Biggest NBA Draft Busts by Team
So, you may or may not have seen the feature we did for the NFL Draft in which we took every single team and decided who the worst draft pick in the history of that franchise was. And it was so awesome and fun to do (and totally not time consuming at all) that I decided to roll it out for the NBA as well.
So, for every NBA team, we give you a horrible draft pick — either a straight bust, or player picked ahead of another player who was far better, etc. — and then a snarky reason as to why said pick was the worst in franchise history.
1. Clippers: Michael Olowokandi, 1st, 1998
How do you like your 50 Cent jokes? Over easy? Slightly poached? Completely unfunny? Or would you prefer to just sit here and laugh at what a jimmy-joke Olowokandi is? Yeah, I thought so. The Kandi-Man never amounted to anything, but at least that’s apropos of the Clippers franchise. Godspeed, Blake Griffin. Godspeed.
2. Grizzlies: Bryant Reeves, 6th, 1995
It would be totally reasonable to say “Stromile Swift” here. Totally. But the fact of the matter is that Big Country was a franchise-defining pick when the team was in Vancouver. I mean, there were more players to choose from, like Swift and ‘Reef and Bibby, but Country was the guy. As you know, the team is no longer in Canada. You do the math.
3. Thunder: Danny Vranes, 5th, 1981
Ahhhhh, simpler times. When the Sonics weren’t the Thunder. When Seattle wasn’t Oklahoma. And when Clay Bennett wasn’t Lucifer. But hey, what can you do? Oh, right. Lots of stuff: like revisit the past for the the Seattle Supersonics! For instance, Mr. Vranes maxed out in 1984 by averaging 8.4 points per game. Good times, etc.
4. Kings: Joe Kleine, 6th, 1985
Kleine, a big boy from the south, was picked No. 6 in Sacramento’s virgin draft. The Kings passed up Karl Malone, Detlef Schrempf, Chris Mullin, Joe Dumars and Terry Porter. An inauspicious start, to say the least.
5. Wizards: Kwame Brown, 1st, 2001
When judging the Wiz’ draft in ‘01 is that you have to remember two words: Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player of all time was responsible for one of the biggest draft busts of all time, not to mention the fact that he is currently ruining the Bobcats franchise. At least Kwame made a ton of money.
6. Timberwolves: William Avery, 14th, 1999
The trickiest thing about the T-Wolves is that you have to remember: worse things could have happened if Joe Smith hadn’t cost them eleventy-billion No. 1 picks. But for this spot, we’ll take Avery. Why? Did you see how well he played in the NBA? Exactly. Add in the fact that he was a by-product of a great Duke team, yet he was the only guy that didn’t pan out.
7. Warriors: Todd Fuller, 11th, 1996 & Chris Washburn, 3rd, 1986
That’s, right, it’s a tie! And sure, Adonal Foyle deserves strong consideration here, mainly because he was picked ahead of Tracy McGrady. But good gracious, look at the list of folks who were drafted after my boy Fuller (Nash, JO’N, Peja, Big Z, KOBE BRYANT). Also, I just wanted to make sure my NC State Wolfpack were fully represented. Sigh.
8. Knicks: Frederic Weis, 15th, 1999
The absurdity of the NBA draft can’t be better defined outside of “Isiah Thomas doesn’t own the worst pick ever for the New York Knicks.” But it’s true: Weis never sniffed the floor for the ‘Bockers and proved to be worse than Michael Sweetney, even.
9. Raptors: Rafael Araujo 8th, 2004
I wanted Jonathan Bender here for the NBA Live 2000 factor, but they did score a Davis by trading him, so it’s hard to justify. Of course, not nearly as difficult to justify as taking Araujo (2.8 points and rebounds per game for his career) over Andre Iguodala and the rest of the semi-studs in that draft class, need aside.
10. Bucks: Marcus Haislip, 13th, 2002
I originally wanted to roll with Andrew Bogut, with my theory being that “anyone you picked ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams is inherently a tremendous bust,” but that seemed shortsighted. Besides, Haislip played a grand total of 79 games in his career, while averaging 3.6 points per game. The people drafted after Haislip aren’t spectacular but that’s weak-sauce, son.
11. Nets: Eddie Griffin, 7th, 2001
Far be it from me to mock someone who has since passed away, but I think it’s fair to say that Griffin, God rest his soul, was not a fantastic choice for the Nets at seventh overall. Seriously, I’m not here to judge people, just to pick the busts of the draft. And, yes, I feel bad about this one, but a bust is a bust.
12. Bobcats: Adam Morrison, 3rd, 2006
If you’re a fan of North Carolina (professional) basketball, allow me to lead you in a resounding, SIIIIIIIIIIGH. Morrison was the brainchild of His Airness, for whatever reason, and was drafted before such stinkers as Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo and J.J. Redick. Yes, that’s exactly how inconsequential BBJ has become.
13. Pacers: Scott Haskin, 14th, 1993
There are several players you could make a bust claim for when it comes to the Pacers over the past few years (I desperately want to tag Clark Kellogg, but such is life). Of course, the Pacers have done a pretty good job on draft day, relatively speaking. But Haskin only played in 27 games during a one-year stint with Indiana, and that’s more than enough to qualify him here.
14. Suns: Zarko Cabarkapa, 17th, 2003
Gracious. Where to start? Rajon Rondo? Luol Deng? Rudy Fernandez? Oh right. They drafted all those people … they just happened to trade them for nothing. Poor Phoenix fans. Instead, I’ll offer you Cabarkapa, another foreign fella that the Suns organization mistakenly fell in love with. Here’s a draft day hint, all you GM’s: if someone’s first name is ends in “-arko”, avoid him.
15. Pistons: Darko Milicic, 2nd, 2003
Like shooting fish in a freaking barrel. For those that somehow don’t know, Darko was selected before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. He also managed — through theoretical osmosis — to bring down the entire Detroit Pistons organization, all by himself. When Joe Dumars and Larry Brown are framed for murder in three years, just don’t act surprised, m’kay?
16. Bulls: Marcus Fizer, 4th, 2000
The really crazy thing about the Bulls’ draft history is that they had nine straight years with a pick of ninth or better. So, yeah, there’s been some quality basketball in Chi-town since MJ left. Remarkably, they’ve done a pretty decent job of drafting during that time too, although Fizer is an obvious exception, even if the 2000 NBA Draft was a tremendous stinker. (And it was.)
17. 76ers: Shawn Bradley, 2nd, 1993
Bradley is immortalized (via poster usually) as a Dallas Maverick — the team’s old tealish colors really did wonders for bringing out his skin complexion. But he was drafted as a Sixer way back when reading SI was cool (I remember his cover!) and he was taken in front of Penny, Mashburn, Rodney Rogers and even Vin Baker.
18. Heat: Harold Miner, 12th, 1992
The Heat’s drafting prowess is relatively impressive, with regard to not taking total stinkbombs, actually. But the thing with Miner is that he was hyped as “Baby Jordan” — I mean, really, people — and only played 200 games, averaged under 10 points per game, and Miami could have had Doug Christie. Doug Christie! (Also, Spree and Big O if you prefer your jokes to be of the crazy/fat variety instead of whipped husband jokes.)
19. Hawks: Shelden Williams, 5th, 2006
Note to self: there is one good thing about that shipwrecked basketball city, Charlotte. It keeps you from being a Hawks fan. I wanted to go with Marvin here, but Shelden’s the better Tobacco Road choice for one main reason (Chris Paul aside): the Hawks refuse to take a point guard. They had Brandon Roy, Randy Foye and Rajon Rondo all hanging around in ‘06 and they still Williams when they didn’t even need him. Insanity, same thing, etc.
20. Jazz: Luther Wright, 18th, 1993
BO-RING. The Jazz nailed Stockton (16th, 1984) and Malone (13th, 1985) and from then until forever, the only time they’ve needed to step up and nail a big pick, they pulled Deron Williams. You could argue Raul Lopez in 2001 was a bust, but he wasn’t found at a rest stop “banging cans and smashing in windows.” Also, little known fact: Wright gets paid $153k every year for 25 years.
21. Hornets: J.R. Reid, 5th, 1989
Sure, J.R. played a ton of games, but there’s an easy comparison here: Kendall Gill was drafted at fifth overall as well the following year. And, as my attorney pointed out, it’s not like Gill is some huge superstar here, folks. Sugarcoat it all you want, Carolina fans: Reid stunk, and the Hornets took him way too early (Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp were both drafted after the UNC product).
22. Mavericks: Samaki Walker, 9th, 1996
Just so we’re clear, there was a four-year stretch where the Mavs took Cherokee Parks, Samaki Walker, Kelvin Cato and Tractor Traylor with top-15 picks. Guh. If Dallas hadn’t landed Dirk for Tractor, then the fat man would be the pick. But Walker is just indefensible here — and actually worse than the aforementioned Fuller for the very same reasons (Kobe, etc.)
23. Rockets: Michael Dickerson, 14th; Bryce Drew, 16th & Mirsad Turkcan, 18th, 1998
Houston’s draft history is bizarre in that, at least after the Cassell/Big Shot Bob years, they managed to pull the best talent from later in the draft. Including 1998, when they landed Cuttino Mobley in the second round after lobbing up this platter of eggs in a very quick first round span. I mean, just make a freaking play and shuffle those picks around, somebody.
24. Blazers: Sam Bowie. 2nd, 1984
Fair or not, he’s going to be the guy here. And if for some reason you don’t know why this didn’t work out for Portland, hop in your car, drive to the airport, take the first flight available to Chicago, find any local sports fan and ask them how drafting Michael Jordan worked out for them that year.
25. Spurs: Rick Hughes, 14th, 1985
I don’t want to say that the Spurs have been “lucky,” because that would insult the excellent drafting history of the franchise. How-EVA, everyone knows about David Robinson’s back injury and how it landed Tim Duncan and altered the history of the universe. And if you glance at the Spurs’ drafting history, you’ll note some stink bombs: Sean Elliott is debatable, Tracy Murray is “meh,” Reggie Johnson was bad, etc. But for a straight-up bust, Alfredrick Hughes (Rick or Alfred, depending on your preference, of course) is the choice, averaging 5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists over his 68-game career.
26. Magic: Steven Hunter, 15th, 2001
Has there ever been a team with Ping-Pong ball fortune like the Magic? Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal (not to mention Chris Webber)? Of course, for every easy lay-up like those guys, there’s a disaster like the three-pick ‘98 draft that yielded Michael Doleac, Keon Clark and Matt Harpring. But at least that trio was somewhat decent; even Zach Randolph has been more productive than Hunter.
27. Celtics: Eric Montross, 9th
Part of me wants to include Joe Forte here, because his sad little pro career was so short-lived, but he had two first-rounders drafted in front of him, so hype aside, Kedrick Brown was actually worse. But in a year where we have Tyler Hans-brah in the draft, it only seems appropriate to point out that the C’s thought taking a big, lumbering, white guy who wore number 0 as his number — and didn’t really project to the pros, even though he played at UNC — was a good idea. HEED MY WORDS, MISTER JORDAN.
28. Nuggets: Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 5th, 2002
Looking back at the the 2002 NBA Draft is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Unless you’re a Phoenix Suns or Miami Heat fan, in which case you probably look at this pick by the Nuggets as pretty freaking humorous, considering your teams got Amare Stoudemire and Caron Butler, respectively.
29. Lakers: Brad Holland, 14th, 1979
The, ahem, haters may suggest that Andrew Bynum (SMASH!) should be slotted here because the jury is out on whether he’s the “next great NBA center” or some such. But Holland’s crappiness is obscured by this Magic Johnson fella that the Lakers took at the top of the draft — when Jim Spanarkel is averaging more points than you are minutes, you suck.
30. Cavaliers: Luke Jackson, 10th, 2004
There are really any number of ways to go with this pick — there’s Dajuan Wagner, although he had health issues. There’s DeSagana Diop (eighth!) but he’s a “specialist.” There’s Vitaly Potapenko, 12th, immediately before Kobe Bryant in the same year Big Z was drafted, which is tempting. But Luke Jackson floors me, and not because he only played 73 games. It’s because Cleveland had just been gifted LeBron James and all they had to do was make one good choice. Just one! Al Jefferson, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Martin, Josh Smith … any one of these would have been vastly more beneficial towards getting the King a title.
Popularity: 45% [?]