When players are drafted in today's NBA, there is an unfair amount of pressure for them to be successful right away or else they will receive a “bust” label. Guys that are sometimes teenage kids coming out of college are expected to light it up amongst the league’s best, but that is hardly ever the case in today’s game.
There are more busts at the top of the NBA draft than pretty much any other sport because the players they are drafting are so young and are expected to perform right away. In the NFL, scouts get at least three post-high school years to evaluate prospects entering the league, and in the MLB they have a large minor league system where it is normal for young draft picks to develop for years before they make it to the big stage.
This has arguably lead to a few of the NBA’s worst draft busts of all-time that have occurred during this decade, and some so bad they are already out of the league. For example, Anthony Bennett, the first overall pick from 2013, is still only 25 years old is out of the NBA, and that is proof of how fast things can collapse for a top draft pick.
The players that make this list are still in the league and are under 25 and are trying to shed that pesky bust label as well. Some of the players that make this list as a bust have been dumped by their respective teams and have already been replaced by another current member of that roster. Other guys that show up on the list are earlier in their careers and are still trying to prove their worth with the team that called their name on draft night. Those players' replacements are future projections that could happen through trades, free agency, or through next year’s draft. Take a look at 10 of the most recent NBA draft busts and the players who should have (or already have) replaced them.
20 Bust: Marquese Chriss
The former No. 8 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Marquese Chriss was originally drafted by the Sacramento Kings and traded to the Suns on draft night. The situation with Phoenix never panned out for him and his career with the Suns dried up quickly in the Arizona desert. Chriss had his moments posterizing opponents and flashing signs of brilliance at times, but could never be consistent enough to warrant a major role. Despite his lofty draft status, he never averaged more than 9.2 points per game in two seasons with the Suns. Now in year three of his career, he is only getting 5.9 minutes per game on a Rockets team that is struggling to reignite their hot streak from last season. Strangely enough, Chriss was not the worst bust from the Suns 2016 draft and another one his teammates made the list a little bit later. At only 21 years of age, Chriss still has plenty of time to get his career on the right track.
19 Replaced By: Enes Kanter
The rumors flying around the New York Knicks heading towards the trade deadline is that they are looking for a way to trace their starting center, Enes Kanter. He can still help a team but would be much more useful on a team that has playoff aspirations. Kanter's role has been diminished because the Knicks are focusing on the future by trying to develop their younger guys. With Clint Capela out with a right thumb injury for the next four to six weeks, they have got to be thinking about making a move to help out James Harden, who has continued to play at an MVP pace this season. With Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, and now Capela missing time with injuries, Kanter would be a solid veteran to bring in to replace the inexperience of Marquese Chriss. The Knicks also might be interested in taking a chance on a guy that was once a top ten pick and still has a ton athleticism and potential.
18 Bust: Jerome Robinson
It is barely a third through his rookie season, so it is too soon to be calling the Clippers Jerome Robinson a bust, but he has barely done much of anything as a lottery pick this season. The Clippers are one of the most surprising teams in the league and they have gotten some terrific play out of their other lottery selection, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Conversely, Robinson has been relatively nonexistent and he was taken ahead of more impactful players like Kevin Huerter and Landry Shamet. One big reason why he has not been that successful is that he has not gotten the playing time to actually show what he can do. He has only played in 8 games this season, mainly due to being inactive or DNP-CDs. However, in the games he has played he has not been very impressive either, only averaging 2.9 points per game.
17 Replaced By: Kawhi Leonard
The most notable free agent available next season aside from Kevin Durant is, for sure, Kawhi Leonard. Every team will be doing whatever it takes to lure the former finals MVP to their team this offseason, but he has reportedly already narrowed down his options to three destinations: the Toronto Raptors, the Los Angeles Lakers, and yes, the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are not known as a free agent destination by any means, yet rumors have suggested that Kawhi would not want to play in LeBron's shadow if he did come to play in his hometown of Los Angeles. Furthermore, the Clippers are trending upwards. This is pretty much a dream scenario for the Clippers, and he would likely only agree to come and play for them if they were able to land another star to go with him or trade some of their younger players for another proven All-Star, and that would likely send Robinson packing.
16 Bust: Luke Kennard
The biggest draft mistake of all-time for the Detroit Pistons has to be them taking Darko Milicic a spot ahead of Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Yet they could have made an even bigger mistake by taking Kennard one spot ahead of Donovan Mitchell in last year’s draft. Mitchell went on to set the league on fire and averaged more than 20 points per game, Kennard, on the other hand, has struggled to find his role in Detroit. He was injured to start this season and since he has come back, he has shot below 20 percent from three. It may be too soon to give up on Kennard because he had a career night this week against the 76ers by putting up 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists, but other than that performance, his career has been underwhelming to this point.
15 Replaced By: Kemba Walke
It is still early, but the Detroit Pistons are currently sitting in sixth place in the playoff standings in the Eastern Conference. It is clear that they will be in the playoff picture throughout the course of the season, but they are still not one of the top teams expecting to compete for a title. The main thing they lack on their roster is a star perimeter scorer to go along with their impressive frontcourt of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. One of the biggest names that have been reportedly on the trade market for the past two seasons has been Kemba Walker, who has been one of the best scoring point guards in the league. The Pistons have the young assets like Kennard, Stanley Johnson, and Ish Smith to make this deal feasible and big three of Walker, Griffin, and Drummond would catapult them into the Eastern Conference title conversation.
14 Bust: Kris Dunn
Coming out of Providence as a junior in 2016, it was thought that Kris Dunn was one of the safer picks in his class because of his multiple years of experience and his vision as a creator on the offensive end. However, since he has been in the NBA, he has failed to produce close to the same rate that he did in college. In his rookie season with the Timberwolves, he was the definition of a bust with a 3.8 point and a 2.4 assist average. That caused the Wolves to go in another direction and include him in the trade for Jimmy Butler. He somewhat turned it around in year two, but injuries have continued to be an ongoing issue with him and he has only played in one game for Chicago this season.
13 Replaced By: R.J. Barrett
The way this season has been going for the Bulls, it is looking like they are going to end up with one of the top selections in the NBA draft next season. That makes them a likely candidate to draft one of the three Duke players that are expected to dominate the first few selections. Barrett is arguably the best of the three Blue Devil stars and he has already shown that he is not afraid to be the one to step up and make the big shot when necessary. Barrett has flat-out star potential in the NBA and would be the best prospect Chicago has seen since they drafted a young superstar out of Memphis named Derrick Rose. Barrett would come in and instantly become the Bulls' primary ball handler and perimeter playmaker and that would replace the need to have Kris Dunn be in the lineup.
12 Bust: Jabari Parker
Jabari Parker is only 23-years-old and he has already been slapped with the bust label by two franchises. He was supposed to come in and be the hometown savior for his beloved Chicago Bulls, but his name has already been on the trading block one season into his career in the Windy City. The former number two overall pick showed flashes of being able to light it up for Bucks in spurts, but never developed into the second star they wanted alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. Now it looks like he is being shopped by the Bulls after less than 30 games in a Bulls' uniform. It has gotten so bad that he has even fallen out of the rotation on a team that has only won ten games all year. Two torn ACL's derailed a promising start to his career, and ever since then, it has been a bumpy road for Parker.
11 Replaced By: Allen Crabbe
One interesting deal that has been floated around by Bleacher Report was that the Nets would send Allen Crabbe, a first-round pick in 2019, and a second-round pick in 2020 to the Bulls in exchange for Parker. Brooklyn is a team on the rise and it could be looking to take a chance on pairing Parker with another former number two overall, pick D'Angelo Russell. Brooklyn's main incentive to make this deal would actually be them getting rid of Allen Crabbe's contract, which is worth $18.5 million next season. They could get Parker's expiring deal and have more money to re-sign their younger players who will be looking for new deals in the offseason.
10 Bust: Malik Monk
One of the best perimeter scorers in college basketball two seasons ago was Malik Monk, and that led the Charlotte Hornets to make him the 11th overall pick in 2017. The standout freshman duo of Monk and De'Aaron Fox formed a combination at Kentucky that made them look like two of the best players in the country and lead them to the Elite Eight that season. However, Fox’s skill set has translated quicker into the NBA than Monk’s, and he has been almost forgotten playing in Charlotte alongside Kemba Walker. Monk’s number one attribute was expected to be his three-point shot, yet he has barely been able to shoot better than 30% from beyond the arc in his two seasons as a Hornet. He has been trending in the right direction this season, so he mainly makes the list because of his abysmal rookie year.
9 Replaced By: Kevin Porter Jr.
One of the more intriguing shooting guard prospects likely to enter the upcoming draft as a one-and-done is Kevin Porter Jr. out of the University of Southern California. He has a wiry build similar to Monk, but at 6'6" he has three inches over him that would make it easier for him to get his shot off at the NBA level. Porter Jr. has also already shown more athleticism and the ability to finish above the rim that Monk desperately lacks. The Hornets are currently the seventh seed in the East right now, so they might not have a pick high enough in the draft to go after Porter Jr. However, if they become sellers at the trade deadline, it would not be surprising to see them end up in the lottery at the end of the season. Michael Jordan has had his fair share of busts when drafting players over the years and he could change that by taking Porter Jr.
8 Bust: Jahlil Okafor
One of the casualties of the NBA being a faster-paced, three-point driven league has been Jahlil Okafor, who came into the league as an old-school back to the basket center. It also has not helped that he has been a liability on the defensive side of the ball and has not translated into the rim protector that he was in college. Injuries were also a problem, but even if he had stayed healthy, it's doubtful he would have sustained his rookie success.
Okafor was originally drafted as a part of the "process" by the Philadelphia 76ers and he has already been on two other teams since then. It is surprising to see a guy that was supposed to be a star in the league and was a champion in college barely be able to find a team that wants him in the pros. In a different era, Okafor might have been suited to become a quality player with his scoring ability on the low block, but with that skill being less desired in today's game, he has become an afterthought.
7 Replaced By: Bol Bol
One of the most intriguing prospects entering the 2019 draft is former legendary Bullets center Manute Bol's son, Bol Bol, from the University of Oregon. Not only is Bol incredibly tall long like his father was and made him an icon, but he can also hit the deep three-pointer, which makes him much better suited to have success in today's NBA compared to Okafor. The Pelicans might even make a blockbuster trade and send Anthony Davis to Los Angeles to play with LeBron James, and while Bol Bol is no Davis, he would be an exciting young player capable of generating a substantial amount of buzz. Recently, he sustained an injury that is going to keep him out for the rest of the college basketball season, and that could cause his stock to drop and that could help the Pelicans have a better shot at drafting him because right now they are a borderline lottery team.
6 Bust: Frank Ntilikina
Frank Ntilikina was drafted by the Knicks to be their point guard for the next ten years, but it does not even look like he will make it past year two in a Knick uniform. He has not been able to show any ability to be the floor general they need on offense and has developed more into a primary wing defender. When the Knicks drafted him No. 8 overall in 2017 they had to expect they were going to get more than a 5.9 scoring average from him in this first couple of seasons. They took a risk by taking Ntilikina because he was playing in France and not college basketball before he entered the league, so there was much less tape on him going into the draft.
They chose to go with his upside instead of better options like Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell. There are rumors that there are teams interested in trading for Ntilikina, so it would not be that big of a surprise to see him moved before the trade deadline this year.
5 Replaced By: Cam Reddish
Reddish is the second Duke player to appear on this list and it is a fitting place for him because he is probably the least talked about one of the big three, comparable to a middle child. However, that does not mean Reddish lacks skill by any means because if he were on any other team in America, he would be the number one option by a mile. He is a 6'7" wing with a 7'1" wingspan and that is the ideal size for most two-way superstars in the NBA, something Reddish has the potential to become. Reddish is an ultra explosive athlete, but he would have to become a more consistent jump shooter if he wants to become a star at the next level. Another knock on him is that he can tend to disappear in games, unlike Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, who seem to bring their competitive fire 100 percent no matter what moment.
4 Bust: Dragan Bender
Dragan Bender is the second member of the 2016 Phoenix Sun draft class that makes the list and he might be the worst selection in the history of the franchise. The selection of Bender combined with trading for Marquese Chriss is a big reason why the Suns are currently the worst team in the league. Bender was taken ahead of guys like Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, Caris LeVert, and Pascal Siakam and the Suns would love to have any of those guys over him at this point. Bender is like the Andrea Bargnani of his era because he enticed NBA scouts as a foreign big man with a fluid jump shot and a ton of potential, but he has yet to realize much of it in the NBA. As the number four overall pick, he should easily be a starter three years into his career, but he has only made 37 starts in three seasons and zero this season.
3 Replaced By: Zion Williamson
Last season the draft lottery gods finally shone down on the Phoenix Suns and gave them the number one pick for the first time in their history. Since they will likely have the worst record again this season, they will have a good chance to get it again this season. The most exciting and coveted prospect heading into this year's draft is perhaps Duke's power forward Zion Williamson and they should run to the podium to draft him if they get the chance.
The combination of Williamson and Ayton in the frontcourt to go along with Devin Booker's outside scoring would be enough to turn their franchise around and give them a ton of hope for the future. The Suns have had as many misses as any team in the lottery over the years, but there is little chance they would repeat that mistake if they take a can't-miss prospect like Zion.
2 Bust: Markelle Fultz
The Markelle Fultz saga has developed into one of the strangest bust stories in sports since he was drafted last season. He looked like an absolute monster in his one season in college, showing the ability to do everything on the court for Washington. However, when he got to the NBA, he looked like a completely different player. He didn’t have the confidence that made him special and his shot looked like it had changed in the worst possible way. His biggest problem has been dealing with a major shoulder injury; that is the main cause for his shooting yips.
He peculiarly asked for a trade at the beginning of this season and he might find himself in a new place sooner than any of us could have fathomed when he was taken number one in 2017. To make this pick worse, they traded another first round pick to the Celtics to move up and get Fultz, and Boston moved back and drafted the better player by selecting Jayson Tatum two picks later.
1 Replaced by Kris Wilkes
When Fultz was reportedly on the trading block early in the season, the Sixers were seeking a first-round pick in return for him. It is highly unlikely they could get that in return for him at this point, but if they did it would likely be at the end of the first round and nowhere near the top spot where Fultz was drafted. If they were lucky enough to get a team to take a chance on Fultz, they would likely look for a guard that could score and shoot from deep with that pick. Even if they are not able to trade Fultz they could still likely be in a position to draft a solid player like UCLA sophomore Kris Wilkes, whom CBS projected the 76ers taking in their most recent mock draft. Wilkes is not the greatest shooter in the world, but he has a confident stroke from outside and he has the elite athleticism that would be great running the floor alongside Ben Simmons.