Whenever there is a draft in any professional sports league, it could be argued that it is one of the most vital parts of building your franchise. And when it comes to the NBA, it is where many teams get their future stars. At least that is the hope when organizations enter the annual selection of amateur players.
When teams put together their draft boards, they unfortunately don’t have much to go off of. While players can be a dominant force in either the collegiate ranks or in international play, most of the talents they play against one have the opportunity to join the best basketball league in the world.
That’s why there has been many times where certain basketball players look so great, yet flounder once they make it under the bright lights of the NBA. Sure, it’s one thing to be great against low-level competition. However, once you face off against players who were all great at the college level at one point, it becomes a completely different game.
If you were to poll executives from different NBA franchises across the league, most of them would argue that the worst thing to set their team back is when they miss on their draft pick. Not only do they invest so much money and time into said players, but they also, more times than not, give them the keys to the team and make their game plan around the one that was selected.
There is no denying that, at some point in their respective histories, each franchise has made a draft blunder. We're going to stick with modern history here, sticking with post 1980, giving us 35 years to work with.
Check out the list that features the worst of the bunch for each team.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
31 Atlanta Hawks - Jon Koncak
The 1985 NBA draft is widely regarded as one of the best in league history. With the fifth pick of that draft, the Atlanta Hawks believe they got their center of the future in Jon Koncak.
Coming off the bench for most of his career, Koncak’s career is generally seen as an average – at best – backup center, where he averaged four points and five rebounds over his 11-year career. Imagine, he was chosen before greats like Karl Malone, Chris Mullin and Joe Dumars.
30 Boston Celtics - Eric Montross
The Boston Celtics took Eric Montross with the ninth overall pick back in 1994.
The high selection for Montross was warranted; while playing for North Carolina, the center captured the National Championship. On top of that, Montross was named as a two-time All American in his final two collegiate seasons.
At the start, it looked the Montross would live up to the hype. After all, he averaged double digit scoring numbers while making the All-NBA Second Team roster. However, after his rookie year, Montross was never able to replicate those statistics. In eight seasons, the center became a backup journeyman, averaging just five points and five rebounds while playing for the Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors.
29 Adam Morrison – Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats
During his three years in college playing for Gonzaga, Adam Morrison emerged as one of the best basketball players in the country. After impressing as a freshman and sophomore, the small forward came into his own as a junior, as he was an All American, won the Oscar Robertson Award and was the leading scorer in the nation.
Drafted third overall by Charlotte in 2006, Morrison struggled in his rookie season, which relegated him to the bench. After tearing his ACL the following preseason, Morrison missed his entire second year. He would be traded to the Lakers in the 2008-09 season.
28 Chicago Bulls - Eddy Curry
While technically Keith Lee, may have been the worst player the Bulls drafted in the first round, he never harmed the Bulls, as he was traded the same day, hence it wasn't a bad pick. In fact, the Bulls turned Lee for the rights for Charles Oakley, who was then traded three years later for Bill Cartwright.
Thus, the Bulls' worst selection is Eddy Curry, drafted fourth overall in 2001. The Bulls were trying to rebuild after losing all their 90s stars a couple of years earlier and expected Curry to be their star center. Curry would never be a star for Chicago and was eventually traded to the Knicks.
27 Cleveland Cavaliers - Anthony Bennett
Although the 2013 draft was widely regarded as having a weak crop of prospects, the intrigue that Anthony Bennett provided in college provided the Cavs with enough reason to take him first overall. Although he played in just one season with Nevada, Bennett was an explosive scorer and rebounder.
However, because he appeared to be too short to be an NBA power forward while not being athletic enough to guard small forwards, Bennett was immediately at a disadvantage. On top of that, his shot wasn’t as crisp as it was in college.
After playing one year with the Cavs, Bennett was shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves where his struggles continued. Now in his third year, Bennett is on his third team, as he now plays for his hometown Toronto Raptors, where he has been relegated to a limited bench role.
26 Dallas Mavericks - Randy White
With the Dallas Mavericks checking out the amateur ranks for a star, they didn’t have to look no further than the player dubbed “Mailman II,” Randy White, as they chose him eighth overall in 1989.
Playing at Louisiana Tech, White was compared to Karl Malone because they played the same position, went to the same school and, most importantly, produced at a very high level.
However, like many people both before and after him, White’s talents never translated to the NBA. In only five seasons with the Mavericks, White proved to be largely ineffective, as his 10 points per game average in 1992 was the best in his career. After 1994, White bolted for overseas play.
25 Denver Nuggets - Nikoloz Tskitishvili
With the intrigue of international prospects at an all-time high in the early-2000s, the Denver Nuggets took Nikoloz Tskitishvili with the fifth overall pick in 2002. Although he was generally viewed as a project, the Nuggets' brass found intrigue with his size and touch around the basket.
Like a multitude of foreigners, Tskitishvili was never able to live up to the hype as an overseas enigma.
In his first three seasons in the NBA, Tskitishvili started in just 16 games while averaging just 10 minutes per game. He would eventually play for the Warriors, Timberwolves, Suns, Trail Blazers and Knicks before giving up on his NBA dreams and returning to the international game. He was recently signed by the Clippers, only to be waived just a few weeks later.
24 Detroit Pistons - Darko Milicic
Many consider this the biggest draft blunder of all time. With a star studded group of prospects headlining the 2003 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons - who were emerging as one of the league’s best teams - had the chance to add to their already potent lineup with the second overall pick.
With Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade still on the board, it looked like the Pistons would become a powerhouse for the next decade. Instead of taking the sure-fire talent, the organization instead decided to select international sensation Darko Milicic.
Because of his unique combination of size and agility, it was believed the Milicic would fit in nicely with the veteran Pistons team. However, vastly limited playing time over three seasons ended his Pistons stint prematurely.
23 Golden State Warriors - Chris Washburn
Just like many other sports, it doesn’t really matter what goes on during your down time, as long as you can produce while you’re in uniform. That’s why the Golden State Warriors took Chris Washburn with the third pick in the 1986 draft.
Washburn’s time at NC State was mired in problems, as character concerns were brought into question. Unfortunately, the concerns that plagued Washburn in college continued as a professional.
In just two seasons with the Warriors and Atlanta Hawks, physical problems limited his playing time, while an addiction to cocaine led to a lifetime ban from the NBA in 1989.
22 Houston Rockets - Rodrick Rhodes
With the Houston Rockets looking for new blood at power forward, Rodrick Rhodes was a logical selection at 24th overall in 1997.
After being a vital part of Kentucky teams, head coach Rick Pitino’s decision to redshirt Rhodes during his senior season prompted the big man to jump to USC to finish his collegiate career. In his lone season with the Trojans, Rhodes was very impressive and was looked at as a future starter in the NBA.
After averaging six points in 58 games as a rookie with the Rockets, Rhodes never reached those numbers again.
21 Indiana Pacers - Jonathan Bender
Jonathan Bender lands the unfortunate spot for the Pacers because of the enormous expectations that came with him. The Pacers also gave up Antonio Davis to acquire the Raptors' fifth overall pick in 1999.
Injuries and inconsistency plagued Bender's career, as he played only 237 games and averaged 5.6 points. He retired at 25 years old due to chronic knee problems. To think, he was once compared to Kevin Garnett.
20 Los Angeles Clippers - Michael Olowakandi
During the late 1990s, the Clippers were a franchise that was lacking quality talent. When they received the number one overall pick in 1998, they knew they had to strike on someone great – so they went all in on Michael Olowokandi.
After living in various parts of the world, Olowokandi picked up the game of basketball at 18 due to his size. When he enrolled at the University of the Pacific, the center made an immediate impact. After leading the school to the NCAA Tournament in his junior season, Olowokandi averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks during his senior campaign.
However, once he suited up for the Clippers, Olowokandi never looked like the same player.
Although Olowokandi was close to average double doubles as his playing time increased, the large center was generally mired by injuries.
19 Los Angeles Lakers - Javaris Crittenton
This goes beyond basketball, as just about the worst possible scenario played out for the Lakers (and the NBA overall). Javaris Crittenton was chosen 19th overall by L.A. in 2007, but proved to be very ineffective for the Lakers, who shipped him to Memphis the following year. In 2011, Crittenton was charged with the murder of a 22-year-old mother of four. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with a weapon and aggravated assault with a firearm. He's currently serving a 23-year sentence.
18 Memphis Grizzlies - Hasheem Thabeet
Although the Memphis Grizzles already had a young Marc Gasol on their roster, the franchise decided to take center Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall selection in the 2009 draft.
While it wasn’t clear whether the team planned on playing Gasol and Thabeet together or not, the choosing of the center seemed very logical. While at Connecticut, Thabeet improved each year, with his junior season being his breakout campaign. Averaging a double double, Thabeet was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, co-Big East Player of the Year and second team All American. Unfortunately, Thabeet’s sheer size that helped him excel at UConn didn’t help him as much at the NBA level.
In five seasons, the center was never able to generate much success. While playing for the Grizzlies, Rockets and Thunder, Thabeet was relegated to the D-League.
17 Miami Heat - Michael Beasley
When Michael Beasley was chosen with the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, it looked like Dwyane Wade was getting a legitimate superstar as his running mate in Michael Beasley. After all, Beasley was one of the most dominant players in Kansas State history. Holding multiple school records, Beasley was a nightmare mismatch at both forward positions, while he became an All American, National Freshman of the Year, Big-12 Player of the Year and All Big-12, among other awards and honors.
While Beasley had a successful two years with the Heat, it was character concerns and a need for cap space that were the driving force behind a trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Although he continued to play well, his off-the-court issues continued to plague him. Beasley has since split time with underwhelming returns to the Heat and China.
16 Milwaukee Bucks - Glenn Robinson
If we're going post 1980, the expectations that came with Glenn Robinson as the no.1 overall pick in 1994, compared to what he produced, warrants him as the Bucks' worst pick of the era. Robinson wasn't a bad player and even averaged over 21 points a game in his rookie year. He never quite became the all-around force he was projected to be and didn't do anything to make the Bucks a contender.
A decent career, but not quite what was expected of Robinson coming out of Purdue.
15 Minnesota Timberwolves - Jonny Flynn
During the 2009 draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves went down an odd road and selected three point guards in the first round. While Ricky Rubio and Ty Lawson by-and-large lived up to the hype, Jonny Flynn did anything but.
However, when Flynn was running the show at Syracuse, he looked to be a future NBA star. In three years, the point guard became a second team All American, Big East Rookie of the Year and Big East tournament MVP.
Although his first year was generally regarded as a success as Flynn was named to the All-Rookie second team, he was never able to do any better for the rest of his career.
After splitting time between the NBA and D-League in his second season, injuries and ineffectiveness prompted the Timberwolves to trade Flynn to the Rockets. After underwhelming stints with the Rockets and Trail Blazers, Flynn played in both semi-pro leagues and overseas as well.
14 New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets - Dennis Hopson
When you’re a team that has multiple holes, selecting a quality athlete and someone with high upside is the best way to go in the draft. In the 1987 draft, the Nets did just that, as they took Dennis Hopson third overall.
Over his first two seasons with Ohio State, Hopson didn’t possess elite skills while usually coming off the bench. However, his junior season was his coming out party, as the shooting guard/small forward averaged 21 points per game while also excelling as a rebounder and passer as well. In his final season as a Buckeye, Hopson was Big Ten Player of the Year and second team All American.
Unfortunately, once Hopson made the jump to the NBA, he never was able to meet lofty expectations. Although he led the Nets in scoring in 1989 while also winning a championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1991, Hopson’s career only lasted just five seasons. Hopson eventually played overseas before venturing into coaching.
13 New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans - Cedric Simmons
Many questioned why the New Orleans Hornets selected power forward Cedric Simmons with the 15th overall pick in 2006, as he didn’t have much experience at the college level.
Playing in just two seasons with NC State, Simmons averaged 12 points, six rebounds and three blocks in his sophomore season.
After being taken by the Hornets, Simmons was traded twice in his first season – first to the Cavaliers and then to the Bulls. After being shipped to Sacramento the following season, Simmons became a commodity in the D-League, as he played for three different teams from 2008-2010.
12 New York Knicks - Frederic Weis
Yes, the New York Knicks have made many blunders in their draft selection history. However, none ended up as bad as the selection of Frederic Weis with the 15th overall pick in 1999.
The French center excelled during his time on the international scene, as he played in Spain and Greece. The Knicks drafted Weis, but he never appeared in an NBA game.
While that is bad in and of itself, that’s not why Weis is famous. As many may know by now, Weis was on the other end of the infamous Vince Carter dunk during the 2000 Summer Olympics.
11 Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle SuperSonics - Rich King
While he wasn’t necessarily a dominant force at the collegiate level with Nebraska, King was still selected with the 14th overall pick in the 1991 draft.
At over seven feet tall, King was seen as an intriguing prospect due to size alone. However, that size never translated in the NBA.
In just four seasons in the league, King played in 72 of a possible 328 games while – sadly – averaging less than two points per game.
King tried to continue his career in the NBA at two different times: once from 1995-1998 and again in 2003.
10 Orlando Magic - David Vaughn
Like many other big men on this list, David Vaughn is yet another NBA hopeful who wasn’t able to succeed at the professional ranks.
However, similar to the Cedric Simmons situation, Vaughn was never seen as a standout player while being a part of Memphis for four seasons. After his senior campaign, the Orlando Magic chose Vaughn with the 25th overall pick in 1995.
Playing for the Magic, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets, Vaughn played in just 118 games where he averaged three points and three rebounds.
After his time in the NBA, Vaughn went to Spain, Greece and Italy to continue his playing career.
9 Phoenix Suns - William Bedford
When William Bedford joined Memphis for his college career, he shined as a Tiger. In his senior season in 1986, Bedford was a third team All American while also being a part of first-team All Metro Conference team.
With the sixth pick in the 1986 draft, the Phoenix Suns took the center with hopes that his potential would be reached. Over six seasons, Bedford played for the Suns, Pistons and Spurs, where he averaged just four points and two rebounds.
Unfortunately, Bedford ran into many drug problems, which eventually derailed his star potential.
8 Philadelphia 76ers - Sharone Wright
Like some others on this list, Sharone Wright had some success as a rookie, averaging 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, but that's where he peaked for Philadelphia. Wright was then traded to Toronto midway through his second season. His defensive play was downright awful, and for the power forward out of Clemson, he wasn't able to recover the form.
The Sixers have to look back at their 1994 draft and wonder what they could have done differently with the sixth overall pick.
7 Portland Trail Blazers - Greg Oden
If the Portland Trail Blazers could go back to the 2007 NBA draft, they would definitely had selected a certain someone else at number one overall over Greg Oden.
However, at the time, Oden was poised to be the next great center in the NBA, as he dominated the college ranks at Ohio State. Oden was the driving force to leading Ohio State to the 2007 National Championship.
Once a part of the Trail Blazers, it was apparent early that Oden was going to struggle with knee issues. Before his rookie season even began, Oden received microfracture surgery on his knee, sidelining him for the whole 2007-08 season. Dealing with weight issues, Oden was largely ineffective, while he also lost almost three different seasons due to knee injuries.
Although Oden attempted comebacks, his knees never fully recovered. After stints with the Miami Heat, Oden is now playing in China.
6 Sacramento Kings - Pervis Ellison
In the 1989 draft, the Sacramento Kings made what looked like the best decision for the franchise as they took Pervis Ellison with their first overall selection.
While playing at Louisville, he was a four-year starter. He started his collegiate career with a bang, as he led the school to a National Championship while also being the country’s Most Outstanding Player as a freshman. He ended his career as an All American, Metro Conference co-Player of the Year and three-time All Metro.
Unfortunately, Ellison missed half of his rookie season, which saw him get traded to the Washington Bullets. Although he did win Most Improved Player in 1992, serious injuries kept him from becoming a top center.
Although he missed a multitude of games, Ellington’s career spanned from 1989-2000 with the Kings, Bullets, Celtics and Sonics.
5 San Antonio Spurs - Alfredick Hughes
During his time with Loyola University (Illinois), Alfredrick Hughes was one of the best scorers in the nation. In each of his four seasons, Hughes averaged 17, 26, 28 and 26 points per game, while become the school’s leading scorer. Hughes became a third-team All American and three-time Horizon League Player of the Year while also getting his number retired.
When the San Antonio Spurs took Hughes in 1985 with the 14th overall selection, they believed they were getting a high volume scorer. Unfortunately, Hughes lasted just one season before playing semi-pro and overseas basketball, while also playing professionally in Canada as well.
4 Toronto Raptors - Andrea Bargnani
Before the 2006 draft, the international intrigue continued, as Andrea Bargnani’s combination of size and shooting ability saw him atop many mock drafts.
During his time in Italy, Bargnani provided himself with a stellar European career that justified experts’ decisions to have him ranked as one of the top players in the 2006 draft. In four seasons, Bargnani won many prestigious awards including two-time Italian Cup Champion, Italian League Champion and Euroleague Rising Star, amongst others.
Because of his success, the Toronto Raptors selected him first overall.
After the organization limited his minutes early on, Bargnani began to adapt to the NBA game, as he was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie team. However, as the years went on, Bargnani proved to be nothing more than a glorified scorer.
At seven feet tall, his lack of rebound production was a cause for concern for the Raptors organization. After being traded to the New York Knicks, Bargnani was both oft injured, thus making him largely ineffective. The center currently plays for the Brooklyn Nets.
2 Utah Jazz - Jose Ortiz
After standing out in basketball leagues in his native Puerto Rico, Jose Ortiz looked to make the jump to the United States.
Joining Oregon State, Ortiz became one of the best big men in the nation, as he averaged 20 points and nine rebounds over his two seasons with the Beavers, while also being named as an All American and the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.
With the 15th pick in 1987, the Jazz selected Ortiz. However, after he was drafted, Ortiz was offered a contract to play in Spain, which he accepted. Ortiz eventually played with the Jazz between 1988-1990, to little success. In 64 career games, the power forward started 16 games while averaging just three points and one rebound.
After returning to Puerto Rico, Ortiz became one of the most popular and accomplished basketball players in the country.
1 Washington Wizards - Kwame Brown
With Michael Jordan working as the team president for the Washington Wizards, you would think he would have taken an accomplished player with the first overall pick. Instead, he took high school star center Kwame Brown – and he is regarded as arguably the biggest draft bust in NBA history.
After initially committing to Florida, Brown instead opted for the draft. However, after showing his immaturity and lack of growth, his four seasons with the Wizards were underwhelming. Brown’s highest scoring average for the team was 10 points per game.
Although he proved to be a vital part of a Los Angeles Lakers team during the playoffs, injuries kept him back from being a full-time starter. Once departed from California, Brown struggled to get consistent playing time.
From 2008-2013, Brown played for the Grizzlies, Pistons, Bobcats, Warriors and 76ers, where he rarely saw playing time.
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