The NBA Draft is a funny thing. Often some of the most highly regarded players end up never having close to the impact that was expected out of them. While bad picks outside of the top ten are understandable, poor picks in the top part of a draft can be devastating to a franchise.
In particular, when a player is a top three selection in a draft, they essentially have to live up to expectations in order to be a justifiable pick. In the very least, a top three selection should go on to have a very productive NBA career, and be a borderline All-Star.
Unfortunately, as we know, top three picks regularly disappoint us. The high hopes a top prospect brings to a team quickly vanish as the player struggles in the pros. We slowly realize that the highly touted prospect will never turn into what we hoped.
With that in mind, let's look at the five biggest disappointments the draft has brought us since 2007. It will be easy to see why these top selections live on in infamy.
The Memphis Grizzlies finished 24-58 in '08-'09, and decided they wanted to go with size in the 2009 draft. Unfortunately, besides consensus No. 1 pick Blake Griffin, most of the top rated players available were guards. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies decided to roll the dice, and went with UConn center Hasheem Thabeet at No. 2 overall.
Thabeet was not good from the beginning. He had trouble earning playing time as a rookie, and was playing even less his second year until Memphis gave up and traded him for Shane Battier in February of 2011.
The players selected immediately after Thabeet were James Harden, Tyreke Evans and Ricky Rubio. By deciding to go for size, the Grizzlies missed out on selecting an exciting guard that could have had a major long-term impact on the franchise.
Thabeet is a great example of why drafting size over skill is ill-advised. While Thabeet was considered a quality prospect, many scouts were lambasting the pick as soon as it happened. The general thinking was Thabeet never should have been selected so early. His subsequent struggles were not that surprising.
Thabeet is now trying to re-charge his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder. While there still is a chance he will turn into a decent NBA player, there is no way he will live up to the billing a No. 2 selection brings. Memphis fans are kicking themselves over it to this day.
Michael Beasley was supposed to be great. During the early part of 2008, there was a debate as to whether Derrick Rose actually deserved to be selected before Beasley.
As a freshman at Kansas State, Beasley dominated. A legitimate candidate for player of the year, statistically Beasley seemed off the charts, and a potential combo-forward matchup nightmare in the NBA.
He was selected by Miami at No. 2 and almost immediately seemed out of place in Pat Riley's culture of discipline and professionalism. A free spirit, his off-court troubles created more of a stir than anything he did on the floor as a rookie.
Despite his struggles, Beasley had a decent first year and seemed to be on his way to making his mark in the league, but then he checked into a rehab center before the start of the '09-'10 season. He was never held in high esteem by NBA teams again. Despite an adequate second season, the Heat seemed glad to jettison Beasley to Minnesota in 2010 for almost nothing in return.
Beasley recently signed with the Phoenix Suns, and still has time to resurrect his career. It seems safe to say that he will never come close to the hopes that GMs and scouts had for him coming out of college. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love were selected a few picks after Beasley in 2008. Both are perennial All-Stars.
Coming out of high school, O.J. Mayo was widely considered the best prospect in the country—a player with point guard skills who could also score at ease. He ended up at USC, where he had a good freshman season, but a season not as noteworthy as fellow freshman Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love.
Given his stature from high school, Mayo was still thought to be one of the top prospects in the 2008 draft. Minnesota drafted Mayo third, and immediately traded him to Memphis in a package that included Love, the fifth pick.
Mayo's four years with the Grizzlies were a disappointment. Despite all the hype surrounding Mayo's skills, he never turned into one of the better players on the team. Within two years, it became clear that Mayo had been vastly overrated as a pro prospect.
Meanwhile, the two players taken after Mayo—Russell Westbrook and Love—became All-Stars. Also Danilo Gallinari and Eric Gordon, picked sixth and seventh, showed the serious star potential that Mayo lacked.
Mayo is not a bad NBA player. The problem is that he is not a particularly good one either. The four players drafted after him in 2008 all are. Mayo is a prime example of a player who scouts anointed without seeing enough evidence to justify the praise.
Evan Turner was considered a "can't miss" prospect coming into the 2010 NBA Draft. If John Wall was the No. 1 prospect, then Turner was No. 1A.
There was a serious argument as to whether Turner should be selected first. He had just come off one of the most singularly dominant college seasons in recent memory and was statistically off the charts. On top of his production, Turner was also praised for his maturity and drive. In the worst-case scenario, Turner was considered a borderline All-Star, and likely much better than that. The Philadelphia 76ers were overjoyed to be able to select him at No. 2.
Two seasons into his career, it is shocking to watch Turner play. He often seems overmatched, and his offensive virtuosity is hardly ever apparent. It seems highly unlikely Turner will ever make even one All-Star game or be strongly considered for one.
What happened? It's hard to say.
Despite rumors of health issues, and a possible riff with the 76ers coaching staff, a player of Turner's caliber should never struggle as much as he has. It seems that most scouts were just plain wrong about Evan Turner. His dominance on the college level, for whatever reason, means little in the NBA.
While there is a chance Turner can bounce back and become a good player in the league, it seems nearly impossible he will fulfill his high expectations. Several players selected after him—like Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe and Paul George—are already held in much higher esteem. Turner's failures are some of the strangest you will find for a top draft prospect that seemed so certain to be good.
The sad case of Greg Oden is well documented at this point. After a dominant freshman year, Oden was widely considered the best center prospect in some time. While Kevin Durant had an equally impressive freshman year, there was little doubt Oden would be selected first in 2007 because of his size and high skill level. Portland drafted him dreaming of a dynasty.
It's been downhill from there. Constant injuries have decimated Oden's career. When he has played—which has been very rare—Oden has been good. But that hardly matters at this point, because Oden has been injured so often.
Durant, picked second, has turned into one of the better players in the league. And to add insult to injury for Trailblazer fans, Al Horford, the third pick in 2007, has turned into an All-Star big man for Atlanta.
Oden is a good example of how injuries can destroy even the most promising of prospects' careers, and sometimes before a player even gets to display how good he could become. Oden is still hoping to get back into the NBA, but if he does, it will be in totally different circumstances than he found himself in when he was drafted in 2007.