With the NBA Draft Lottery taking place this past week, there has been plenty of buzz about the upcoming late-June draft. Between now and June 28, NBA fans will be overwhelmed with countless mock draft scenarios, all with hope springing eternal for the future of their franchises. Unfortunately, draft history plainly illustrates not every pick turns out to be a good one – even when selecting in the top-ten.
Compiled below are the worst top-ten selections of the past decade, sorted by their pick-position. I have attempted to avoid players who have suffered bad-luck with injuries, but as you will see, in some cases it is simply unavoidable (starting with #1). In other cases, there were several cringe-worthy candidates who could have easily taken the crown…
1. 2007 – Greg Oden – Portland Trail Blazers
There really hasn’t been a bust drafted first overall in the past decade discounting injuries. But someone has to go on this list, so Oden it is. Five years after being drafted first overall, Oden has appeared in only 82 games – or the exact amount he would have played in during a single healthy season. While having been productive in limited playing time – 9.4 ppg and 7.3 reb in just 22.1 mpg – it is certainly not the kind of production an organization envisions from the number one pick overall. Making matters worse, the number two pick in 2007, Kevin Durant, has won three consecutive NBA scoring titles and has the Oklahoma City Thunder in their second consecutive Western Conference Finals. Sadly, and as with Sam Bowie before him, Oden’s injury plagued career will likely be forever synonymous with the question – “What if?”
Dishonorable Mention: Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut
2. 2009 – Hasheem Thabeet – Memphis Grizzles
Never a promising sign when a player is traded during his second professional season, especially when it is just one year after being taken second overall in the draft. At 7’3’’, Thabeet was expected to come in and be an instant difference maker on the boards and at the defensive end of the court. With three-year stats of 2.2 ppg, 2.7 reb, and 0.8 blk, Thabeet has been anything but a difference maker. With players like James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, and Stephen Curry rounding out the 2009 top-ten, it is safe to say the Grizzles would probably handle this pick differently if they were given a ‘do-over’.
Dishonorable Mention: Marvin Williams, Darko Milicic, Jay Williams (injury)
3. 2006 – Adam Morrison – Charlotte Bobcats
While many of the third picks of the draft over the past decade have been very successful, leave it up to Michael Jordan to find a way to screw it up. After one of the most decorated collegiate careers in recent history at Gonzaga, Morrison’s free-spirit fell flat in the NBA – I guess writing Karl Marx quotes on the coach’s whiteboard didn’t intimidate NBA defenders like it did college. Starting a grand total of 28 games over the span of four seasons, the alleged sharpshooter had shooting splits of 37.3 fg%, 23.8 3p%, and 71.0 ft% … much more in line with those of a bricklayer. Hey, at least we’ll always have Morrison’s epic sobbing episode that took place during Gonzaga’s March Madness meltdown…
Dishonorable Mention: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
4. 2006 – Tyrus Thomas – Chicago Bulls
Much like the number three pick, the fourth pick of the draft has also produced its fair share of stars. While it’s tempting to put Shaun Livingston here instead of Thomas, Livingston’s underachieving has been due to a gruesome knee injury (so bad they won’t show it on youtube – just the reactions to viewing it). Thomas on the other hand, has been a chronic underachiever (despite unreal athleticism) and has found himself in the doghouse of about 35 different NBA coaches in six seasons. Seemingly considered a ‘breakout candidate’ every season of his once-promising career, Thomas’ inconsistent motor has been the main reason for his disappointment.
Dishonorable Mention: Wesley Johnson (pending, may overtake Thomas), Shaun Livingston
5. 2002 – Nikoloz Tskitishvili – Denver Nuggets
Who?!? Exactly… With the NBA desperately trying to find the next Dirk Nowitzki hiding in Europe, no team missed more badly than the Nuggets did with Tskitishvili (ok, maybe the Pistons by taking Darko over Carmelo, Bosh, and Wade). After appearing in 81 games during his rookie season, Tskitishvili would never again appear in more than 39 games for the same team in a single season. In four season, Tskitishvili played for four teams, and finished with a career average of 2.9 ppg and 1.8 reb. Hardly what you expect when drafting a seven-footer with the fifth pick overall.
Dishonorable Mention: Sheldon Williams
6. 2002 – Dajuan Wagner – Cleveland Cavaliers
As a high school senior, Wagner averaged 42.5 points and drew comparisons to young Allen Iverson. After spending one-year at Memphis, Wagner took his combo guard skills to the NBA. After experiencing a semi-successful rookie season in which he averaged 13.4 ppg, it was all downhill after that. Plagued by shooting percentages in the mid-thirties, Wagner could never find his niche as an undersized combo guard (a la Jason Terry or Ben Gordon), and was out of the NBA after playing only 11 games in his third season with the Cavaliers. He would later return for one glorious 7-minute run with the Golden State Warriors during the 2006-07 season before leaving the league for good.
Dishonorable Mention: Yi Jianlian, Jonny Flynn, Martell Webster, Josh Childress
7. 2007 – Corey Brewer – Minnesota Timberwolves
Surprisingly, the number seven pick has seen quite a few success stories over the past decade. While I wouldn’t put Brewer in the bust category, he has been the least productive member of the group. Having already played for three teams in five seasons, its safe to say there are others who view him as an underachiever. Only averaging double-digit scoring once in his career, Brewer has already had to reinvent himself as a crafty, defensive minded two- guard. While the Timberwolves had higher expectations for Brewer than being a so-so role-player when they drafted him, his defensive skill-set and ridiculous dunking ability will likely keep him employed for several more seasons.
Dishonorable Mention: Randy Foye, Bismack Biyombo (pending)
8. 2008 – Joe Alexander – Milwaukee Bucks
The number eight pick has been mediocre at best (and that’s being very, very kind.) One just need look at the dishonorable mention list below to see the struggles that have accompanied teams choosing number eight – good luck this season, Toronto. Considered one of the best athletes in the draft, Alexander was drafted by the Bucks even though they aleady had Richard Jefferson, one of the best athletes in the NBA, playing the same position. Over the course of just two seasons, Alexander went on to play a grand total of 67 NBA games and just 745 minutes. For comparisons sake, LeBron James has already played 625 minutes this post-season alone…
Dishonorable Mention: Rafael Araujo, Brandan Wright, Chris Wilcox
9. 2006 – Patrick O’Bryant – Golden State Warriors
Another cautionary tale about scouts getting too excited about a strong display during March Madness . In leading Bradley University to the Sweet Sixteen appearance, O’Bryant had a bit of a coming out party against Kansas and Pittsburgh. Desperately craving a big man, the Golden State Warriors selected him ninth overall knowing he was going to be a long-term project. (They just didn’t know it was going to be this long…) Appearing in only 40 games and averaging just 1.65 ppg over two seasons with the Warriors, the team quickly gave up on O’Bryant. In a total four seasons in the NBA, the ninth overall pick average 2.1 ppg and appeared in just 90 games. Just another example of how far NBA teams will reach in hopes of finding the next great big man…
Dishonorable Mention: Ike Diogu, Michael Sweetney
10. 2006 – Mouhamed Sene – Seattle Supersonics
I honestly believe the drafting of Sene was all part of a brilliantly conceived master plan by the Supersonics to make sure they remained bad enough to get in the Durant/Oden sweepstakes that would take place two years later. To insure their ineptness would continue, the team decided to take the uber-raw center prospect Sene just one year after taking the uber-raw high school center project Robert Swift. Today, both are still considered uber-raw and projects… Another great example of getting zero ‘bang for you buck’, Sene played in a whooping total of 47 games over three seasons, averaging 2.2 ppg, 1.6 reb, and 0.5 blk. On the bright side, the 2006 back-to-back picks of O’Bryant and Sene instantaneously gave hopes to hundreds of goofy, uncoordinated 7’0” teenagers across the globe.
Dishonorable Mention: Jimmer Fredette (pending), Acie Law, Luke Jackson
As teams make their selections during this upcoming draft, every fan will be convinced their team finally found that important piece to the broken puzzle. Unfortunately for some involved, it is a reality that there will be some big time underachievers among the picks, even in the top-ten. Missing on such picks can be crushing for teams and set them back for years to come. In a draft where only one player is considered to be a sure-thing, all the other teams must simply hope they are not the ones who end up on such a list five years from now. Good luck! That’s that.