, a serviceable rotation player, but nothing outstanding. However, his history as a draft bust is so painful that it led many Atlanta Hawks fans to believe that Chris Paul cursed the team for not choosing him instead. Drafted 2nd overall in 2005 by the Hawks, the same draft as Andrew Bogut, Williams was drafted more for his potential than his exploits in college, but even that potential couldn't live up to CP3's.

Williams showed promise as a rookie, averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, but he never really advanced past that. The most points her ever averaged was 14.8 in his third pro season, and he's never gotten past 6.3 rebounds per game. His scoring abilities and shot selection never improved, he remained woefully inept at rebounding, and he has no passing game to speak of. He's managed to remain employed by developing a reliable three point stroke and improving his defense, but he'll never get over the stigma of being selected above the Point God.

2 Derrick Williams

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When it comes to not living up to potential shown in college, the last two entries on this list are some of the worst offenders, not just in the league right now, but all time. First up is Derrick "D-Will" Williams. In his two years at the University of Arizona, he showed the potential to be a high scoring, uncannily accurate power forward, albeit one with rebounding and defense issues. Drafted 2nd overall in 2011 by the Minnesota Timberwolves, in the same draft as Tristan Thompson, Williams looked promising in his first two seasons, averaging 12 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, but like so many people on this list, that was the best he ever managed. After 2012-2013, he never averaged double digit points again and 5.5 ended up being the most he'd ever averaged in a season. His game just didn't work as well in the pros as it did in college. He's an inaccurate shooter, a bad defender, a nothing passer, and, as one of his ex-coaches once said, he couldn't out-rebound a Coke machine.

1 Michael Beasley

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Here we are, the worst of the worst, the most disappointing player in the league right now. Michael "B-Easy" Beasley wasn't just good in college, he was so good at Kansas State, where he averaged 26.2 points per game as a freshman. Leading up to the 2009 draft, there was a genuine debate over who should be taken 1st overall: him or Derrick Rose. Obviously, D-Rose got the call, but Beasley was supposed to have a brilliant career ahead of him. Drafted 2nd overall in 2008 by the Miami Heat, ahead of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and DeAndre Jordan, Beasley quickly emerged as a competent, occasionally deadly, volume scorer, but he brought along with him a complete and utter lack of defensive ability, inadequate rebounding for someone his size, and a subpar passing game. Also, a habit of getting in trouble with the league. The Heat traded him after his sophomore season and he bounced around the league for a while, eventually playing a season in China in 2015-2016. This season, he averaged 9.4 points for the Milwaukee Bucks, which is not what you'd expect from a 2nd overall pick in his late-20s.


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