Every NBA Team's Most Disappointing Lottery Draft Pick

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2013

Every NBA Team's Most Disappointing Lottery Draft Pick

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    The NBA draft lottery as we know it today has only existed since 1990. Instead of giving the team with the worst record the first overall pick and working backwards from there (like the NFL), the NBA instituted a system designed to combat what's commonly referred to as tanking.

    Ping pong balls are awarded proportionally to teams based on their record (the worst record receives the most ping pong balls and a 25 percent chance at the first overall pick), and probabilities of obtaining the No. 1 overall pick decrease the better a team's record is.

    For non-playoff teams, the draft lottery represents a symbol of hope. A fresh start awaits teams who find themselves stuck in a cycle of perpetual mediocrity, while highly coveted prospects can help make some of the league's lowliest teams into playoff contenders in a year's time.

    For the purposes of this slideshow, only players drafted after 1990 were considered. Therefore, a clear bust like Sam Bowie was omitted.

    Note: Only players selected in the modern draft lottery were considered for the purposes of this slideshow. All statistics and transaction notes courtesy of Basketball-Reference, unless noted otherwise.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Shelden Williams

    What an absolute mess the top five of the 2006 NBA draft was. Between Andrea Bargnani, Tyrus Thomas and Adam Morrison, the '06 draft was full of letdowns.

    For the Atlanta Hawks, the story was no different. The Hawks selected Shelden Williams at No. 5 overall, and he lasted just one full season before being dealt to the Sacramento Kings.

    Williams had stiff competition from other Hawks busts Marvin Williams and Acie Law, but in the end, his draft position, combined with his career 4.5-point-per-game average on 46.2 percent shooting, was enough to earn him the label of biggest lottery disappointment.

     


Boston Celtics

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    Eric Montross

    When I think of Eric Montross, the first thing that comes to mind is his reputation as a spoiler on the North Carolina Tar Heel team that took down the Fab Five in the 1993 NCAA title game.

    Montross' college reputation had him in quality position as a consensus lottery pick entering the '94 draft, and the Boston Celtics took a shot on the sturdy seven-footer with the ninth overall pick.

    Although he was a rather large disappointment in his time with the Boston Celtics, Montross did eventually net the C's a draft pick that wound up being the rights to beloved figure Antoine Walker.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Ed O'Bannon

    A stud over his final three seasons at UCLA, Ed O'Bannon felt like a relatively safe pick for the New Jersey Nets at No. 9 overall in the 1995 NBA draft.  

    Despite his ceiling being limited, the Nets figured they were getting a proven commodity in O'Bannon, who averaged more than 33 minutes per game over his sophomore, junior and senior campaigns at UCLA.

    A national champion in 1995 with the Bruins, O'Bannon entered the pros with prototypical NBA size at forward, measuring 6'8'' and weighing 220 pounds.

    As happened to be the case with several established college prospects, O'Bannon didn't have anything special to offer the Nets, and the team recognized that early on, dealing him to the Dallas Mavericks after just a year-and-a-half with the franchise.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Adam Morrison

    Believe it or not, there was a point in time when Adam Morrison was a sought after commodity.

    Granted, that period was extremely brief, but the Charlotte Bobcats bought into his legitimacy for long enough to convince themselves he was worth the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft.

    Although the 2006 draft class was not a particularly strong one, Morrison's label as a massive bust will haunt him forever.

    To put things in perspective, the Gonzaga product's best season from an efficiency standpoint came in 2006-07, when he shot 37.6 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from three.

    According to Basketball-Reference, seven players from the 2006 draft class have posted negative win shares for their career. Morrison is the only lottery pick included in that group.

Chicago Bulls

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    Eddy Curry

    If you look up complacency in the dictionary, you're likely find a picture of former Chicago Bulls' center Eddy Curry slotted next to it.

    Putting things nicely, Curry lacked drive in his time in Chicago. The evidence is pretty cut and dry.

    According to Basketball-Reference.com, Curry averaged 4.95 rebounds per game over his four years in Chicago. This from a man who is 7'0'' tall and weighed in the neighborhood of 290 pounds.

    Curry's offensive game was solid enough to make him an intriguing project, but the absence of any sort of determination ruined his career.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Dajuan Wagner

    One of several high school-to-pro prospects who soaked up the national spotlight leading up to the NBA draft, Dajuan Wagner's NBA tenure lasted only four years.

    A highly touted prospect coming out of high school, Wagner's lore became the talk of the NBA community after he dropped 100 points in a single game.

    The sixth pick of the 2002 draft, he shot 36.6 percent for his career, averaging a meager 9.4 points per game.

    Wagner's career came to a premature end when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Samaki Walker

    Yes, everything's 20/20 in hindsight, but there's no denying the Dallas Mavericks made a massive mistake drafting Samaki Walker at No. 9 overall in the 1996 NBA draft.  

    In the context of that talented draft class, the Mavericks' selection of Walker looks even worse. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash were selected at Nos. 13 and 15, respectively, while Jermaine O'Neal was selected at No. 17 overall.

    The Mavericks were only able to tolerate Walker for three years, letting him walk in the summer of 1999.

Denver Nuggets

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    Raef LaFrentz

    Consider that the Denver Nuggets selected Raef LaFrentz over Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzi and Paul Pierce, and there's no denying that he's the most disappointing lottery pick in franchise history. 

    A mistake several other franchises were conned into making, the Nuggets were highly intrigued by the potential franchise center.

    LaFrentz's status as an unconventional stretch 5 made him extra appealing to a Nuggets team in search of a game-changer, but the big man's 46.6 percent career shooting was evidence of his inability to adjust to playing against NBA-quality bigs.

Detroit Pistons

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    Darko Milicic

    Among the biggest lottery mistakes of all time, there's arguably none bigger than the Detroit Pistons' selection of Darko Milicic at No. 2 overall in the 2003 NBA draft.  

    After LeBron James was selected first overall, the Pistons took a shot on Serbian big man with loads of upside.

    At the time, the pick was hardly controversial. In retrospect, it was an egregious mistake.

    Some of the players the Pistons passed over in favor of Milicic: Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh. Heck, even Chris Kaman would have been better for the franchise in the long run.

     


Golden State Warriors

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    Patrick O'Bryant

    Here's your first indication that Patrick O'Bryant was a bust: He started just six games over his four-year career, and he appeared in nearly as many games in the D-League (64) as he did in the NBA (90).

    Of all the players who made NBA appearances who were drafted in 2006, O'Bryant played the 12th-fewest minutes (524) and averaged a lowly 2.1 points per game for his career.

    A common theme among draft busts, big men, whether they were one-year collegiate wonders or steady four-year performers, tended to be more risky propositions than wings or guards.

Houston Rockets

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    Marcus Morris

    As far as the lottery goes, the Houston Rockets have a solid track record (via Hoopsworld) of success when it comes to high draft picks.

    From Yao Ming (No. 1 overall in 2002) to Hakeem Olajuwon (No. 1 in 1984) and Ralph Sampson (No. 1 in 1983), Houston's lottery picks have met or exceeded expectations.

    With that established, we're going to have to nitpick a bit to find a lottery disappointment.

    In recent years, the Rockets used lottery picks to bolster their frontcourt, and Marcus Morris is one example of that.

    One year after the Rockets selected Patrick Patterson with the last pick in the lottery (No. 14 overall), the Rockets used the 14th pick to select Morris.

    Morris had been coming on in his second season with the Rockets (averaging 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 54 appearances with Houston), but the team decided to go in a different direction at the trade deadline, dealing him to Phoenix, where he was reunited with his brother Markieff.

Indiana Pacers

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    Austin Croshere

    As far as lottery busts go, Austin Croshere is on the more successful end of the spectrum. The 12th pick of the 1997 NBA draft, Croshere wound up playing nine seasons with the Indiana Pacers and 12 total.

    The reason Croshere will go down as a bust is because of the hefty $51 million contract the Pacers granted him after he showed some promise throughout the 1999-2000 campaign.

    Croshere averaged 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 1999-2000, but those would be the highest single-season averages he'd post over the course of his career.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Michael Olowokandi

    Among players drafted No. 1 overall, Michael Olowokandi is firmly in the conversation as one of the most disappointing lottery selections of all time.

    There was little debating Olowokandi's legitimacy as a No. 1 pick entering the 1998 NBA draft, as he averaged a phenomenal 22.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game during the 1997-98 season at Pacific.

    With Mike Bibby and Raef LaFrentz drafted immediately after Olowokandi, the selection doesn't look all that bad. But looking at the career production of lottery selections Dirk Nowitziki and Paul Pierce, the pick is a regrettable one.

    For his career, Olowokandi averaged 8.3 points on 43.5 percent shooting. For a big man drafted No. 1, it doesn't get much worse.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    George Lynch

    According to Hoopsworld, the Los Angeles Lakers have only been in the lottery three times since the 1993 season.

    Two of their lottery selections in that time were Andrew Bynum (2005) and Eddie Jones (1994), both of whom were or are currently productive NBA players.

    With that established, George Lynch is the choice here, simply by process of elimination. Lynch was selected at No. 12 overall in the 1993 draft, one that wasn't particularly deep with quality talent.

    In three seasons with the Lakers, Lynch played an average of 18.4 minutes per game and had a negligible impact on a team that found itself in playoff contention annually.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Hasheem Thabeet

    Bryant Reeves was seriously considered here, but his production during his time in Vancouver was enough to sneak behind of Hasheem Thabeet on the list of lottery disappointments.

    A project coming out of the University of Connecticut, Thabeet projected as a long-term solution in the Grizzlies' frontcourt. Unfortunately, his offensive game never came around, and his time in Memphis was marked by little playing time and plenty of stints in the D-League.

    For his career, Thabeet only started 13 games with the Grizzlies and was dealt to the Houston Rockets in February of 2011.

    Consider that James Harden (No. 3), Stephen Curry (No. 7) and Brandon Jennings (No. 10) were all lottery picks that year, and Thabeet's reputation takes an even bigger hit.

Miami Heat

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    Michael Beasley

    Michael Beasley's failed drug tests during his time in Miami were more notable than his play, which tells you all you need to know about the former No. 2 overall pick.

    As comparisons to No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose lingered, Beasley couldn't live up to the high standards of play he set for himself while at Kansas State.

    It didn't take Miami Heat management long to get fed up with Beasley's act, as the team shipped him out to Minnesota in exchange for two second-round picks.

    Now that's low return value on an investment.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Joe Alexander

    The Milwaukee Bucks can only point the finger at themselves for jumping on the Joe Alexander bandwagon prior to the 2008 NBA draft.

    At the time, Alexander was one of the more proven players in the '08 draft class, but his ceiling was limited in so many ways.

    An athletic freak at West Virginia, Alexander's high-flying antics were neutralized in the pros by superior defensive talent.

    With a mediocre jumper, Alexander struggled to adapt to the professional ranks and, in retrospect, was drafted far too high.

    Some notable names drafted after Alexander: Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee, Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum and DeAndre Jordan.

    A bust in every sense of the word, Alexander's title as a black sheep was confirmed when he was dealt to the Chicago Bulls. To this day, he's only stepped on the court in 67 professional games.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Wesley Johnson

    For a franchise that's been no stranger to lottery failure over the last decade, Wesley Johnson may be the worst of a bad bunch of top-10 picks.

    A strong case could be made for either Derrick Williams or Jonny Flynn, but Johnson showed nothing encouraging over his two seasons as a member of the Timberwolves.

    The Timberwolves passed over DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe and Paul George to take the undersized wing (6'7'', 205 pounds) and undoubtedly regret their decision.

    He averaged 7.5 points over two seasons in Minnesota while shooting a pathetic 39.75 percent from the field.

New Orleans Hornets

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    Hilton Armstrong

    Hilton Armstrong hasn't played in the NBA since 2010-11—a rather surprising fact when you consider he was selected 12th overall in the 2006 draft.  

    A lanky prospect at 6'11'', 235 pounds, Armstrong was a clear flop from day one, averaging 3.1 points and one rebound per game in 56 appearances as a rookie.

    Coincidentally, his career averages were quite similar to those from his rookie season, as he posted 3.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game over five professional seasons.

New York Knicks

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    Jordan Hill

    Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet have a similar bond, as they were both disappointing bigs drafted in an otherwise solid 2006 NBA draft lottery (omitting Jonny Flynn).

    Hill wouldn't last one season in New York, as the Knicks dumped him in favor of an aging Tracy McGrady.

    Although he has grown into a more comfortable role with the Los Angeles Lakers, Hill's 2012-13 season has been marred by injury.

    A quality defensive player, he will have to make a living as a scrappy bench body as opposed to the starting-caliber talent he was projected to be.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Robert Swift

    This is an easy one. Remember Robert Swift? Well if you don't, here's a refresher. What Swift is most famous for is having his mansion foreclosed on (via Yahoo! Sports) and leaving it dilapidated beyond belief.

    A high school phenom, Swift started 34 games over four years for both the Seattle SuperSonics and the Oklahoma City Thunder, posting a career scoring average of 4.3 points per game.

    Knee injuries plagued the seven-footer, and he never recovered.

    After four short seasons in the pros, Swift was released and never given a second chance.

Orlando Magic

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    Fran Vazquez 

    There are several ways to qualify as a lottery bust. One of those is to never step on the floor for the team you were drafted by.

    Fran Vazquez is the only first-round pick from the 2005 NBA draft never to play a single game in the NBA—an unacceptable fact when you consider he was selected 11th overall by the Orlando Magic.

    Considered a versatile big that the Magic could pair alongside Dwight Howard, Vazquez wound up never leaving Europe and has made a career for himself playing for Spain's most celebrated club teams.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Shawn Bradley

    The second overall pick of the 1993 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Bradley over future studs like Penny Hardaway and Allan Houston.

    Bradley wound up playing a meager 49 games during his rookie season, averaging 10.3 points per game on 40.9 percent shooting.

    Although Bradley's rebounding numbers would improve in his second season, his scoring average dipped to 9.5 points per game (on an improved 45.5 percent shooting).

    With the 7'6'' center struggling to adapt to the professional ranks, the Sixers pulled the plug and dealt Bradley to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Derrick Coleman.

Phoenix Suns

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    Earl Clark

    The Phoenix Suns were fortunate enough to find themselves absent (via Hoopsworld) from the draft lottery process for the majority of the 1990s and 2000s, which is why Earl Clark is the player of note here. 

    Clark was selected with pick No. 14 in the 2009 NBA draft, but he was never able to wedge his way into the Suns' rotation, compiling just 169 points in his time in the desert. 

    Clark's time in Phoenix was cut short, as the Suns decided to pull the trigger on a deal for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus shortly after the 2010-11 season got underway.

    Perhaps the trade was the best thing that could have happened to Clark, as he received a bump in playing time in Orlando (up to 12.4 minutes per game in 2011-12). He was eventually dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he finds himself a significant contributor.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Greg Oden

    The infamous 2007 NBA draft will haunt Portland Trail Blazer fans until the team acquires another franchise center.

    Greg Oden, who was selected one pick before Oklahoma City Thunder marksman Kevin Durant, had his career decimated by injuries.

    First, it was micro fracture knee surgery prior to his rookie season. Then, it was a patella injury that sidelined Oden for the remainder of the 2009-10 season after appearing in just 21 games.

    Hoping to return for the 2010-11 campaign, Oden received bad news regarding his knee once again. He didn't step on the court once that season, undergoing a second micro fracture surgery instead.

    During his brief stint in Portland, Oden averaged 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game.

    The good news for him and the fans hoping to finally see him healthy is that he's primed for a return (via ESPN) in 2013-14.

Sacramento Kings

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    Thomas Robinson

    From the start, legitimate questions were raised about the Sacramento Kings' selection of Thomas Robinson.

    The fifth overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft, Robinson was projected to be a top-four pick, but he slipped to the Kings when the Cleveland Cavaliers jumped at the opportunity to select Dion Waiters.

    On a team that was already replete with big men (DeMarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes and Jason Thompson), the Robinson selection was quite puzzling.

    The Kings weren't in a position to take the best player available, and would they have been better off using the fifth overall pick to acquire a quality perimeter talent (i.e. Harrison Barnes).

    Not even one season in, the Kings admitted their mistake and moved on from Robinson, dealing him to the Houston Rockets in a trade that netted them Patrick Patterson and cap relief.

San Antonio Spurs

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    None

    Believe it or not, the San Antonio Spurs have only made one selection in the lottery since its modern reformation, according to Hoopsworld

    That one selection wound up being Wake Forest's Tim Duncan, who, you may recall, has carved out a nice career for himself in Texas.

    Since being drafted in 1997, Duncan and the Spurs have qualified for the playoffs every single year and have captured four titles in that time span.

    Duncan's longevity has the Spurs primed to capture the Western Conference's No. 1 seed for the third straight season, as the walking double-double has averaged 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this season.

Toronto Raptors

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    Rafael Araujo

    The 2004 NBA draft is famous for producing All-Stars Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng, among others.

    Like those three prosperous players, Rafael Araujo found himself drafted in the top 10, selected at No. 8 overall by the Toronto Raptors.

    The Brazilian big was a massive flop once making the move to the pros, scoring a combined 389 points over three seasons.

    Of players selected in the top 10, Araujo was the only one not to top 1,000 career points, solidifying his dubious distinction as one of the franchise's biggest disappointments.

Utah Jazz

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    Kris Humphries

    Like the San Antonio Spurs, the Utah Jazz have largely been absent from the draft lottery since its inception.  

    The 1990s were a time in which the Jazz dominated thanks to John Stockton and Karl Malone, while the team was relatively steady throughout the 2000s.

    Even when they were faced with a high lottery selection, the Jazz nailed it, securing Illinois point guard Deron Williams with the third pick in the 2005 NBA draft.

    Examining some of the Jazz's back-end lottery picks, it would seem that the team's most disappointing was now-Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries.

    Humphries was selected with the 14th pick in the 2004 draft. He wound up playing two seasons in Utah before being dealt to the Raptors for previously discussed bust Rafael Araujo in June of 2006.

Washington Wizards

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    Kwame Brown

    Calling the Washington Wizards' selection of Kwame Brown at No. 1 overall in the 2001 NBA draft a mistake feels like a gargantuan understatement.

    In his four seasons in the Nation's Capital, Brown averaged double figures in the scoring column just once (10.9 points per game in 2003-04), and he shot a dismal average of 44.5 percent from the field.

    To make matters worse, Brown was limited to 94 starts during his tenure in Washington and played in only 77 percent of the team's games over that span.

    Fortunately for the Wizards, they were able to unload him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins.

    Not exactly optimal return value for a former No. 1 overall pick.