There is a popular saying that some fans use whenever they feel like belittling a player that states, “the worst NBA player is still a better basketball player than 99% of the world.” It’s a simple reminder that nobody steps onto an NBA court unless they are able to spend years showcasing an uncommon level of talent against players that also meet that standard. Never forget that the players you see on your favorite team night in and night out represent the absolute greatest basketball players in the world today. Some could even make the claim to be the greatest pure athletes walking the Earth.
That being said, there are some NBA players that just flat out suck. As anyone who has ever worked with a completely under qualified employee - or perhaps been one themselves - knows, there are occasionally people who pass the rigorous screening process associated with finding gainful employment despite the fact that they have no business whatsoever actually being in the position. Or, if that is a bit too harsh of an assessment, consider that there are just some times when a job doesn’t work out, despite the fact that the person gave their best effort and was generally agreed to be capable.
Whatever the reason may be, in the NBA it leads to players that look like they are trespassing onto a professional court. Any NBA player can have a bad game and most great NBA players have quite a few bad games to their name by the time their hall of fame careers are done. Truly bad players, though, don’t have bad games; they have a career filled with such spectacular failures that you begin to wonder if somehow their presence isn’t part of an elaborate conspiracy by the NBA to make the real basketball players look even better by comparison.
15 Elliot Williams
Though not considered to be a sure thing, Elliot Williams’ time as a Duke Blue Devil was nonetheless impressive enough to convince the Trail Blazers to take him with the 22nd pick in the 2010 draft. Unfortunately for Portland, whatever brilliance Williams may have possessed apparently stayed to finish college as he was never able to acquire a season statline that featured anything more impressive than 6.0 PPG. He bounced around the league a bit after that to showcase his diminishing skills, before settling into his current role as a less than impressive member of the Greek basketball league.
14 Kyle Singler
If you were to draw a perfect caricature of what you expect a midwest basketball star to look like and then smudge the creation a bit by gently rubbing it with the edge of an eraser, you would end up with something that looks like Kyle Singler. While a player’s looks certainly shouldn’t be a commentary on their ability, in this case Singler’s “aw shucks” appearance actually compliment his limp and unimpressive play style rather well. Although Singler showed some initial promise in his first year as a Detroit Piston, he has spent the rest of his career in an incredible slump that in no way justifies his staggering early contract.
13 Kwame Brown
If you were to pick over the very best of Kwame Brown’s NBA career, you might actually be able to make a pretty decent top 10 plays highlight reel. However, while the former 1st overall pick has showcased individual moments that convey just why it is everyone thought he might be so special, his overall game wasn’t quite up to par. Even if Kwame hadn't entered the NBA on a massive wave of hype, his inability to consistently make an impact on any single facet of the game would have still singled him out as a disappointment. The fact that he did receive such hype just makes his surprisingly long career of underachievement that much more tragic.
12 John Lucas III
If you’re talking pure statistics or even judging a player based on their expectations, there are worse players than John Lucas III. However, there is just something sad about watching a point guard who seems utterly incapable of playing the point guard position, and that’s exactly what John Lucas III is. John Lucas III is the opposite of a five-tool player, as he seems utterly incapable of passing, shooting, creating plays or anything else that you might typically associate with a professional player in this position. Although I must say that it is impressive how he has used turned his dreadful play into a reason to tour the world as a Euroleague mainstay.
11 Steve Novak
Steve Novak seems like a nice, down-to-Earth kind of guy. Hell, he even looks like a nice, down-to-Earth guy who probably has trouble convincing people he is an NBA player as opposed to an accountant. Of course, it would probably be easier to convince people if he had managed to make a name for himself through his on-the-court play. Instead, Novak has spent his career as a middling utility man whose career highlight of leading the NBA in shooting percentage during the 2011-2012 season becomes much less impressive when coupled with his relatively short play time and meager 8 PPG average during this time.
10 Brian Scalabrine
Let’s be honest for a moment; it’s hard to not kind of like Brian Scalabrine. The man’s unusual skillset and simple style of play combined with his infectious personality once earned him the affections of the Chicago fanbase who went so far as to dub him the “White Mamba.” Brian was so likeable, in fact, that he was passed around between several perfectly good NBA teams over the course of his career, despite his inability to consistently make an impact in games beyond confusing the other team as to how this fan wandered on the court and why exactly security was not rushing in to haul him back to the drunk tank.
9 Royal Ivey
First off, how cool is the name Royal Ivey? It sounds like the name that either an eight-year-old would give to a fictional princess, or a 40-year-old adult film director would give to his starlett. Also, big props to Royal Ivey for using the 2011 lockout to acquire his degree for the University of Texas. With that, we end the compliment portion of this Royal Ivey discussion. Though this point guard wasn’t exactly on the top of any draft boards leading up to his 2004 2nd round selection, his versatile skill set still didn’t translate to the pros where he simply failed to put up meaningful numbers in any one area, much less across multiple skills.
8 Chuck Hayes
Chuck Hayes started his career as an undrafted D-leaguer with slightly above average rebounding skills. The Houston Rockets decided to give him a 10-day contract, and Hayes responded with a couple of fairly impressive outings that convinced the Rockets to bring him on full-time. This began a rather unfortunate career for Hayes who soon began the odd hobby of collecting a series of escalating on-court injuries. Honestly, though, Hayes wasn’t really all that impressive even before the injuries sapped away his skills. He does happen to be the proud owner of the worst individual free-throw shot in NBA history, which is something, I suppose.
7 Anthony Bennett
Despite how it may appear in the moment they are selected, life is pretty tough for a first overall pick. Oh sure there’s the money, fame and feeling of achieving your dreams, but there are also some rather unreasonable expectations that you must somehow meet. Even if these expectations weren’t so unreasonable, however, the play that Anthony Bennett showcased during his brief time as an NBA player wouldn’t have even been enough to justify his having a role in the NBA at all. Perhaps it was the shoulder surgery that Benett required after his lone season at UNLV that led to his drop in production, but at the end of the day, Bennett looked overwhelmed in the pros.
6 Greg Oden
Given how meaningful the term still is, it’s rare that even the most hyperbole heavy analysts label someone as a “Can’t Miss Prospect” unless that is what they truly are. Greg Oden appeared to have all of the qualities one looks for in a sure thing, but his time in the NBA was nothing short of a tragedy. Put aside the incredible string of injuries that put Oden on the shelf for most of his time in the NBA and put aside the rare games that Oden would have that made him look like he was back in college. Put all that aside, and you’ve got a player that just looked like he was lost in professional game gravitating more and more towards small ball.
5 Sun Yue
Sun Yue wasn’t exactly the highest touted international prospect in the history of the NBA, but he was the type of all-around athlete that looked like he may be able to overcome the cure of the international phenom through the force of his pure talent. Instead, the Los Angeles Lakers found that their second round pick was an injury-prone shooter that just couldn’t enforce his will enough to actually get to the basket. In just 10 games with the Lakers, Sun Yue averaged an astounding 0.6 PPG, 0.2 APG and 0.1 SPG. He wasn’t just bad in his limited time as an NBA player; he was essentially a non-existent factor.
4 Brian Cardinal
In 2011, the Wall Street Journal lovingly ran an article entitled “Wait, Brian Cardinal’s Still Playing?” It is the only appropriate reaction to learning that a man so exciting on the court that he earned the nickname “The Custodian” did, in fact, enjoy a 12-year NBA career. It’s difficult to say why exactly this mediocre, everyman forward was able to maintain gainful employment for so long, but perhaps it’s because his style of play was so generic that he was able to pass as someone else that these teams actually wanted. Though nobody has ever questioned the man’s heart, it’s about all that Brian brought to the court.
3 Mengke Bateer
The NBA once had a brief fascination with the idea of large Chinese players who could potentially come in and use their absurd athletic capabilities to shock the rest of the league. While this fascination did give us the great Yao Ming, it also led to Mengke Bateer joining the association. The Denver Nuggets didn’t really have anything to lose when they acquired this prospect from the Beijing Ducks in 2002, but they quickly learned he wasn’t worth even a low price as the big man could not stay out of foul trouble long enough to prove that he actually knew how to play the game. Remarkably, Bateer would still technically win a championship as a member of the Spurs.
2 Nikoloz Tskitshvili
For as long as they so happen to be around, there will always be teams that bite on that international athletic sensation that is destroying the global basketball league with his intimidating size and physical prowess. There are few players who fit that description better than Nikoloz Tskitshvili. After making a name for himself in the Italian basketball scene, Kikoloz found himself as the rather surprising fifth overall draft pick in the 2002 draft. The Toronto Raptors probably thought they were getting the next great big man, but what they got was a player that averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds a game over his disappointing career.
1 Javaris Crittenton
In the highly competitive world of awful NBA players, it can take quite a bit to stand out as one of the all-time worst. While bad play will get you in the conversation, often times it takes a special quality that separates you from the pack in order to really make a name for yourself. Javaris Crittenton may have entered that conversation with his meandering point guard abilities that in no way resembled the skills typically associated with a first round point guard, but he sealed his entry into the NBA hall of shame by once bringing guns into the locker room and getting sentenced to 23 years in prison over murder and drug charges.