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NBA Draft Busts

Sports | By The Top 13 on December 1, 2009

Every year, NBA teams spend months interviewing and working out draft prospects to identify the sure things. And every year, some teams miss badly on draft night. With the NBA season now in full swing, The Top 13 takes a look at the biggest busts in NBA draft history. As for this season's crop of rookies, our bet is on the Grizzlies' Hasheem Thabeet, drafted second overall, to be the biggest bust.

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Sam Bowie

1

Sam Bowie

2nd Pick 1984 (Portland Trailblazers)

The biggest draft bust in NBA history, as well as perhaps the biggest misjudgment of talent in sports history. Bowie wasn't awful, averaging a serviceable 11 points and 7 boards per game over his 11-year career. But by taking Bowie, the Trailblazers passed on all-time greats such as Charles Barkley, John Stockton, and some guy named Michael Jordan.

Michael Olowokandi

2

Michael Olowokandi

1st Pick 1998 (Los Angeles Clippers)

With the first pick in a loaded draft, the Clippers pull the trigger on an underachieving 7-footer from the college basketball powerhouse that is the University of Pacific. The Kandi-Man retired after nine uninspiring seasons. Among the players the Clippers passed on to get him? Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, and Antawn Jamison.

Kwame Brown

3

Kwame Brown

1st Pick 2001 (Washington Wizards)

No doubt the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan missed badly on his first major personnel decision as an executive. Plucking unproven 7-footer Kwame Brown out of a Georgia high school, Jordan passed on future all-stars such as Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, and Tony Parker. Brown has played for four teams in his seven years, feuded with teammates and run afoul of the law.

Darko Milicic

4

Darko Milicic

2nd Pick 2003 (Detroit Pistons)

After the Cavaliers grabbed LeBron James first overall, the Pistons selected Milicic, one of the most overhyped international players of all-time, leaving Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the board. While James, Anthony, Wade and Bosh are among the top players in the league and preparing to sign max deals next summer, Milicic is playing for his fourth team in sixth years.

Adam Morrison

5

Adam Morrison

3rd Pick 2006 (Charlotte Bobcats)

Michael Jordan strikes again. Now drafting for the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan passes on future stars such as Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay to select Morrison, known best for his mustache and instant offense at Gonzaga. In less than two seasons in Charlotte, Morrison averaged fewer than 9 points a game, shot only 37 percent from the field and played dreadful defense. Charlotte dumped him on the Lakers late last season for journeyman Vladimir Radmanovic.

Rick Robey

6

Rick Robey

3rd Pick 1978 (Indiana Pacers)

Robey faces the same curse as Bowie and Milicic – pretty much nothing he did in the NBA would have been good enough. Selecting the Kentucky center third, the Pacers passed on hometown legend Larry Bird, not to mention Reggie Theus, Mo Cheeks and Michael Cooper. They ended up trading him after only 43 games, and Robey was out of the league by the time he was 30.

Dennis Hopson

7

Dennis Hopson

3rd Pick 1987 (New Jersey Nets)

The Nets drafted Ohio State's all-time scoring leader ahead of future all-stars such as Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller, Kevin Johnson and Mark Jackson. But Hopson's collegiate scoring prowess didn’t translate to the NBA, where he shot a paltry 27.1 percent from three-point range. He was out of the league after only five seasons.

Chris Washburn

8

Chris Washburn

3rd Pick 1986 (Golden State Warriors)

Washburn, a nearly 7-foot center, was the worst pick in the worst draft of all time. Despite showing some potential in his one full season at N.C. State, the warning signs were there, as he scored less than 500 on his SATs and served time during college. After averaging just 3.1 points and 2.4 boards a game in 72 games, he was kicked out of the league for his third violation of the NBA's drug policy. The Warriors could have had Mark Price, Ron Harper or Dennis Rodman.

Danny Ferry

9

Danny Ferry

2nd Pick 1989 (Los Angeles Clippers)

The Clippers thought they had a sure thing when they took the sweet-shooting nearly 7-foot NCAA Player of the Year ahead of Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp and Glen Rice. Instead, Ferry refused to suit up for the Clippers and ultimately forced a trade to Cleveland. He went on to average a dreadful 7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game over his 13-year career. He's fared better as the Cavaliers general manager since 2005.

Jonathan Bender

10

Jonathan Bender

5th Pick 1999 (Toronto Raptors)

Considered the next Kevin Garnett when he was drafted out of a Mississippi high school by the Raptors (who dealt him to the Pacers on draft night for Antonio Davis), Bender played in only 237 games over seven injury-riddled seasons. He never averaged double digits in points or more than 3.1 boards per game. The Raptors passed on Rip Hamilton, Shawn Marion and Ron Artest.

LaRue Martin

11

LaRue Martin

1st Pick 1972 (Portland Trailblazers)

Making their third appearance in the Top 13, the Trailblazers long history of draft busts dates back to at least 1972, when they selected Martin first out of Loyola-Chicago. Sure, Martin was tall, but he never averaged more than 7 points or 5 boards a game over four seasons in Portland. Who'd the Trailblazers pass on? Future Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo.

Robert Traylor

12

Robert Traylor

6th Pick 1998 (Dallas Mavericks)

Dallas drafted him, but quickly pawned off their over-sized mistake on the Bucks for the rights to Dirk Nowitzki. Traylor averaged fewer than 5 points and 4 boards a game while bouncing from team to team over a seven-year career, before eating his way out of the league. Future NBA champions Paul Pierce and Rashard Lewis were drafted after Traylor.

Greg Oden

13

Greg Oden

1st Pick 2007 (Portland Trailblazers)

Perhaps we're overreacting here, but in his first two NBA seasons, Oden played in only 61 games. And although he has been healthy and played better this year, when he’s been on the court, Oden has shown only glimpses of the player the Trailblazers thought they were getting when they passed on budding superstar Kevin Durant. While it's still early, Portland’s decision to take Oden looks eerily similar to their pick of Bowie over Jordan.

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Comments Leave a comment

stillathreat ★★

Not even remotely buying Oden as a bust yet. He might not be Durant ever, but he's playing great defense and is healthy this year. You are correct the rest of these players are trash.

9:32 AM   Dec 01, 2009

jason ★★

I think it's fair to say Oden has been a bust, to the extent that Portland would pick Durant if they got a do-over. He could still have a good career, but the ceiling is definitely lower than it was on draft day, and he's not going to eclipse the guy taken after him as a pro. But as to whether he belongs on a list of the 13 biggest busts, you're right that time will tell.

10:16 AM   Dec 01, 2009

brian 

Can we call Oden a bust now?

9:50 PM   Dec 05, 2009

oshoney 

where's Len Bias?

4:19 PM   Dec 01, 2009

KDavis 

Poor Sam Bowie.

Bowie tops every single "Draft Bust" list and it's unfair to a guy who missed two years of college basketball due to injury (hello, Portland, RED FLAG!) and in his senior season averaged 10pts and 9reb. What kind of NBA expectations do you put on a guy like that? He made the NBA All-Rookie team and averaged a modest 10.9pts and 7.5reb for his career. Looks to me like he turned out to be the same player he was in college.

When I think "Draft Bust", I think of guys who never lived up to expectactions (see: Bradley, Shawn or Swift, Stromile, both #2 draft picks in their respective draft classes).

I think Portland drafted Bowie ahead of their time. Whenever high school players started making the jump to the NBA you repeatedly heard terms like "upside" and "potential". Teams put themselves into this high risk/hopefully higher reward position. Portland just did it in 1984. Had Bowie been drafted somewhere between #10-14, he would be spared from these lists. Portland needed size, so it's not Bowie's fault that they extended themselves by using their #2 pick on a 7'-1", 235lb. oft-injured center. Most people also point out that Portland passed on Michael Jordan. True. Also not Bowie's fault, but in 1983 Portland drafted a guy named Clyde Drexler. Now Drexler was labeled as a SF, Jordan a SG, but they were essentially the same size guys and both did several things well: score, rebound, dish, play defense. Drexler was really good, Jordan just happened to be incredible. So Portland had their 6'5"-6'-6" do-everything-type player and tried supplementing their backcourt with someone they hoped would become an interior force (Bowie). It backfired.

Who would have thought that a 10/9 guy in college wouldn't translate to 20/12 in the NBA?

I feel for you, Sam. It ain't your fault.

7:46 PM   Dec 03, 2009

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