The biggest drafts busts in NBA history are differed into two groups – the number one failures, like Kwame Brown, Michael Olowokandi and Greg Oden, who might be decent NBA players, but not remotely close to what was expected of them, or lower picks that quickly find themselves out of the NBA, like Adam Morrison, Chris Washburn and Rafael Araujo.
There are also those like Darko Milicic, who didn’t just have a disappointing career, but were taken just before other players that will all end up in the basketball hall-of-fame, making the choice of taking him even worse in hindsight.
15 – Fran Vasquez, Orlando Magic – 11th in 2005
The Spanish center might still find his way to the NBA, but he enraged many that after being a lottery pick by the Orlando Magic in 2005 preferred to stay in Europe and make more money playing for Girona and later Barcelona, where he was at until last summer, when he was traded to Malaga. The Magic still hold his draft rights, but their dream of putting him and Dwight Howard together in the same front court is gone, and so is that lottery pick. Danny Granger was taken six spots later, and David Lee, a big man the Magic were looking for, was the 30th pick.
14 – Rafael Araujo, Toronto Raptors – 8th in 2004
The Brazilian big man was a very surprising lottery pick in 2004, and ended up playing only three seasons in the NBA, with a total of 139 games behind him, averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson and Anderson Varejao were all available at that point.
13 – Bo Kimble, Los Angeles Clippers – 8th in 1990
Bo Kimble had a special NCAA tournament in 1990 with Loyola Marymount after the death of Hank Gathers, but that caused his draft stock to skyrocket well beyond where it should have been. The 1990 draft wasn’t especially strong, especially in the first round, but still, players like Toni Kukoc and Cedric Ceballos were picked in the second round, while Kimble himself lasted only three seasons in the league, averaging 5.5 points, playing a total of 100 games.
12 – Ed O’Bannon, New Jersey Nets – 9th in 1995
The man might eventually become significant for the changes he’s trying to push for in the college game, but his NBA career is forgettable at best. An NCAA champions and star with UCLA, O’Bannon lasted only two seasons in the NBA, averaging 5 points and playing a total of 128 games. The picks after him aren’t loaded with much better talent, but obviously, Kurt Thomas, Theo Ratliff and Michael Finley were much better choices.
11 – Danny Ferry, Los Angeles Clippers – 2nd in 1989
Pervis Ellison, the number one pick of that draft class, actually had a few good seasons before his injury. Danny Ferry? He did last 13 seasons in the NBA and even won a championship with the Spurs in 2003, but for the most part, was an insignificant bench player who actually preferred playing a year in Italy than play for the Clippers, returning only once traded to the Cavs, averaging 7 points per game throughout his career. Sean Elliot, Glen Rice, Mookie Blaylock, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp and Cliff Robinson came after Ferry.
10 – Robert Traylor, Milwaukee Bucks – 6th in 1998
The Dallas Mavericks were the team that made the pick, but Traylor was traded to Milwaukee for Pat Garrity and German prospect Dirk Nowitzki. Traylor suffered from injuries throughout his NBA career, playing in 438 games from 1998 to 2005, averaging 4.8 points per game. He died in 2011 after suffering a heart attack.
9 - Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Denver Nuggets – 5th in 2002
The Georgian center spent four seasons with four teams during his NBA career, finishing with averages of 2.9 points on 11 minutes a night before eventually finding his way out of the NBA, now playing his basketball in Lebanon. Nene came two picks after him, with Amare Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince and Carlos Boozer following later on.
8 – Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards – 1st in 2001
Brown might be a bonafide bust, but he’s still in the NBA, and probably isn’t as bad as some try to make him out to be. His per 36 minutes numbers are at 10.8 points and 9 rebounds, and there are worse players to have as a backup center. The problem was the players taken later, like Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Shane Battier, Zach Randolph, Gerlad Wallace, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas.
7 – Dennis Hopson, New Jersey Nets – 3rd in 1987
A big star for Ohio State during his Junior and Senior seasons, Hopson lasted only five seasons in the NBA. He did play a tiny part in the Chicago Bulls winning the NBA title in 1991 (averaging 4.3 points) but was out of the league by the end of the next season. Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, Mark Jackson, Reggie Lewis and others would have been much better choices.
6 – Darko Milicic, Detroit Pistons – 2nd in 2003
There have been higher draft picks than Darko Milicic with worst careers, but his fault was being picked ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He recently announced he’s putting an end to his NBA career, lasting 10 seasons, in which he has averaged 6 points and 4.2 rebounds and playing a total of 150 playoff minutes.
5 – Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats – 3rd in 2006
Somewhere it’s written that Adam Morrison is a two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he played a total of 13 minutes in those two postseasons combined. After a disappointing rookie season, Morrison missed the entire 2007-2008 campaign, and never recovered. He signed with the Blazers last year, only to be released just before the start of the season. Picks like Rudy Gay and Brandon Roy (although he has had his own misfortunes), not to mention Rajon Rondo way down the line, would have been much better choices.
4 – Chris Washburn, Golden State Warriors – 3rd in 1986
Washburn had some big moments in North Carolina State, but none of them translated once the center entered the NBA. He played only 72 games in two seasons, suffering from injuries and a cocaine addiction. He was banned from the NBA for life after failing three drug tests in three years. That draft wasn’t filled with stars, but almost any pick, like Chuck Person, Ron Harper and Dell Curry would have been a better choice than Washburn, not to mention Sabonis, Mark Price, Dennis Rodman and Jeff Hornacek a lot later.
3 – Michael Olowokandi, Los Angeles Clippers – 1st in 1998
A lot of people were surprised when Michael Olowokandi, coming out of Pacific, became the number one pick of the 1998 draft. He was healthy, yet disappointing, through the first four years in the NBA, before injuries started dragging him down. He eventually stayed in the league until 2007, playing for the Timberwolves and Celtics after the Clippers, retiring with averages of 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce were names that would have done much better for the franchise.
2 – Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies – 2nd in 2009
Everything about Thabeet, as he was coming out of UConn, was saying “long-term project, very low upside.” The Grizzlies still took the bait, and since then he has been moved around quite a lot and has played a lot of D-League basketball. The Thunder have given him a chance, with Thabeet playing 12 minutes a night last season, giving them 2.4 points and 3 rebounds per game, but it’s hard to think he’ll do much more than this. James Harden was the third pick in this draft, and so far, almost every pick seems to be a better choice, including Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan.
1 – Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers – 1st in 2007
Greg Oden is usually mentioned with three attached words – Bust, Old, Injured. Oden never played during his “real” rookie season, and even after posting 8.9 points and 7 rebounds per game, no one could shake the feeling the Blazers made a huge mistake. 21 Games into his second NBA season, Oden went down again, and hasn’t played an NBA game in over three years. Kevin Durant was the number two pick in that draft.