The hardest part about building a formidable team is also the most important part: drafting. So with the draft just around the corner, let’s remember each team’s biggest draft bust of all time.
Atlanta: Marvin Williams
Williams was more hype than skill coming out of Tar Heel nation. At 6’9, he was the second overall pick in 2005 after averaging 11.3 PPG at North Carolina as a freshman. The fatal error was thinking he was a better selection than Deron Williams or Chris Paul, who went immediately after him.
Boston: Fab Melo
With a name like Melo, and coming out of Syracuse, what could go wrong? Well, for a guy who couldn’t put the ball in the basket, Boston’s wishful thinking that they could turn him into a scorer was comedic. Considering that they selected Jared Sullinger one selection before makes this pick even more baffling. Instead, they should have gone after Draymond Green with the 22nd pick in 2012, especially considering that the team supposedly had Green ranked third overall on their draft board. If you’re waiting for Melo to turn it around and vindicate his draft slot, you can stop. He was out of the league within a year and is now dead. Yes, dead.
Brooklyn (New Jersey) Nets: Dennis Hopson
In 1987 the Nets needed to rebuild, so they prayed their third pick would bring them luck. They decided to take a blossoming shooting guard from The Ohio State University, who averaged 20.9 PPG his junior year, hoping he would stabilize a decaying backcourt. Hopson only amounted to a journeyman, and the Nets missed out on the likes of Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Mark Jackson, and Muggsy Bogues.
Charlotte Hornets: Kobe Bryant
Relax, people, we’re not saying taking Kobe Bean Bryant with the 13th pick in 1996 was wrong, only what the Hornets did with it (trading him to the Lakers on draft day). Charlotte must have been catatonic when they realized that Lakers general manager Jerry West had swindled them. Watching that cocky 18-year-old kid from Lower Marion win five titles and turn into one of the greatest players of all time must have stung, knowing all they got for him was Vlade Divac.
Chicago: LaMarcus Aldridge
Chicago did the same thing here as Charlotte did with Kobe. They drafted Aldridge second overall and then traded him to Portland for Tyrus Thomas, the fourth pick in ’06. Thomas went on to be a role player as Aldridge became an All-Star.
Cleveland: Anthony Bennett
After The King took his talents to South Beach, Cleveland tanked. In 2013, the Cavs squandered the No. 1 pick on Anthony Bennett, a center trapped in a small forward’s body. Apparently scoring 16.1 PPG in a weak college conference as a freshman doesn’t mean shit. 2013 wasn’t a great draft year overall, but Bennett is literally out of the league now and they could have had Victor Oladipo (second), Otto Porter (third), Nerlens Noel (sixth), or CJ McCollum (tenth). The Greek Freak went 15th, but he wasn’t really on anyone’s radar for the first overall pick, so it’s a little unfair to knock them for missing on him.
Dallas: Samaki Walker
Although Walker was a very suitable role/bench player, he was by no means worth the ninth pick in the completely loaded 1996 draft. In his ten-year career, Walker averaged 5.3 PPG and 4.7 RPG. Although the Mavs eventually got Steve Nash, they could have drafted him, Jermaine O’Neal, Peja Stojakovic, or a decent little player named Kobe Bryant.
Denver: Nikoloz Tskitishvili
You would be justified in saying, “Who?” The Nuggets decided to take a chance on the seven-foot center from Georgia (the country, not the state) with the fifth overall pick in 2002, learning quickly that he was not who they thought he was. This Euro never averaged more than 4 PPG and couldn’t stay on the floor. By selecting Tskitishvili, the Nuggets passed on Caron Butler and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Detroit: Darko Milicic
There isn’t much to say about this dude. In 2003, the Pistons butchered their opportunity to take Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh with the second pick. Instead, they chose Milicic, who did nothing. He never even averaged double-digits points for a season. Just imagine how good Detroit could have been had they gotten this draft right…
Golden State: Ekpe Udoh
Udoh definitely had the hype coming out of Baylor in 2010, but the super springy/athletic power forward never developed an outside shot or a solid post game. He played more like a second round pick than sixth overall. Yet the Warriors rolled the dice and lost because they needed a big man. Paul George went four picks later.
Houston: Rodney McCray
In 1983, the Rockets had the draft’s first and third pick. After drafting Ralph Sampson first overall, they decided to go with Rodney McCray next. McCray had four solid years with Houston, averaging 10.8 PPG and earning NBA All-Defensive Team in ’87, but when you realize the Rockets could have had Byron Scott or Clyde Drexler, who went fourth and 14th respectively, you can understand why this pick makes the list.
Indiana: Rick Robey
This is by far one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history. In 1978, the Pacers had the balls to pass up on the “Hick from French Lick” Larry Bird, to take Robey. Although Bird returned to college to finish his final year, the Pacers could have had one of the greatest players ever to rock their uniform. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
Clippers: Michael Olowokandi
The Clippers had a team full of talented, athletic draft picks: Quentin Richardson, Darius Miles, Lamar Odom, and Corey Maggette. So in 1998, they thought Olowokandi was a legit No. 1 overall pick to be that force down low. Sadly the dude amounted to less than nothing. To make matters worse, the Clippers could have had Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, or even Dirk Nowitzki.
Lakers: Kenny Carr
The Lakeshow hasn’t had a lot of top picks, but they typically make it count when they do. Except for this one. In ’77, the purple and gold shat the bed by selecting Carr sixth instead of Bernard King, who went next. King went on to be one of the most explosive scorers of his era, racking up four All-Star selections, Rookie of the Year, and Comeback Player of the Year, and Carr played ten forgetful seasons, bouncing around as a solid bench player.
Memphis: Hasheem Thabeet
The only good part about this pick is that his last name is fun to say. Thabeet, a 7’3 center from UConn, was really just all height. Seriously, the dude had no skills, was a twig, and only scored in college because he was tall. His stint in the pros was embarrassing; 3.1 PPG was his highest mark (during his rookie year). If only Memphis had taken the “height” blinders off, they would have taken Steph Curry (seventh), James Harden (third), or DeMar DeRozan (tenth).
Miami: Michael Beasley
It’s sad that this pick didn’t work out, because Beasley was a beast in college, leading K-State to the NCAA Tourney. However, he proved to the league that he was only here for the money (and the weed…lots and lots of weed) and made Miami waste their second overall pick in 2008. It’s a given that if Miami could go back, they would have chosen Russell Westbrook, who went two picks later.
Milwaukee: Dirk Nowitzki
This again falls into the Kobe category, as the Bucks drafted “The Big German” ninth in ’98 but traded him to the Mavericks on draft day for Robert “Tractor” Traylor. Had this trade not happened, this might have been the Mavs’ worst pick ever, since they used their sixth pick to draft Traylor. It all depends on whether they actually liked him or were just taking him for Milwaukee. Either way, it turned out to be terrible for the Bucks.
Minnesota: Jonny Flynn
The Timberwolves were rebuilding in 2009. They ended up having the fifth and sixth pick that year, selecting Ricky Rubio fifth and Jonny Flynn immediately after. That they were both point guards was shocking enough, but with Steph Curry still on the board, you have to wonder why in the world David Kahn wanted Flynn instead. Flynn was QUICKLY out of the league and Curry is…well…the best shooter ever to touch a basketball, among other things.
New Orleans: Hilton Armstrong
In 2006 the Hornets were in a great situation to add a key piece to an already stacked lineup. They decided to pass up Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, and Paul Millsap for the UConn product, who went on to average 3.0 points for his career. At 6’11, the Hornets must have thought he would be a better offensive weapon at center than Tyson Chandler. They thought wrong.
New York: Frederic Weis
It’s okay if you don’t know Weis as an NBA player, because he wasn’t. Drafted 15th by the Knicks in 1999, he never made it over to join his NBA team. Instead, he’s more famous for being the 7’2 center Vince Carter jumped over in the Olympics. If the Knicks could do it all over again, we think they would have selected hometown hero and St. Johns product Ron Artest, who went one pick later.
Oklahoma City: Perry Jones III
OKC has never really had a top draft pick with which to make a splash, yet in 2012, they used their 28th pick to take Jones, a 6’11 power forward. What makes this pick so bad isn’t the fact that Jones only played three seasons in the NBA, but because they passed up on Draymond Green. Just imagine if Draymond had ended up in OKC and think about how much differently the last few seasons in the NBA would have turned out.
Orlando: Fran Vazquez
Vazquez did the same thing as Frederic Weis, being a first round draft pick and never playing in the NBA. In 2005, after years of watching Shaq win big in another uniform, the Magic tried to retool their team with a center, taking Fran with the 11th pick. Yet Vazquez stayed in Europe and the Magic passed on Danny Granger, who went six picks later.
Philadelphia: Shawn Bradley
In 1993, influenced by an era ruled by centers like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Patrick Ewing, the Sixers picked Shawn Bradley with the second overall pick. Who wouldn’t love a 7’6 guy who weighed roughly 182 pounds in the paint? Oh wait, everyone, in retrospect. The game was just too physical, skilled, and athletic for the Stormin’ Mormon from BYU. He did average 2.5 blocks per game for his career, but he was better known for getting dunked on than anything else. Philly could have had Penny Hardaway instead, who went one pick later.
Phoenix: Tim Perry
The 1988 draft was weak, even if it did contain Steve Kerr as the very last pick. So the Suns took Perry with the seventh pick, best known for competing in the dunk contest, and, according to Charles Barkley’s book Sir Charles: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles Barkley, being traded to Philly because he wore No. 34, the same number as Barkley. Not exactly a glorious legacy. They could have had Dan Majerle or Rod Strickland, as well as lesser players like Rony Seikaly or Harvey Grant.
Portland: Sam Bowie
The Blazers’ second worst selection was taking center Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in ’07, but the worst decision of all time was in 1984 when they took Sam Bowie over His Royal Airness, Michael Jordan. Bowie played 11 seasons in the NBA, averaging 10.9 PPG and 7.5 rebounds, which isn’t horrible when you think about it. It’s just that they passed up Michael Fucking Jordan for him because he played the same position as Clyde Drexler. Pretty sure that could have been worked out.
Sacramento: Jimmer Fredette
A gifted scorer from BYU, Fredette was Steph Curry in college, shooting from distances considered crazy. The thought was, if he’s making these shots in college, that means he can do it in the pros. Wrong. Fredette’s lack of strength, ball handling skills, and speed made it difficult for him to find any open space. As the tenth pick in 2011, the Kings (who actually traded for him) prayed he would be their “Great White Hope.” As a result, they passed on Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard, who both play the same position as Jimmer. Brutal, and very Kings-like.
San Antonio: Dwayne Schintzius
The Spurs love big men, so they chose to pair David Robinson with Schintzius, the 24th pick in 1990. However, he found it harder to play in the NBA than to keep his mullet in style. Averaging 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game for his career, he was a huge disappointment for a 7-foot, 260-lb center. If the Spurs needed more low post presence, they should have acted on Elden Campbell or Toni Kukoc instead, or even taken a flyer on Antonio Davis or Cedric Ceballos.
Toronto: Rafael Araujo
If a top ten pick (eighth) can only survive three seasons in the NBA, you know you’ve made a mistake. Especially in a class that was stacked with talent: J.R Smith, Jameer Nelson, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, Trevor Ariza, and Josh Smith all were still on the board. The Raptors needed a lot of help in 2004, but taking Araujo the pick before Iguodala was definitely not the right decision.
Utah: Dominique Wilkins
The “Human Highlight Film” was never the wrong choice; sending him to Atlanta for John Drew and Freeman Williams in 1983 was. ‘Nique became a superstar and helped revolutionize the dunk contest with his battles against MJ. One can only wonder what the Jazz were thinking…
Washington: Kwame Brown
Michael Jordan was/is the greatest ever to play the game, yet in 2001, he made one of the worst draft selections ever. With the No. 1 overall pick, he decided to take Kwame Brown, a center fresh out of high school, with the illusion that he would become the next great center. Jordan’s basketball IQ must have been on hiatus that summer because Brown was just the opposite. We have to think the D.C fans probably wished he’d seen that kind of talent in Pau Gasol instead. Glad to see his evaluation of talent has gotten (slightly) better since moving to Charlotte.