We sure do love searching for either that next superstar or next NBA bust. At one time or another, every player on this list seemed destined to be one of the best players in the NBA. Each possessed skills that would garner them attention from the high school ranks up until the time they were drafted. To their respective franchises, these guys were supposed to be sure things. What they did was set the franchise that would draft them back for years. Some, it seems, have still been unable to recover.
So what makes a bust to us? We are going to go with a high draft position, top 10 at least. Also, it is best to focus on what kind of hype these players were entering the league with. Each player gave the league, fans, their front office, and teammates something to be excited about, only for all that to come crashing down with inconsistent and times selfish play. No matter what it was, it didn't work and the whole franchise was forced to reset and figure out what could be done next. And lastly, we will jump back in time on a few, but will stick around mostly modern day NBA Draft busts while we go through our list.
Once a basketball career is over, players try and need to find another life to adapt to. Let's try catching up with what these players did after their bust titles were associated with their name.
20 O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo is a player that was being mentioned by magazines and NBA gossip mills since early in his high school career. That is because Mayo averaged 23.1 points for his high school team while he was in 7th grade, and eventually led Huntington High School to three straight State Titles. The McDonald's All American MVP would enroll at USC for his one year in college. In college, Mayo didn't disappoint (aside from a NCAA rules violations that nullified all 21 wins Mayo was there for). He played well enough to earn All-Pac 1o honors and was eventually selected 3rd-overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He would be traded on draft night to the Grizzlies in exchange for Kevin Love.
His rookie season would prove to be his best. After averaging 18.5 ppg and looking to be on track to live up to the hype, Mayo averaged just 7.8 in 2015-16 and was banned from the league for drugs during that year. He is currently still serving that ban with a hope to be back in the league one day.
19 Darius Miles
Sure, those Clippers teams with Quentin Richardson, Corey Maggette, Lamar Odom, Eltron Brand and Darius Miles were fun to watch, but with the taking of Miles at 3rd-overall in 2000, the franchise probably hoped it would account to more wins than it did. In fact, Miles was traded after just two seasons with the Clippers. They would land Andre Miller, but Miles' bust title continued to become more apparent. He didn't better 10 ppg until the 5th year of his career. By that time, he was with the Portland Trail Blazers and had developed a reputation as distraction to the team.
During his career, Darius Miles never made the NBA playoffs, and by 2010 he was out of the NBA. Miles has made appearances as an actor following his career. He has appeared in The Perfect Score and National Lampoon's Van Wilder. Despite making $62 million during his NBA career, in 2016 Miles announced that he was broke.
18 Dennis Hopson
Dennis Hopson brought with him a Big Ten Player of the Year award. This would help him be picked 3rd-overall by the New Jersey Nets during the 1987 NBA Draft. Hopson was brought in to reinforce a backcourt that could help the Nets move up in the standings. In his third season, Hopson did put up 15.8 points per game, but it was for a 17-65 Nets team. The player and team would split ways that offseason and Hopson would play just two more years in the NBA before finishing and playing the majority of his career overseas. Maybe a case of a guy that just did not want the spotlight.
Hopson did manage to get a NBA Championship, albeit warming the bench with Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. After his playing career, Hopson was an assistant coach at Northwood University and more recently Bowling Green.
17 Kwame Brown
Regarded by many as possibly the biggest bust in NBA history, Kwame Brown was drafted straight out of high school to Michael Jordan's Washington Wizards. The two would join forces for the 2001-02 season, but nothing would come close to the expectations either that Wizards or Kwame Brown's career had. Brown would not average 10 ppg until Jordan had left. That would also be the only time in his career he reached that number. Low expectations for the 1st-overall pick. Brown's career would last 12 seasons across 7 teams. He would end his career with averages of 6.6 ppg and 5.5 rpg.
Kwame can be found player in Ice Cube's Big 3 League these days.
16 Jonny Flynn
Jonny Flynn isn't always mentioned in the all time NBA Draft bust conversation, but he sure does make a case for himself. A McDonalds All-American, Big East Rookie of the Year, and Big East Tournament MVP, Flynn would forego his final two years of eligibility at Syracuse to be drafted 6th-overall by the Timberwolves in 2009. Flynn actually got out of the gate with a NBA All-Rookie Second Team while averaging 13.5 points per game as a rookie. Unfortunately Flynn would only last two more seasons in the NBA and never better 5.3 ppg after that successful rookie campaign.
The kicker is Flynn was drafted before two time league MVP Stephen Curry, as well as NBA All-Stars DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, and Jeff Teague.
Flynn continues to pursuit a professional career but has been battling injuries. After the NBA, Flynn took his talents to the NBL, CBA, and most recently Italy.
15 Joe Alexander
Joe Alexander entered the 2008 NBA Draft with an All American pedigree and a label of the most athletic player in the entire draft with his showing at the combine and the ability to finish tough at the rim. The Milwaukee Bucks would select Alexander 8th-overall. There he saw time in 59 games and following a trade to Richard Jefferson the following offseason, it seemed Alexander would get a chance at more playing time. That would not be. Alexander played just 9 games in 2009-2010. That would turn out to be the last time Alexander played a NBA minute. The former West Virginia star would score a total of 282 points on 41 percent shooting.
Alexander continues his professional basketball career overseas. He helped his team to the 2017 Israeli Cup Win.
14 Chris Washburn
Some guys on our list just couldn't hack it in the NBA. Some just didn't have the motivation. For Chris Washburn, we really don't know what could have been. Washburn's career was summed up by failed drug tests. In fact his third failed testing came just three years after his drafting in 1986. The 1989 drug test would result in a ban from the NBA, and as quickly as it got started, the 3rd-overall pick's career was over. In all, Washburn's NBA career lasted just 72 games across two seasons.
Following his ban, Washburn still struggled with his demons. He had admitted to living in crack houses and dumpsters upon his time after basketball. Fortunately, Washburn has been in recovery and has become a spokesperson for those battling the same problems.
13 Thomas Robinson
A strong, tough, wide bodied rebounder out of Kansas, it seemed that at the very least Thomas Robinson would be a one-dimensional player. What he turned out to be is an inconsistent player without a way to score the basketball. He still shows the tenacity on the rebounding side of the ball, but has too many weaknesses to justify extended playing time. The Big 12 Player of the Year was drafted 5th-overall by the Sacramento Kings. An All-American that seemed could step right in and play, instead he would be traded 51 games into his career and again five months later. Robinson has just finished up his 5th season with his 6th different team. Most recently, he was a member of the Lakers and stated this offseason that he could be a top rebounder in the league given a chance. Well, time to show it when the time comes.
12 Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams gave basketball fans some fascinating moments during the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Accompanied with the will to win, Williams was also a Pac 10 Player of the Year and All-American as he declared eligible for the NBA Draft after his sophomore season at Arizona. The Timberwolves would use their 2nd-overall pick on Williams and there, he would appear in 66 games and averaged 8.8 ppg on his way to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He would up that average to 12 ppg in year two but by year 3, the Timberwolves were ready to move on from the former Wildcat. In all, Williams has been on 5 NBA teams in 6 years, still failing to start more than the 56 games he posted in his second year.
Williams served deep on the Cavaliers bench for the 2017 NBA Finals run.
11 Sam Bowie
For the avid and historically correct NBA fans, there is no bigger miss in the NBA Draft than the time when the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Well, maybe when the same franchise selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, but that will come up later.
Bowie did bring with him an All-American pedigree that consisted of controlling both sides of the floor. He was so good at Kentucky that his number 31 jersey was eventually retired. What was baffling was that Bowie showed sign of injury trouble early and even before his drafting by the Blazers. As we know, Michael Jordan went on to be the best basketball player of all time, and Sam Bowie appeared in just 139 games across 4 season for the Blazers.
These days Bowie is involved in Harness Racing. He owns and trains horses at The Red Mile in Lexington.
10 Shawn Bradley
7-foot-6. How can one Shawn Bradley bring consistent play to a franchise that is eager for a new franchise centerpiece? Just be tall and let the game come to you. Well, it didn't and even though his career did last 12 seasons, it only lasted in two in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the team that used the 2nd-overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft on the BYU product.
Bradley was supposed to bring an athletic game to his unforeseen frame. It was obvious that wasn't the case. Instead, Bradley consistently found himself on the downside of many posters throughout NBA history. Players loved getting him and get him they did. In all, this "generational player" averaged 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.
After his NBA career, Bradley has become involved with the West Ridge Academy which works with at risk youth. He also took a run at the Utah House of Representative in 2010. Bradley would lose that election
9 Adam Morrison
I guess there are a couple Michael Jordan mistakes involved in this whole list. Whether it was Sam Bowie being drafted before him or the mistakes that MJ made drafting during his time in the front office. Morrison did it all during his three years at Gonzaga. WCC Player of the Year, NABC Co-Player of the Year, D1 Scoring Leader, All-American, and the display of emotion when his Zags went down to UCLA in the Sweet 16 his junior season. Morrison would go on to be drafted 3rd-overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. There would be four players that would go on to be NBA All-Stars drafted after Morrison.
In his rookie season, Morrison averaged 11.8 points per contest. His next best season would be 4 points per game, and by 2010, Morrison was out of the NBA. It was not all bad though, Morrison did manage to grab two NBA Championships as a member of Kobe Bryant's Lakers.
Morrison went back and finished his degree in Sports Management and even worked for Gonzaga as a assistant video coordinator in 2014-15.
8 Rafael Araujo
The Toronto Raptors were on their way to moving on from Vince Carter. In 2003, they drafted new franchise centerpiece Chris Bosh, and in 2004 they used their 8th-overall pick to take Brazilian big man Rafael Araujo out of BYU.
Some of the players on our list showed a glimpse of hope in their first or first few years, but Araujo never seemed comfortable and was wildly open about his frustrations despite not proving a thing. After three seasons, 139 games, and career averages of 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.1 blocks per game, the 6-foot-11 Rafael Araujo was out of the NBA.
After the NBA, Araujo took his career overseas where he continued to play through 2014 at a lighter weight and as a more confident player.
7 Evan Turner
Evan Turner may go on to have a nice lengthy NBA career, but what for what the Philadelphia 76ers thought they were getting Turner ends up on our list. The Sixers were lucky to move up to the number 2 spot in the NBA Draft lottery, and there sat some top prospects. John Wall would go 1st-overall, but that still left the 76ers with the choice of Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, and Paul George. The 76ers went with the National College Player of the Year, Turner.
Turner would join a team that was a fringe or bottom seeded playoff team for many years. He could be the piece that took them to the next level. But he just wasn't. Turner started just 34 games his first two seasons and didn't best 9.4 points per game. In his third and fourth season Turner would start every game but the Sixers were in tank mode and ready to rebuild. He would move on to the Pacers, Boston, and now Portland as a role player
6 Danny Ferry
Danny Ferry sure did put together a huge college basketball resume during his time at Duke. He earned honors such as: two-time ACC Athlete of the Year, two-time ACC Player of the Year, All American and Naismith Player of the Year. It was enough to see him drafted 2nd-overall in the 1989 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. Ferry would first play in Italy. When he came back he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers via trade. The Cavs would sign him to a 10-year contract! Ferry went on to have a good lengthy NBA career, but nothing that was once predicted.
After his playing days, Ferry has appeared in the front office of the Spurs, Cavs and more recently the Atlanta Hawks. As the President of Basketball Operations with the Hawks, Ferry was involved in an odd 2014 situation with racist remarks about Luol Deng. It was proven Ferry was innocent of any wrongdoing, but the relationship between the Hawks and Ferry was over.
5 Greg Oden
Much like Chris Washburn, we never really got to see Greg Oden's NBA career develop. Unlike Chris Washburn, the reason for Greg Oden's let down was all health-related. Oden and Sam Bowie can surely be associated with each other forever. The Blazers used a very high overall pick on each player, and drafted after them would be Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant. Oden would see action in parts of just three seasons, including a hiatus from 2010 to 2013. An All-American and Defensive Player of the Year at Ohio State University, Oden just never had health on his side.
These days Oden is back at Ohio State as a Student Manager.
4 Anthony Bennett
When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, it seemed like the Cavaliers were constantly given the good fortune of winning the lottery and having their pick of the pool of incoming prospects. Problem was they didn't always get it right. None more blatant than Anthony Bennett. The 2013 NBA Draft was a weak one, with thus far just one NBA All Star selection in the entire draft. Bennett lasted just one year and 52 games in Cleveland. He would then move on to the Timberwolves, Raptors, and Nets, all for one season each.
Up until his release in May of 2017, Bennett had taken his career overseas to the Turkish League.
3 Michael Olowokandi
Sometimes teams seem to overthink themselves so much that a player that attended Pacific ends up being the coveted prize of a draft. That's what happened in 1998 when the Los Angeles Clippers selected Michael Olowokandi number 1 overall.
Also drafted in the 1998 NBA Draft? Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Rashard Lewis to name a few. All who had put together a much more decorated career than Olowokandi.
Olowokandi earned $36 million during his NBA career and still today has a net worth of $24 million. He has mostly stayed off the radar since his retirement in 2007, although his wife, Suzie Ketcham, is a regular on the tv show "Basketball Wives".
2 Hasheem Thabeet
Hasheem Thabeet was a 7 foot 3 rim protector coming out of the University of Connecticut. He was able to change the whole game with his presence down low. The Memphis Grizzlies decided to use their 2nd-overall pick on the two-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be a waste. The Grizzlies would move on from Thabeet during his second season. He would arrive in Houston where would appear in just 7 NBA games in two years. From there he added stops in Portland and OKC before leaving the NBA in 2014.
Thabeet was in the NBA D-League as recently as 2015 and was actually last seen being ejected from a summer league game.
1 Darko Milicic
As this article was being laid out, I did just see a special coming up on E:60 about Darko Milicic. Milicic was selected to Detroit Pistons who would go on to win the NBA Championship during his rookie season. Darko rarely got off the bench, but his addition was more a solidification that the team would remain in contention for years. That wasn't the case, but it was the case for the players selected after Milicic. LeBron James went first in 2003 NBA Draft. Following him were:
2. Darko Milicic
3. Carmelo Anthony
4. Chris Bosh
5. Dwyane Wade
There were five more future NBA All Stars drafted after the top 5 as well. Darko's career high in Detroit was 1.8 ppg and 1.3 rpg. He would go on to have better years in Orlando, Minnesota, and Memphis but nothing of what could or should have been.
Following his NBA career, Milicic pursued a professionally kickboxing career. Today he is living on a farm and living a secluded life that he often wished he had always lived during his down days in Detroit.
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