The draft is where almost all great NBA careers begin. Oftentimes, players selected in the top 10, or in the lottery if you're talking 1985 onwards, end up living up to their college billings and then some. For example, you've got Michael Jordan at #3 overall in 1984, Kevin Durant at #2 in 2007, and 1st-overall picks like Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, and LeBron James. I'm sure you can agree 2009's 7th-overall pick Stephen Curry has achieved more than anyone could have expected, and who was seriously projecting 2011's "Mr. Irrelevant," Isaiah Thomas, to become the NBA's King in the Fourth and a legitimate superstar who'd go on to average nearly 29 ppg in 2016-17?
Then you've got NBA's equivalents of Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Matt Bush, and Bryan Bullington — the draft busts. Who can forget high draft picks such as Michael Olowokandi, Jonathan Bender, and Ed O'Bannon, and their epic failures to make a name for themselves in the NBA? But we're talking about Y2K-era busts here, and all these men were selected in the 20th century, much to the chagrin of their home team's fans.
When talking about the worst NBA draft picks of the Y2K era, we're referring to players who were drafted no earlier than 2000, but no later than 2014; we want to give the flops of the 2015 and 2016 drafts a year or two to put up or shut up. We also want to eliminate disappointing players who nonetheless had decent careers arguably worthy of top 10 selections, so you won't be seeing Andrea Bargnani or Marvin Williams on here either. These players were disappointing in every possible way, with hardly any redeeming factors to speak of, so let's get to them and count 'em down — the top 20 biggest draft busts of the 21st century, the Y2K era, or whatever you want to call it.
21 Honorable Mentions: Yaroslav Korolev (#12, 2005), Dante Exum (#5, 2014), Julian Wright (#13, 2007)
As there were simply so many potential entries for this list, we'd like to highlight a few honorable mentions who barely missed making the top 20. Yaroslav Korolev was barely visible and visibly terrible in his two NBA seasons with the Clippers, and the fact that hardly anybody knew of him or expected him to be any good exempts him from the list. Dante Exum has been a Blunder from Down Under in two NBA seasons, but since he missed all of 2015-16 due to injury, he gets a pass. And while Julian Wright had no success as a three-four tweener in four NBA seasons, he was drafted a bit too low (while achieving a bit too much) to deserve a spot in the top 20.
With that said, let's move on to the actual top 20, which is actually a top 22, as — super-minor spoiler alert — we've got two ties somewhere in this list.
20 Kwame Brown (#1, 2001)
Now, many people wouldn't want anything better than to have this guy top their list of top NBA draft busts of the 21st century. But hear me out — Kwame Brown did have a 13-year NBA career, and while it wasn't a very good one, it was a long one, and a career that many of the other names on this list would kill for. Sure, he didn't become a phenomenal Kevin Garnett-like player like his high school career would have suggested, but many teams could have done worse than Kwame (career averages of 6.6 ppg and 5.5 rpg) as their backup center/power forward.
That said, much, much more was expected out of Brown after the Washington Wizards picked him 1st-overall in 2001, and that's the plain and simple reason why he is still a bust, regardless of his 13 years in the pros.
19 Robert Swift (#12, 2004)
Here's someone who could serve as a very good cautionary tale for anyone wanting to join the NBA right out of high school despite being far from ready, should they allow high school draftees again. The 12th pick in the 2004 draft, Swift was a scrawny, non-intimidating beanpole who barely played as a rookie. And while he did get some chances to play in the years that followed, he was injury-prone and extremely raw, and he concluded his NBA career in 2009 with averages of 4.3 points and 4.0 rebounds, looking like he'd just gotten out of a five-year heavy metal fantasy camp.
We joke about Swift's evolution from big, skinny kid with a deer-in-the-headlights look to long-haired, tattooed behemoth throughout the course of his short NBA career. But on a serious, and sad note, he battled drug and alcohol problems and homelessness after leaving the NBA, while also serving some prison time for drug-related issues. We hope he succeeds in turning his life around, as he appears to be trying to do these days.
18 DerMarr Johnson (#6, 2000), Shelden Williams (#5, 2006) (TIE)
Surprise, surprise — everyone talks about the NBA draft class of 2000 as being the worst since 1986, but it's only got one player in this list. While Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, and Marcus Fizer made a good case for inclusion in the top 20, they did have at least one season that wasn't too bad. DerMarr Johnson? Why, even when the Atlanta Hawks were starting him at small forward and shooting guard, he was subpar and inconsistent at best. So much for being a do-it-all 6'9" wingman with tons of upside. (Ah, upside. Curse you, whoever invented that word.)
Six years later, the Hawks whiffed again with power forward Shelden Williams, who, unlike Johnson, was seemingly as polished as you could get, a four-year player from a great college program (Duke). But instead of producing double-double averages as a pro, "The Landlord" often found himself "evicted," playing for seven teams in six NBA seasons. Sure, he did win NBA Rookie of the Month in April 2007, but who cares about late-season rookie stats if said rookie's team has no chance of making the playoffs?
17 Ekpe Udoh (#6, 2010)
When it comes to drafting centers, the Golden State Warriors can't win for losing. Had Wilt Chamberlain, whom the Warriors drafted and infamously traded years later, cursed them for moving from his hometown Philadelphia to the Bay Area in the mid-'60s? I mean, look at some of the big men they've drafted — Chris Washburn, Todd Fuller, Adonal Foyle, Patrick O'Bryant, and this next fellow on our list, Ekpe Udoh.
An undersized center at 6'10", Udoh was a defensive stud in college, but someone who had "project" written all over him as a pro. And even with his lack of height, there's no excuse if you're a center whose career rebounds per 36 minutes is only 6.8, and whose career field goal shooting is just 42.9 percent. Long story short — Udoh couldn't hold a regular starting job in four underwhelming NBA seasons, though it's not like the Warriors would have done much better had they gone with Cole Aldrich or Ed Davis instead.
16 Michael Sweetney (#9, 2003)
If you're 6'8" with shoes (i.e. NBA small forward height) or shorter and carrying 250 pounds or more (i.e. NBA power forward weight), you've probably got the best chances of not matching your college production in the pros. Despite averaging over 22 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Georgetown Hoyas, Michael Sweetney's super-tweener frame (6'8" and at least 260 pounds) was an automatic red flag, yet the New York Knicks still saw it fit to pick him 9th overall in the 2003 draft. Fellow power forwards David West, and even Nick Collison would have been better picks at that point.
What the Knicks got with Sweetney was an undersized four (in height) who was perpetually out of shape, and mediocre to terrible in just about every facet of the game except inside scoring and rebounding, which was expected of him anyway. And stop us if you've heard us (or someone else) make a similar remark before, but looking at him these days, he'd be a better fit for an NFL offensive line than an NBA frontcourt.
15 Darko Milicic (#2, 2003)
To Darko Milicic's credit, there were a few seasons when he was one of the NBA's better shot blockers, chipping in his share of points and rebounds in about 20 to 25 minutes a game. When Darko was freed from Detroit, he started coming into his own (a bit), and was pretty decent, all things considered. But we can't stress this enough — instead of drafting a Human Victory Cigar, the Pistons could have had Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade. Heck, they could have had anyone else (except Mike Sweetney) in the lottery, and would've still come away better.
Had Milicic been drafted by a team and a system that tends to be patient with rookies, things might have turned out differently. Instead, he ended up with notorious rookie-doubter Larry Brown as his head coach, and we'd say those years warming the bench in the Motor City stunted his growth as a player.
14 Jimmer Fredette (#10, 2011)
It was basketball's equivalent of Tim Tebow-mania. Yes indeed, there was a time when "Jimmer-mania" was a thing, and like Tebow, Jimmer Fredette won an award as the best college player in his sport. With averages of nearly 29 points per game, and an uncanny ability to drain long bombs (and I mean LONG bombs), BYU guard Fredette was thought by some to be the 2011 draft's answer to Stephen Curry.
Instead, he wasn't even the 2011 draft's answer to Steve Blake. Fans — and scouts — conveniently forgot that Fredette was a 6'2" shooting guard with no discernible point guard skills for the pros, and as we soon learned, he couldn't quite get his shot off in the NBA like he could in college. Worse, he was picked just one spot ahead of Klay Thompson, who certainly was not undersized at shooting guard.
13 Jan Vesely (#6, 2011)
Sixth-overall pick in the 2011 draft? $13.8 million over four years. Career averages of 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds? $9.7 million over the first three years of said contract. Photo of upside-laden rookie big man smooching with super-attractive girlfriend after getting selected? Priceless. Admit it, that's probably your favorite memory of Jan Vesely in the NBA. But that may also be because he quickly proved woefully incompetent as a Wizards lottery pick expected to be the next big thing out of Europe.
In three NBA seasons, the Czech big man was not able to see the court for more than 20 minutes per game, much less hold down a regular starting job. Last July, Vesely signed a new deal with Turkish club Fenerbahce, with opt-out clauses allowing him to return to America should an NBA team come calling, but we doubt they would, considering how unimpressive he was, especially on the offensive end.
12 Rafael Araujo (#8, 2004)
Insert Jimmy Hoffa disappearance joke here. This particular Hoffa — Rafael Araujo — didn't exactly disappear on the court. At 6'11" and close to 300 pounds, it was hard to miss him. But the ostensibly polished game he showed off while playing at BYU was missing in action from the very first minute he stepped on to an NBA court, as his dire lack of athleticism hampered him in a league where centers are, more so than ever before, expected to be more than just the biggest men on the floor.
Aside from being slow, barely able to get his feet off the floor (career 0.1 blocks per game), and inept on offense (an inexcusable career FG% of 41.5 percent), Araujo was also terribly foul-prone. Case in point — his fouls per game as a rookie (2.7) was barely lower than his scoring and rebounding averages! Araujo was gone from the NBA in three years, and if the Raptors really wanted a big man from Brazil in the 2004 draft, they would have done much, much better with 30th-overall pick Anderson Varejao.
11 Joe Alexander (#8, 2008)
A decent pro prospect who averaged 16.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for West Virginia, Joe Alexander really shot up the mock drafts after posting some unbelievable feats of athleticism at the 2008 NBA pre-draft combine. On went the rose-tinted glasses, as scouts began drooling over this seemingly much-better-than-average Joe, visions of highlight-reel dunks in their heads. But reality would rear its ugly head when Alexander suited up for Milwaukee as the 8th-overall pick in the 2008 draft.
While he did have some good games as a rookie, Alexander was more notorious for stringing together multiple DNP-CDs in a row for the Bucks. It took one season for the Bucks to give up on this now worse-than-average Joe, and a change of scenery with the Bulls only saw him perform much worse, ending his NBA career after two short seasons. The moral of the story? Don't let combine results deceive you.
10 Luke Jackson (#10, 2004)
Like the draft combine, college stats and accomplishments can be deceiving. That as much should be common knowledge to you, dear reader, but for the sake of this article, let's look at the case of Luke Jackson, a second-team AP All-American in 2003-04 who averaged 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists for the Oregon Ducks. He was a senior draftee, and as close as you can get to a sure thing in a draft littered with question marks from Europe and the U.S. high school ranks. Yes, he was a small forward, just like then-second-year stud LeBron James, but one who could theoretically switch to the two in the pros.
Alas, he was also too slow and unathletic for the NBA game, and ultimately injury-prone. VERY injury-prone. Jackson couldn't even log the equivalent of one NBA season across four — he ended his career with averages of 3.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 73 games.
9 Patrick O'Bryant (#9, 2006)
Remember what we told you about the Warriors and their notorious lack of success in drafting big men? Meet Exhibit B for this list, Patrick O'Bryant. Despite being too raw for the big leagues after two controversy-filled years at Bradley, Golden State was enamored by the 7-foot-tall, 250-pound athletic wonder, hoping he'd fill a perennial need in the middle. Instead, he made history by becoming the first-ever lottery pick to get demoted to the D-League. Even Adonal Foyle got more playing time than he did! Adonal Foyle, everyone!
After flaming out in the Bay Area, O'Bryant was then given chances at both Boston and Toronto, but playing time continued to be elusive for the Notorious (or is that Disastrous?) P.O.B. In all, he averaged just 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in four NBA seasons, and we can't blame you if you've forgotten all about him.
8 Mouhamed Sene (#10, 2006)
As bad as Patrick O'Bryant was, he was barely better than the guy picked right after him, 10th-overall pick Mouhamed Sene. And while we'd like to mention players whom the Seattle SuperSonics could have drafted instead of Sene, we've unfortunately got nothing. The 2006 draft was just a very poor one when it came to centers.
Like many foreign prospects who flooded the NBA draft pools of the previous decade, Sene wasn't even a starter. And he was, at the time he was picked, playing in the Belgian leagues, not in a European basketball hotspot like Spain or Germany! Tempted by his height, length, and upside, the Sonics gambled on Sene, and ended up with a guy who averaged 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds, while shooting just 42.7 percent in three NBA seasons. Hey, at least he still made the trip to Oklahoma City when the Sonics relocated and became the Thunder.
7 Nikoloz Tskitishvili (#5, 2002)
First of all, let's address the elephant in the room — spelling his surname is harder than advanced brain surgery, so let's just call him Skita, for the sake of brevity. A 7-foot-tall combo forward from Georgia (the former Russian state, not the Bulldogs), Skita had scouts drooling with thoughts of the next Dirk Nowitzki, and the continued ascendance of the Euro big man. Instead, they (and the Denver Nuggets in particular) got someone who was barely better than Paul Shirley, and not even half as entertaining as he was.
Read these career stats and weep for the Nuggets, who could have instead drafted some high school kid from Florida named Amar'e — 2.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 30.4 percent from the field, 23.5 percent from beyond the arc. Suffice to say, Skita's NBA career was shorter than his full name.
6 Royce White (#16, 2012)/Fab Melo (#22, 2012) (TIE)
Yes, we've got another tie, and it's between two non-lottery picks (the only non-lottery picks in this list) who combined to play less than 10 career NBA games. Let's start with Royce White, a burly (6'8"-270) point forward (13.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 5.0 apg for Iowa State) whose battles with anxiety disorder forced him to make his debut in March 2014, almost two years after he was drafted. In all, he logged 9 minutes in 3 games for the Sacramento Kings, with his only NBA stats being a missed field goal and 2 fouls.
While we don't like speaking ill of the dead, especially the recently-deceased such as Fab Melo, let's call a spade a spade — people expect MUCH more than 6 career NBA games from the 22nd overall pick in any given draft. A skillful defender for Syracuse, the 7-foot-tall Melo was way too raw for the pros, spending all but those 6 unproductive games in 2012-13 with Boston's D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. Sadly, Melo was only 26 when he died in February 2017 of a suspected heart attack.
5 Greg Oden (#1, 2007)
Inasmuch as I tried to omit busts who failed in the NBA through no fault of their own, you've got to pity the poor Trail Blazers, who had once again been cursed by drafting the wrong (big) guy ahead of the future superstar. First, it was LaRue Martin over Bob McAdoo in 1972. In 1984, it was Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. And in 2007, it was Greg Oden over Kevin Durant.
To be fair to Oden, he did show some very nice flashes of brilliance when he finally debuted in 2008-09. But foot injuries hampered his NBA game from day one, and he ended up playing 82 games in two seasons before sitting out from 2010 to 2013, his NBA career in limbo. He did try a comeback in 2013-14 with the Miami Heat, but by then, he was the epitome of damaged goods — again, not his fault he was such a wreck due to injuries, but think about it. Portland could have had KD trading buckets with Brandon Roy, at least until Roy's own injury woes drastically shortened his stellar NBA career.
4 Thomas Robinson (#5, 2012)
It appeared to be a smart selection — Thomas Robinson played three years at Kansas, averaged almost 18 points and 12 rebounds as a junior, had a seemingly polished low-post game, and seemed a lock to replace the mediocre Jason Thompson as the Sacramento Kings' starting power forward. Instead, the 5th pick in the 2012 draft has played for six teams in five years, and saw the least playing time of his underwhelming pro career in 2016-17 for the 26-56 Lakers.
Let's take a look at whom the Kings could have selected instead of T-Rob — Andre Drummond. Draymond Green. (Sacramento had even bigger problems at SF in 2012.) Heck, even Jared Sullinger or Khris Middleton. Instead, they got Robinson, who, based on his current career trajectory, may be headed to his seventh NBA team once 2017-18 rolls around.
3 Adam Morrison (#3, 2006)
Heck, the Charlotte Bobcats could have drafted WWE's John Morrison or long-deceased Doors frontman Jim Morrison and gotten a better return on their investment. But let's get serious here — so many basketball fans were on the Adam Morrison hype train after he averaged 28.1 points for Gonzaga and led the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA championship tournament. Next Larry Bird? Many were looking forward to it.
What the Bobcats got instead was a floppy-haired, mustache-wearing, one-dimensional gunner who often misfired. But 11.8 points on 37.6 percent field goal shooting as a rookie was as good as it got for Morrison, who never, and we repeat, NEVER shot better than 40 percent in three injury- and inconsistency-riddled pro seasons. If baseball has the Mendoza Line, how about calling 40 percent FG% the "Adam Morrison Line"?
Hey, at least he won a championship ring with the Lakers in 2010. He'll always have that as a consolation for an utterly disappointing pro career.
2 Hasheem Thabeet (#2, 2009)
Not a few people were left thinking "next Dikembe Mutombo" after Hasheem Thabeet declared for the 2009 NBA draft, following two years with the University of Connecticut Huskies. And even if the Memphis Grizzlies got a good rookie season from Marc Gasol at center, they were probably thinking they could move him to the four (and have the defensively-challenged Zach Randolph come off the bench) with Thabeet as their 2nd-overall pick. Boy, were they wrong.
Instead of setting rookie records for blocked shots, the 7'3" Thabeet set another record, which was eventually broken by the guy ahead of him on this list — highest-drafted rookie to be sent down to the D-League. And he just kept getting worse, eventually capping his four-year NBA career with averages of 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks. That's not even second-round value from a guy who was picked right behind Blake Griffin!
1 Anthony Bennett (#1, 2013)
When you're in your fourth NBA season after getting picked 1st-overall and still can't get quality minutes for the worst team in the NBA, you know you're not only a draft bust, but an EPIC draft bust. With the 2013 draft lacking a surefire 1st-overall pick or guaranteed superstar, the Cleveland Cavaliers went the safe route by selecting Anthony Bennett with said top pick. Instead, they got a three-four tweener who could never get his shot off against NBA defenses. And speaking of defense, he was awful at that too.
In four terrible NBA seasons with four teams, Bennett was given chance after chance after chance to succeed. But he's blown all of them (including his last stint with the Brooklyn Nets), and as of last update, he was cut by his Turkish League team...in favor of a former Hawks backup center, the undrafted Pero Antic. OUCH.