The youth movement in the NBA has given us quite a few new top stars in the recent years. We have witnessed the ascension of Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and John Wall among others, make the jump into Superstar territory. Other younger stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Damian Lillard are on the verge of taking over, showing just how great talent can be in each individual draft. The recent 2017 NBA Draft was regarded as one of the best in recent memory based off potential. Unfortunately, potential doesn’t always translate to success.
We'll take a look at some of the most extreme examples of top prospects over the past seven years to flop. These players completely fell apart before the teams that drafted or acquired them could find any success from their presences. Most of the players on the list have been forced to continue their careers in other leagues overseas. Others are still working towards an NBA return as they bounce around developmental leagues. A few have retired from the sport altogether. The top fifteen biggest NBA busts since 2010 will be examined as we take a look at what each man is doing today.
15 Jan Veselý - Fenerbahçe (EuroLeague)
Jan Veselý was selected sixth overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2011 NBA Draft. The talent of Veselý showed great potential in EuroLeague. Washington drafted Veselý hoping he would become the second Superstar to pair with John Wall as the two young talents to build around. One of two isn’t bad as Wall is still the face of the franchise today.
Veselý however saw his career go the opposite direction as an instant flop. Following three seasons in the NBA with an average 3.6 points per game, Veselý would not receive any more opportunities. Jan signed a contract with Turkish club Fenerbahçe in EuroLeague. The NBA bust is playing well against lesser talent in his current basketball home. There is an opt-out clause of his contract every season if an NBA team wants to sign him, but that seems highly unlikely.
14 Jeremy Lamb - Charlotte Hornets (NBA)
The story of Jeremy Lamb’s isn’t as depressing as others. Lamb is still in the NBA as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, but the reason for him being a disappointment makes him join this list. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets for a package centered on Lamb entering the league as a rookie. Houston selected him twelfth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft and had no hesitation making the deal.
Today, Harden is one of the top Superstars in the league and Lamb is an afterthought. Oklahoma City eventually gave him up on him allowing the Hornets to sign him. Lamb has yet to average more than 20 minutes per game in any seasons during his five years in the NBA. The current role of Lamb is a bench player for Charlotte, and he'll likely never be a major contributor to any NBA team.
13 Nolan Smith - Assistant Coach For Duke
Duke has given us some great college players that turned into huge NBA busts. The players benefit from a great system but struggle to adapt to the NBA where you have outplay the best in the world on your own. Nolan Smith showed this better than anyone in recent years. Following four great years at Duke, Smith was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland just wanted Smith to be a solid role player contributing to the team in minor ways. It only took two seasons to prove that Smith wasn’t good enough for the NBA. No team wanted to sign him after the Trail Blazers gave up on him. Smith tried playing overseas but realized his best career route was going back to Duke. The current position of Nolan has him working on the Duke basketball coaching staff as an assistant.
12 Kendall Marshall - Reno Bighorns (D-League)
The Phoenix Suns have been hit with a few disappointments in the NBA Draft in recent years. Kendall Marshall is one of the more noteworthy busts to be selected by the Suns. Marshall looked impressive during his two-year run in North Carolina before declaring for the Draft. Phoenix selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, and many pundits considered it a steal.
It ended up being a huge bust of a pick as Marshall flopped. The rookie season of Marshall would see him average just three points per game. Marshall would bounce around the league after one season on the Suns struggling to find a role. The most recent basketball home of Marshall was the Reno Bighorns in the D-League. Marshall wants to return to the NBA but it will be a tough task.
11 MarShon Brooks - Jiangsu Dragons (CBA)
The Brooklyn Nets are another team to get hit with bad luck in the NBA Draft. Aside from Brook Lopez, most of the Nets picks over the past decade have been busts. They decided to trade a bunch to the Boston Celtics and those ended up becoming high lottery picks. One of Brooklyn’s more noteworthy picks was MarShon Brooks in the 2011 NBA Draft.
A couple of experts stated Brooks had the scoring potential of Kobe Bryant. Brooks showed some glimpses of his talent in his rookie season averaging 12.6 points per game. The Nets ended up trading him to the Boston Celtics in the blockbuster deal for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Brooks did nothing of note in Boston and other franchises leading to his departure from the league. The current home of MarShon is China as a member of the Jiangsu Dragons in the CBA.
10 Derrick Williams - Free Agent
Derrick Williams is one of the most recent high draft picks to become a huge disaster. The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Williams second overall in the 2011 NBA Draft after Kyrie Irving. Williams had tremendous athleticism that made NBA teams believe he’d blossom into an All-Star forward. Instead, Williams had a mediocre first two seasons in Minnesota and only regressed from there.
Williams has bounced around the league since then. The most recent home for Williams was the Cleveland Cavaliers this past season as they made the NBA Finals. Williams barely received any playing time. The current free agent status of Williams is bad news for him as the season grows closer. Unless someone takes a flier on him or signs him to replace an injured player, Williams may have to find a new league.
9 Kevin Séraphin - FC Barcelona Lassa (Liga ACB)
Kevin Séraphin was one of the most talked about prospects in 2010 following a few years in France’s Cholet Basket league. The Washington Wizards acquired him after he was initially drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Washington felt Séraphin had all the tools to become their top big man. Séraphin struggled for all five of his seasons on the Wizards never averaging double digits in points per game.
The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers each offered opportunities to Séraphin following his poor run in Washington. It didn’t work and he found his way out of the NBA. He currently plays hoops for FC Barcelona Lassa of the Liga ACB. Much like others on this list, Séraphin still has a desire to return to the NBA and likely has no chance of making it happen.
8 Xavier Henry - Oklahoma City Blue (G-League)
Xavier Henry had one very impressive year in college with Kansas that swayed many NBA minds into believing he’d be a star. The talk around Henry saw him become a top name in the 2010 NBA Draft. Henry would get selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 12th overall pick. Unfortunately, the talent of Henry never materialized into becoming a successful NBA player.
Memphis gave up on him after just one season. Henry bounced around the NBA for a few more seasons failing to find a role that would be right for him. The current basketball home of Henry is the NBA’s G-League playing for the Oklahoma City Blue. Henry has a path to return to the NBA, but it remains a very difficult task.
7 Shabazz Napier - Portland Trail Blazers (NBA)
The Miami Heat selected Shabazz Napier very late in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Most players selected in such a spot would not have much hype or pressure entering the league. Napier however had a few things working against him. Following four successful years in college at UCONN, Napier was one of the most popular names in the draft class.
LeBron James even revealed Napier was his favorite player entering the league adding more pressure to him. Miami actually selected Napier in hopes of swaying LeBron into staying, but he chose to join the Cleveland Cavaliers. Napier struggled and has yet to find a successful role in the NBA. The Portland Trail Blazers currently employ Napier as a bench player. He only played nine minutes per game last season and that number is likely going down this year.
6 Terrence Jones - Qingdao DoubleStar (CBA)
Terrence Jones appeared to be a steal for the Houston Rockets when they selected him in the middle of the first round in the 2012 NBA Draft. The second season of Jones’ NBA career saw him average 12 points per game as a noteworthy factor on a talented Rockets team. Houston expected him to become the power forward of the future.
Jones’ play would decline dramatically due to injuries and other variables slow him down. Houston eventually gave up on him as they didn’t want to waste time with risky projects. Jones struggled even more after leaving the Rockets and is no longer in the NBA. The Chinese Basketball Association is the new home of Jones as he signed a contract with the Qingdao DoubleStar.
5 Dante Exum - Utah Jazz (NBA)
Dante Exum is one of the very few players on this list with a realistic chance of changing his fortunes. The Utah Jazz selected Exum with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Exum made his name in his home country of Australia before declaring for the Draft, and Utah absolutely loved his potential. The rookie season of Exum was lackluster. Things got worse when he missed his entire second season due to injury.
Exum returned last year but received little playing time since the Jazz was playing for a high playoff seed. Utah still has Exum on the roster and he may actually have a chance to play as the shooting guard alongside Ricky Rubio in a rotation that could benefit him. This may be the final chance for Exum to change his reputation as a huge bust.
4 Thomas Robinson - Free Agent
We probably shouldn’t be too surprised at Thomas Robinson flopping considering he was selected by the Sacramento Kings. There may be a jinx on the Kings these days. Everything the franchise does seems to turn into failure. Sacramento selected Robinson with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Robinson had a terrible rookie season getting traded away from Sacramento to the Houston Rockets. Both teams saw him average less than five points per game.
Robinson played for numerous other teams since then. Everyone wanted to try to get his talent out but he did poorly in each situation. Robinson is currently without a job in basketball but has recently tried out with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The best bet for Robinson would be getting a bench spot on an NBA team. Otherwise, he may need to move overseas to continue his career.
3 Ekpe Udoh - Utah Jazz (NBA)
The Golden State Warriors appear to do everything right these days. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were all steals of different degrees in their respective drafts. One high draft pick that didn’t work out for the Warriors was Ekpe Udoh. Golden State selected Udoh with the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. The hope was to build around Ekpe and Curry as the two Superstars of the future.
Curry showed his talent, but Udoh never got things going. Fans and pundits instantly viewed Udoh as a bust. The big man never averaged more than six points or five rebounds in any single season. No one wanted to take a chance on him after a few years of disaster. Udoh left the NBA for the EuroLeague in 2015. Following a successful run overseas, Udoh has now secured another opportunity in the NBA as the Utah Jazz signed him in the offseason. Can Udoh change his NBA legacy as an all-time bust? Time will tell.
2 Jimmer Fredette - Shanghai Sharks (CBA)
Jimmer Fredette excelled on the college level for the BYU Cougars. A shocking average of 28.9 points per game made him one of the hottest prospects entering the 2011 NBA Draft. The Sacramento Kings acquired Fredette when the Milwaukee Bucks selected him with the tenth overall pick. Fredette’s strength is as a shooter but he could never get it to a high level in the NBA.
The lack of scoring made Fredette pointless to any NBA team. An average of six points per game throughout his five NBA seasons proved Fredette just wasn’t good enough for the NBA. Some players peak in college and he was one of them. Fredette signed with the Shanghai Sharks in 2016 and is now a premiere player in the Chinese Basketball Association. An average of 37.6 points per game in his first CBA season shows he's better off anywhere but the NBA.
1 Anthony Bennett - Free Agent
The biggest bust in recent NBA history would have to be Anthony Bennett. An argument can be made that Bennett is the biggest bust of all time given he was selected first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a shocking pick as Bennett was forecasted to fall in the lower half of the top ten, but Cleveland believed in him.
Bennett had a horrible rookie season and the Cavaliers lucked out when LeBron James returned. This led to them dealing Bennett and Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Bennett once again flopped in Minnesota and a couple of other teams. It became obvious Bennett wasn’t good enough for the NBA. The next move for Bennett saw him join Fenerbahçe of the Turkish Basketball Super League. They released him in May of 2017. There’s no telling what’s next for Bennett as he is without a job in basketball.