The Worst Lottery Pick for Every Team in the Last 15 Years
When it comes to the NBA draft, every team is guilty of making mistakes. With this year's edition rapidly approaching, this seemed like a good time to take a look back at each team's worst lottery pick of the last 15 years.
As fans, this will be a painful trip down memory lane for all of us, but take solace in the fact that we'll be going through this together.
Now, there are a couple ground rules to keep in mind before going forward:
- While the vast majority of these picks were draft busts, that isn't the case for everyone. There are a handful of teams that have drafted well over the last 15 years and their pick will be the least productive of an otherwise solid group.
- If a player's draft rights were traded before he played a game for his initial team, the acquiring team is on the hook for that player's failures. For instance, Minnesota won't be chastised for drafting O.J. Mayo in 2008 because they were smart enough to deal him for Kevin Love later that night.
- The player must also have played at least one season with the team that drafted him (or acquired his rights).
- As the title suggests, we are only factoring in the first 14 picks of each draft. Also, we will be closing each slide with a brief rundown of players each team could have had if it didn't go in the direction it inevitably went in.
Let's get started.
Atlanta Hawks: Shelden Williams (No. 5 Overall, 2006)
This was a toss-up between two Williams boys (no relation). Marvin Williams was the Atlanta Hawks' No. 2 overall pick out of North Carolina in 2005. He was infamously taken over the likes of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Danny Granger.
While the Hawks clearly dropped the ball with Marvin, at least he's still in the NBA.
The same can't be said for Shelden Williams, who was Atlanta's No. 5 overall pick out of Duke in 2006. Williams had all of the tools to be a Carlos Boozer-type bruiser in the low post. He had good size at 6'9" and 250 pounds. He was quick, athletic, and he had decent range on his jumper.
In the end, though, he wasn't productive. He lasted a season-and-a-half with the Hawks before being thrown in as part of a midseason trade to Sacramento for Mike Bibby in 2008. The Kings would later trade Williams to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for Rashad McCants.
After that, he would bounce around the league for a few years with stints in Boston, Denver, New York and New Jersey. During his six seasons in the pros, Williams finished with a career average of 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Who Atlanta Could Have Drafted
There weren't many big names in the 2006 draft once you get past Williams at No. 5. That being said, Brandon Roy went one pick later to Minnesota—with his rights being dealt to Portland in a draft-day trade—and would've been a much better selection, even with Roy's troublesome knees.
There's also Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who slid all the way down to the Phoenix Suns at No. 21. Given the fact that Williams was eventually traded for what was left of Mike Bibby, it seems reasonable that the Hawks could have used a guy like Rondo instead.
Boston Celtics: Kedrick Brown (No. 11 Overall, 2001)
The Boston Celtics entered the 2001 NBA draft with three first-round picks. They used their first pick, No. 10 overall, on Arkansas guard Joe Johnson. We all know Johnson as one of the best players on the Brooklyn Nets, but it wasn't until he was traded from Boston to Phoenix that he really started to blossom.
One pick later, the Celtics took a chance on a small forward out of Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Florida named Kedrick Brown. Like many kids making the jump from low-level competition, Brown struggled with the transition to the pros.
He averaged a little more than two points per game in his first two seasons as the Celtics tried to bring the raw rookie along slowly. Inevitably, the team gave up on Brown midway into his third season. He was traded to Cleveland in a package headlined by Ricky Davis.
He lasted with the Cavaliers for roughly seven months before he was trade to the Philadelphia 76ers for Eric Snow. By the time he was 23 years old, Brown's NBA career was finished. In four pro seasons, he averaged 3.6 points per game.
As for Boston's third first-round selection, the Celtics swung and missed again by using the No. 21 overall pick on North Carolina combo guard Joe Forte.
Who Boston Could Have Drafted
Richard Jefferson was drafted two picks later by the Houston Rockets before being traded to New Jersey as part of the Eddie Griffin deal. Zach Randolph went to Portland at No. 19 overall.
Both players managed to stick around in the pros past their 23rd birthday and are still somewhat productive veterans to this day.
New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets: Terrence Williams (No. 11 Overall, 2009)
The New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets haven't had much experience in the lottery in the last 15 years. In fact, they've drafted in the first 14 picks just three times during that span. Most recently, they drafted Derrick Favors with the No. 3 overall pick in 2010 before shipping him to the Utah Jazz for Deron Williams a year later.
They also used the No. 10 overall pick on center Brook Lopez in 2008. When healthy, Lopez has proven to be one of the league's best big men.
In between hitting on Favors and Lopez, the Nets (then in New Jersey) dropped the ball on a shooter from Louisville named Terrence Williams. The No. 11 overall pick showed some promise as a rookie, averaging 8.4 points per game.
The problem was Williams couldn't find his shooting touch as a pro. After shooting 38.5 percent from behind the arc in his final year in college, Williams struggled to shoot above 33 percent from deep in the NBA.
In a career that also saw stops in Houston, Sacramento and Boston, Williams' career conversion rate from the three-point line is just under 32 percent. His stint with the Nets lasted just over a year.
Who New Jersey/Brooklyn Could Have Drafted
The Nets passed up on a slew of talented point guards to draft Terrence Williams, which is baffling since they would inevitably go after Deron Williams a couple years later.
Jrue Holiday (drafted by Philadelphia, now with New Orleans) went No. 17 overall. Ty Lawson, drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Denver Nuggets, went one pick after Holiday. Jeff Teague went to Atlanta at No. 19 and Darren Collison was selected by the New Orleans Hornets two picks after that.
Those floor generals may not have been as great as Deron Williams was when the team acquired him, but any of them could have saved the Nets a lot of picks, money and embarrassment.
Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets: Adam Morrison (No. 3 Overall, 2006)
While Adam Morrison's placement in this spot was a given, we can't overlook the then-Charlotte Bobcats' poor track record at the draft over the years. The team whiffed on power forward Sean May in 2005 as well as point guard D.J. Augustin in 2008.
Also, the jury is still out on lottery picks Bismack Biyombo (No. 7 overall, 2011) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (No. 2 overall, 2012).
Morrison, because of where he was taken and the hype that surrounded him after a productive college career, gets the nod here. The Gonzaga forward had a decent rookie year. He averaged 11.8 points per game and earned Rookie of the Month honors for November. He was even named to the All-Rookie Second Team.
It went downhill fast from there. He missed the entire 2007-08 with a knee injury. Midway into the 2008-09 season, he was traded along with Shannon Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic. On the bright side, he was able to get a championship ring with L.A. for his troubles.
Still, Morrison never showed any of the scoring acumen from either his college days or his initial season in the pros. After he left the Lakers, he had a couple stops with the Wizards and the Blazers but never stuck around long enough to register a blip on the radar.
We'll remember Morrison for crying during the NCAA tournament, his creepy mustache and his striking resemblance to Timothy Olyphant in Justified. Sadly, we'll also remember him as one of the most underwhelming draft picks in recent memory.
Who Charlotte Could Have Drafted
As stated earlier in the piece, the 2006 draft didn't have much star power. Still, Rudy Gay (No. 8 overall) would have been a better selection. The same can be said for Roy (No. 6 overall) and Randy Foye (No. 7).
J.J. Redick (No. 11 overall) was equally as productive in college as Morrison and was a local star from his days down the road at Duke. He would have been a tough sell as the third pick, as Rondo would have been.
Chicago Bulls: Marcus Fizer (No. 4 Overall, 2000)
Marcus Fizer had everything you could have wanted in a power forward...except ideal height. Listed generously at 6'8" and 265 pounds, the Iowa State standout was just a tad too short to be a dominant presence in the low post.
That didn't stop the Chicago Bulls from using the No. 5 overall pick on Fizer in 2000. The selection was peculiar for a number of reasons. First, the team had just used the No. 1 overall pick a year prior on a power forward in Elton Brand.
The Bulls tried to make up for the double booking by moving Fizer to small forward. It turned out to be a bad idea. The big man struggled shooting from the outside in the pros and didn't have the speed to defend smaller guys on the opposite end.
He did manage to put together a couple productive seasons with the Bulls, averaging double digits in scoring in his second and third seasons. Still, it wasn't enough to justify trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
The Charlotte Bobcats drafted Fizer during the expansion draft in 2006, but he didn't last long there, either. He had a few stints in Milwaukee, Seattle and New Orleans, but never came close to being the monster he was in college.
Who Chicago Could Have Drafted
In the Bulls' defense, the 2000 draft may have been the worst class in recent memory. Try going down the list of names from that year without chuckling. There weren't many directions Chicago could have gone and succeeded.
That being said, Mike Miller (taken a pick after Fizer by the Orlando Magic) won Rookie of the Year honors and went on to have a productive career. After a trade with Cleveland, the Bulls swapped out Chris Mihm for one of the few gems from that draft in Jamal Crawford. So, all was not completely lost.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Dajuan Wagner (No. 6 Overall, 2002)
Short-minded folks will probably want last year's No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett, in this spot after he put together one of the worst rookie seasons in NBA history (4.2 points, 3.0 rebounds per game).
However, the Cleveland Cavaliers' list of draft blunders over the last decade-and-a-half is pretty extensive. Let's do a quick rundown, shall we?
- 1999: SG Trajan Langdon (No. 11 overall)
- 2000: C Chris Mihm (No. 7 overall, acquired from Chicago)
- 2001: C DeSagana Diop (No. 8 overall)
- 2002: SG Dajuan Wagner (No. 6 overall)
- 2004: SF Luke Jackson (No. 10 overall)
You could make the case for any of those guys being in this spot. As bad as that group is, though, Wagner was the most disappointing.
Now, full disclosure: I thought Wagner was going to be a star. Growing up in New Jersey, I remember reading about his achievements during his high school days in Camden (including his 100-point game against Gloucester as a senior).
As the son of former NBA guard Milt Wagner, he came from good stock and appeared to have all of the tools to be a dynamic scorer in the NBA. So, I understand why a downtrodden team like the Cavs would have taken a chance on Wagner being the next Allen Iverson.
As it turned out, we were all wrong.
Wagner averaged 13.4 points as a rookie for the Cavaliers...and never approached double digits in scoring ever again. He lasted two more seasons in Cleveland before inevitably signing with the Golden State Warriors. His stint on the West Coast lasted all of two months.
In Wagner's defense, health issues derailed his career. He suffered from ulcerative colitis, which required major surgery. His career in the NBA was more of a tragedy than an outright failure. One could only imagine what a Dajuan Wagner-LeBron James scoring tandem could have been.
Who Cleveland Could Have Drafted
There were a few notable names taken after Wagner, particularly in the frontcourt. Brazilian bruiser Nene Hilario (now, just Nene) was taken a pick later. Promising high school talent Amar'e Stoudemire went No. 9 overall, and UConn forward Caron Butler went No. 10.
Dallas Mavericks: Devin Harris (No. 5 Overall, 2004)
Since 1999, Devin Harris is the only Dallas Mavericks lottery pick to last at least one season with the team. Thus, he makes this list by default.
In 2000, the Mavericks left draft night with two lottery picks. They drafted power forward Etan Thomas with the No. 12 overall pick and acquired Courtney Alexander (No. 13 overall) from the Orlando Magic. Both were traded to Washington midway into their rookie season.
Last year, Dallas drafted big man Kelly Olynyk but traded him to Boston later that night for the No. 16 pick, Lucas Nogueira.
That, along with Harris, sums up the Mavericks' ventures in the lottery over the last 15 years. Harris was initially drafted by the Washington Wizards with the fifth pick but was traded to Dallas on draft day in a deal for Antawn Jamison.
While Harris has never been the kind of star befitting his high draft spot, he's still managed to become a solid pro over the course of his NBA career. He earned Rookie of the Month honors in November of 2004 and was named to the All-Star team in 2008-09.
He's traveled around the league a few times with stops in New Jersey, Utah and Atlanta. However, he's back in Dallas to finish what he started. He's averaged 12.5 points and 4.8 assists a night during his career so far.
Who Dallas Could Have Drafted
Again, it's important to point out that Harris wasn't a bust. Did it take him a couple years to be productive? Sure. But Mavericks fans shouldn't hang their heads over this selection.
If you wanted to be pithy, though, you could make the case that guys such as Luol Deng (No. 7 overall), Andre Iguodala (No. 9), Al Jefferson (No. 15) and Josh Smith (No. 17) would have been better choices.
Denver Nuggets: Nikoloz Tskitishvili (No. 5 Overall, 2002)
The emergence of Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki caused opposing teams to go back to the drawing board and take a harder look at international prospects. For years, general mangers locked themselves in their offices to watch grainy surveillance footage of foreign teenagers.
This was never more evident than at the 2002 NBA draft. There was an NBA-record 17 international selections that year, six of which came in the first round. None were better than No. 1 overall pick Yao Ming from China and, arguably, none were worse than No. 5 overall pick Nikoloz Tskitishvili out of the Republic of Georgia.
With his size (7'0"), speed, athleticism and shooting acumen, those on the "Skita" bandwagon were quick to make Nowitzki comparisons. All of that hyperbole conned the Denver Nuggets into making the Benetton Treviso star their pick at No. 5.
To say Tskitishvili underachieved as a pro would be an understatement. As a rookie, he averaged career highs in points (3.9) and rebounds (2.2) per game. No, that's not a typo. That was really his best season as a pro.
It was also the last time he would log serious minutes. After playing a little over 16 minutes per game in his first season, the disappointing Georgian never saw more than eight minutes a night the rest of his career.
By 2005, the Nuggets washed their hands of the draft bust. He was shipped to Golden State along with Rodney White in a deal headlined by Eduardo Najera (also not a typo). He jumped around from Golden State to Minnesota to Phoenix but never made much of an impact.
In the end, he was more of a cautionary tale than the next big thing.
Who Denver Could Have Drafted
The bright side for Denver is that it managed to get the best of the New York Knicks later that night by prying Nene Hilario (No. 7 overall) away from them in a deal for Antonio McDyess.
Still, this draft could have been a real home run for the Nuggets if they didn't outsmart themselves. Stoudemire could have been a franchise big man for the next decade (or until his knees went out). Butler would have been nice as well. Even Wagner (mentioned earlier in the piece) would have been a better pick than Tskitishvili.
Detroit Pistons: Darko Milicic (No. 2 Overall, 2003)
Over the last 15 years, there hasn't been a bigger bust than Darko Milicic.
This is based off his lack of production, where he was taken, and the players taken after him in one of the most star-studded drafts in recent memory.
Milicic, much like Tskitishvili, was another product of the international hype machine. Teams still looking for the next Dirk Nowitzki couldn't help but fall in love with Milicic. On tape, he showed a ton of promise for an 18-year-old.
He had good size at 7'1" and 250 pounds. He was quick and athletic. He had the chops to be a very good rebounder and defender.
At the time, it made sense for the Detroit Pistons. They had a veteran-heavy team coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Plus, the pick was gifted to them via a trade with the Grizzlies back in 1997. They could afford to wait on Milicic to grow.
The problem was: He never grew. He also rarely saw the floor as a member of the Pistons. It wasn't until the team traded Milicic to Orlando in 2006 that the Serbian saw legitimate playing time. However, even while he was averaging a little over 20 minutes per game with the Magic, he wasn't very productive.
In 2007, Milicic signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. Two years later, he was sent to the Knicks in a deal for Quentin Richardson. A year after that, New York traded him to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal. After the Timberwolves waived him, he ended up in Boston in 2012.
No matter where Milicic went, he never blossomed into the star many had hoped he would be. His best season as a pro came in 2010-11 with Minnesota, when he averaged 8.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and two blocks per game.
Those aren't quite the numbers you want from a top-two pick.
Who Detroit Could Have Drafted
The first few picks after Milicic reads like a who's who of some of today's best players. Carmelo Anthony went to Denver with the No. 3 overall pick. After 'Melo, there was Chris Bosh, who went to Toronto. After Bosh, Dwyane Wade went to the Heat.
Did Detroit have room for ready-made stars like that trio? Probably not. Would it have been worthwhile to find out? Absolutely.
Golden State Warriors: Patrick O'Bryant (No. 9 Overall, 2006)
As it turned out, the seven-footer was more like a poor man's Brad Miller.
O'Bryant had a lot of the physical attributes you'd want in a center. He had quick feet. He had soft hands and a 7'6" wingspan that inspired hope that he'd become an effective shot-blocker. All of these tools convinced the Golden State Warriors to make O'Bryant their pick at No. 9 overall.
Once he got there, though, he didn't really get a chance to show what he could do. O'Bryant played all of 40 games in two seasons with the Warriors. He averaged 5.5 minutes per game during his time there. When he was on the court, he didn't flash any ability to score, rebound or defend.
The main cause was a lack of ideal strength and toughness. Where the Warriors once saw promise, opposing teams now saw a rag doll. He spent some time in the NBA D-League playing with the Bakersfield Jam, but Golden State pulled the plug on the O'Bryant experiment after two seasons.
By 2008, the big man was a member of the Boston Celtics. A year after that, he was playing his final season in the pros with the Toronto Raptors. He finished his career with an average of 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds a game.
Who Golden State Could Have Drafted
The Warriors were doomed from the moment they went on the clock. Of the first-round picks selected after O'Bryant, only Redick, Kyle Lowry and Rondo went on to have productive careers. The Warriors already had Jason Richardson, Baron Davis and Monta Ellis on the roster, which made drafting a guard kind of pointless.
Houston Rockets: Eddie Griffin (No. 7 Overall, 2001)
During his lone season at Seton Hall, Eddie Griffin flashed all of the skills that made him a lottery pick and all of the red flags that caused him to drop in the draft. Griffin averaged 17.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.4 blocks as a freshman and punctuated his college career by getting into a fight with teammate Ty Shine.
Character concerns are what caused Griffin to slide to the then-New Jersey Nets at No. 7. It says something about what teams think about your maturity when three teams would rather draft high school kids instead of you.
Despite the local flavor, Griffin didn't keep his Nets hat on for very long. Before the end of the first round, New Jersey agreed to ship Griffin to the Houston Rockets for the draft rights to Richard Jefferson (No. 13 overall), Jason Collins (No. 18) and Brandon Armstrong (No. 23).
On the court, Griffin did enough to earn All-Rookie Second Team honors. Off the court, he displayed some of the questionable decision-making that caused his draft-day slide. The 6'9" forward struggled with alcoholism and missed the entire 2003-04 season while in rehab.
After that season, Houston waived Griffin. He ended up in Minnesota and managed to finish in the top 10 in blocks per game in 2005-06. Even with the sudden signs of promise, Griffin couldn't stay out of trouble. He crashed into a parked car while driving drunk in 2006. Not long after, the Timberwolves let him go.
A year later, Griffin was killed in a car accident after driving through a barrier and hitting a moving train. The autopsy showed that Griffin's blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit at the time of the crash.
Who Houston Could Have Drafted
Obviously, Houston didn't "draft" Griffin, but it might have been wiser for the team to just keep the three picks it had. Jefferson was an integral part of the New Jersey Nets teams that made the NBA Finals in back-to-back years and has been a solid pro ever since.
Armstrong never really panned out, but Collins has been an adequate backup center throughout his career. None possessed the raw potential of Griffin, but all three were much safer picks.
Indiana Pacers: Fred Jones (No. 14 Overall, 2002)
Traditionally, the Indiana Pacers have done a good job of finding value in the draft. In 2005, they pulled off a steal by selecting Granger with the No. 17 overall pick. In 2010, they pulled off two thefts by snatching up a sliding Paul George in the first round (No. 10 overall) and Lance Stephenson in Round 2.
They also drafted Kawhi Leonard with the 15th pick in 2011 before trading him to the San Antonio Spurs for point guard George Hill.
The Pacers weren't as fortunate in 2002, when they used the 14th pick on Oregon high-flyer Fred Jones. Now, Jones had a lot of attributes to get excited about. He was a 6'4" guard with a 7'0" wingspan. He had a standing reach of 8'4" and a max vertical of 37.5 inches (measurements courtesy of DraftExpress.com).
Even beyond the fascinating physical gifts, Jones showed promise that he could be more than just a dunker. He shot 37 percent from three-point range during his final year at Oregon and averaged 18.6 points per game.
When it came time to translate all of that talent to the NBA, Jones came up just a little bit short. His only real worthwhile season came in 2004-05 (his third NBA season). He contributed 10.6 points a night and shot 42.5 percent from the field (including 38 percent from three).
That would turn out to be his ceiling. His 2005-06 campaign was decent (9.6 points, just under 42 percent from the field), but nothing to write home about. A year later, he signed with the Toronto Raptors. He lasted half a season before being shipped to Portland for fellow 2002 draftee Juan Dixon.
The Blazers didn't have much use for Jones, either. Four months after arriving in Portland, Jones was traded to the Knicks as part of the Randolph/Steve Francis deal. He closed out his career with a brief stint playing for the Los Angeles Clippers and was never heard from again.
While Jones' career didn't go as many had hoped, at least he managed to win the Slam Dunk Contest in 2004 before calling it quits.
Who Indiana Could Have Drafted
The only other first-round pick of note taken after Jones was Tayshaun Prince (No. 23 overall by Detroit). Even on a Pacers team loaded with wings, that wouldn't have been a bad pick.
Los Angeles Clippers: Yaroslav Korolev (No. 12 Overall, 2005)
The Los Angeles Clippers have made plenty of mistakes on draft day over the years. Darius Miles, Shaun Livingston, Melvin Ely, Chris Wilcox and Al Thornton are just some of the names that haven't panned out for Lob City in the last 15 years.
However, none of them are quite as obscure as Russian forward Yaroslav Korolev.
The Clippers took a chance on the 18-year-old Korolev back in 2005. Before he was even able to legally buy an alcoholic beverage in America, the 12th overall pick was out of the league.
Korolev played two seasons with Los Angeles before being waived. In both seasons combined, he scored 39 total points in 168 minutes. You could watch Korolev's entire NBA career in less time than it would take to see the movie Pearl Harbor.
For all of the flack the Clippers catch for using the first pick on Michael Olowokandi in 1998, the Korolev pick is much worse. In an ironic twist, the draft bust that nobody remembers may go down as the worst pick in the Clippers' disappointing history.
Who Los Angeles Could Have Drafted
The easy answer here is anybody else. Everyone taken after the 12th pick had a more productive career than Korolev. If we're talking potential stars, though, Granger went 17th overall. Power forward David Lee turned out to be a steal for the New York Knicks at No. 30.
Both could have been vital cogs for a Clippers team that had plenty of potential at the time.
Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Bynum (No. 10 Overall, 2005)
In the last 15 years, there hasn't been a Los Angeles Lakers lottery pick worse than center Andrew Bynum. During that span, there hasn't been a Lakers lottery pick better than Bynum, either.
That's because Bynum is the one and only Lakers lottery pick in the last decade-and-a-half.
As a testament to the Lakers' long history of success, the team hasn't spent much time in the lottery since its invention in 1985. This year's draft will be just the fourth time the team will be picking in the lottery (1993, 1994 and 2005 being the others) and the first time since it drafted Bynum in 2005.
It took a few years for Bynum to make the transition from high school to the pros. Once he became acclimated, he quickly developed into one of the league's best centers. That is, when he was healthy.
Injuries have been the biggest issue for Bynum. He's played in all 82 games just once during his career (2006-07) but has still managed to make an All-Star appearance (2011-12) and win two championships.
Even now, as a 26-year-old veteran, knee troubles have hindered his potential. He's played in just 52 games since the Lakers traded him to Philadelphia in the summer of 2012. After being unceremoniously sent away by three teams (Cleveland, Chicago and Indiana) this past season, Bynum's career appears to be coming to a close.
Still, with a career average of 11.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, he can hang his hat on being the best and worst lottery pick the Lakers have had in the last 15 years.
Who Los Angeles Could Have Drafted
It's tough to make a case for anyone being better than a talented big man who, at one point, was one of the two best centers in the league. Could the Lakers have won back-to-back titles with Joey Graham (No. 16 overall) instead of Bynum? Probably not.
How about Granger, May or Fran Vazquez? Doubtful. Bynum's time in L.A. may have been littered with injuries and Kobe Bryant wanting him traded, but there were plenty of high points as well.
Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet (No. 2 Overall, 2009)
In 2009, the Memphis Grizzlies couldn't stop drinking the Kool-Aid emanating from the Hasheem Thabeet hype machine. They didn't care that there were more NBA-ready prospects available with the No. 2 overall pick. They didn't care that Thabeet was still very raw and needed time to develop.
Instead, they fell in love with the kid that NBADraft.net compared to Dikembe Mutombo and whom UConn coach Jim Calhoun called "one of the most dominant defensive players in the history of college basketball," per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
By the time Memphis woke up and realized what it really had in Thabeet, it was 2011. Midway into that season, the Grizzlies sent Thabeet to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Shane Battier and Ish Smith.
Much like during his time in Memphis, Thabeet's tenure in Houston was spent alternating between the D-League and the pros. By March of 2012, the Rockets gave up on Thabeet as well. They sent him to the Portland Trail Blazers along with fellow bust Jonny Flynn in a deal for Marcus Camby.
That summer, the former Huskies big man signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which would be his fourth team in as many years. For his career, Thabeet averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest.
As Billy Bob Thornton said in Bad Santa, "they can't all be winners."
Who Memphis Could Have Drafted
Phew. Where do we start?
James Harden was drafted one pick after Thabeet by Oklahoma City. After moonlighting as one of the best sixth men in basketball with the Thunder, "The Beard" was traded to Houston and became an instant star.
Tyreke Evans won Rookie of the Year in 2009 after being the No. 4 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings. While he hasn't been a star, he's at least been solid and is currently in the running to start for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Stephen Curry, drafted by Golden State with the 7th pick, is arguably the game's best shooter and one of the best guards in basketball. DeMar DeRozan (No. 9) and Holiday (No. 17) have been to the All-Star Game already.
Meanwhile, Brandon Jennings (No. 10), Lawson (No. 18) and Teague (No. 19) have all been productive starters as well. Needless to say, any of these players would have been better options for Memphis than Thabeet.
Miami Heat: Michael Beasley (No. 2 Overall, 2008)
As crazy as it sounds now, there was once a serious debate over whom the Chicago Bulls should take with the No. 1 pick of the 2008 NBA draft: Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley?
Even this very site ran an article asking that very question prior to the draft. Rose was the hometown boy with the breathtaking speed, crazy athleticism and knack for making plays. Beasley, meanwhile, was the troubled kid with the natural ability to score.
They were, without question, the two best players in the draft at that time. Regardless of what direction the Bulls went in, the Miami Heat would be sitting pretty at No. 2, right?
As it turns out, the Bulls got a future MVP and one of the best point guards in the game (when healthy). As for Miami, it got a guy who lived up to his billing. On the court, Beasley was a dynamic scorer. Off the court, he couldn't keep his nose out of trouble.
Beasley has had numerous run-ins with both the league and the law over substance-abuse issues. He checked himself into a Houston rehab facility in 2009 but still managed to get nabbed two more times for marijuana possession since then (once in Minnesota, the other in Arizona).
In 2010, the Heat rid themselves of Beasley in a trade with Minnesota. The move was seen as a cost-cutting move to free up money to sign the team's current trio of James, Wade and Bosh. However, Beasley's off-the-court nonsense probably played a factor as well.
After stints in Minnesota and Phoenix, Beasley returned to Miami as a free agent this season. All in all, Beasley has been a productive pro. His best season came with the Timberwolves in 2010-11, when he averaged 19.8 points per game.
In truth, Beasley was simply the worst of a good crop of Heat lottery picks over the past 15 years. The team took Butler (No. 10 overall) in 2002 and followed that up with Wade (No. 5) a year later. In the end, the Kansas State forward's inability to stay clean is what gave him the nod.
Who Miami Should Have Drafted
If you're willing to overlook the legal issues, Beasley wasn't a bad pick. That being said, if given a do-over, does Miami take Love (No. 5) instead of Beasley? How about Russell Westbrook (No. 4) to pair with D-Wade?
Both have become instant superstars since arriving in 2008.
Milwaukee Bucks: Joe Alexander (No. 8 Overall, 2008)
What do Yi Jianlian, Marcus Haislip and T.J. Ford all have in common?
They were all Milwaukee Bucks draft busts that were somehow better than Joe Alexander.
While any of those three gentlemen would have been suitable for this spot, Alexander clearly takes the cake.
The Bucks made the West Virginia forward their pick at No. 8 back in 2008.
Did they care that Alexander didn't have the softest of touches from the perimeter (career 29.5 percent three-point shooter at WVU)? Of course not. What about his shaky ball-handling skills? Absolutely not.
No, the Bucks fell in love with Alexander's impressive hops. Here's a video of Alexander wowing the Morgantown crowd with some sick jams. Watch out, Billy Hoyle! Brace yourself, Brent Barry! There's a new sheriff in town.
When you look past Alexander's 38.5-inch vertical (which the Bucks clearly didn't), you'll see a flawed talent that probably wasn't worthy of his high draft selection. It took Milwaukee some time, but the team eventually figured it out.
After a rookie season where he averaged 4.7 points per game, Alexander was traded to the Chicago Bulls in February of 2010. He would play all of eight games in the Windy City and score a total of four points. It would be the last time he graced an NBA court.
Who Milwaukee Could Have Drafted
The 2008 draft was filled with promising big men that would have been better picks than Joe Alexander. Here are a few names: Brook Lopez (No. 10 overall), Robin Lopez (No. 15), George Lopez (OK, not really), Roy Hibbert (No. 17), JaVale McGee (No. 18), Ryan Anderson (No. 21) and Serge Ibaka (No. 24).
At least the Bucks would end up with Larry Sanders. Two years later.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonny Flynn (No. 6 Overall, 2009)
After miraculously having Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio fall to them at No. 5 (acquired from Washington), the team felt the need to safeguard itself by drafting Syracuse's Flynn one pick later. In fairness, Rubio was under contract with his team in Spain, and it would be a while before he came to the States.
Still, what was Minnesota's plan once Rubio came to the NBA? Would it play Rubio and Flynn together? Would Flynn back up Rubio?
Flynn got off to a great start. He averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists a game as a rookie. After that, his production began to slip, and the inevitable presence of Rubio was less of a concern. Flynn's scoring dropped to 5.3 points a night during his second season.
That summer, Minnesota sent Flynn to the Houston Rockets. He played 11 games in H-Town before being shipped to Portland in a deal for Camby. He would play just 18 games for the Blazers before fading into obscurity.
The decline of Flynn helped take Minnesota off the hook for one of the strangest draft decisions in recent memory. However, there will always be plenty of "What ifs?" What if Flynn became a star? What if Rubio and Flynn couldn't coexist?
More importantly, what if the Timberwolves went in another direction at No. 6? That question is one that can be addressed.
Who Minnesota Could Have Drafted
The Timberwolves as we know them are in a state of flux. Love wants out. Rubio has been inconsistent. The team hasn't made the playoffs in a while.
But what if Minnesota managed to get things right during the 2009 draft? Instead of selecting Flynn, how does a trio of Rubio, Love and Curry sound? How about Rubio, Love and DeRozan? Those are pretty good alternatives, right?
The Rubio-Flynn selections alone make you scratch your head. But, when you consider Minnesota's other options, it's even more mind-boggling.
New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans: Julian Wright (No. 13 Overall, 2007)
This was a tossup between Hilton Armstrong (No. 12 overall, 2006) and Julian Wright (No. 13 overall, 2007). In the end, Wright "won" this spot for two reasons.
First, unlike Wright, Armstrong is still in the NBA. Sure, there was a two-year stretch where he was sitting on his couch (2011-2013), but at least someone picked up the phone to offer him a job. Meanwhile, Wright hasn't been seen in an NBA uniform since 2011.
Second, Armstrong was a bad pick in a bad draft. If the then-Hornets, now-Pelicans don't take Armstrong, who is the next best option? Rodney Carney? Thabo Sefolosha? Ronnie Brewer? If you want to make the case for Rondo or Lowry as Chris Paul's successor, be my guest.
As for Wright, the list of guys who were drafted after him was a little more impressive.
Look, both were epic disappointments. In reality, we are splitting hairs here. Wright averaged more than four points per game just once in three seasons with New Orleans before being shipped to Toronto. The same is true for Armstrong before he was traded to Sacramento.
Wright gets the call because his career was over before it ever started. He was unemployed at 23 years old. Armstrong is still managing to collect a paycheck. That has to account for something, no?
Who New Orleans Could Have Drafted
There weren't many gems after the Hornets took Wright, but there were enough notable names to make us second-guess the pick. Nick Young has developed into a promising scorer. The same can be said for Aaron Brooks, Arron Afflalo, Jared Dudley and Wilson Chandler.
They may not be stars, but they are still gainfully employed. Can Julian Wright say the same thing?
New York Knicks: Michael Sweetney (No. 9 Overall, 2003)
The New York Knicks haven't had many opportunities to draft in the lottery, either because of trades or a considerable amount of success. For the most part, they've managed to do well when they do pick in the top half of the draft.
There was Channing Frye in 2005, who would go on to be a decent pro (albeit not with the Knicks). In 2008, they drafted Danilo Gallinari, who later became the centerpiece of the package sent to Denver in exchange for Anthony.
A year later, the team selected Jordan Hill, who has had his moments as well.
However, those picks don't excuse New York for the draft bust that was Mike Sweetney. The knock on the Georgetown product was that he was an undersized power forward (6'8") who struggled with weight issues (we'll get to that in a moment) and a lack of ideal leaping ability.
After a subpar rookie season, Sweetney started to come along in his second year. He averaged 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting 53 percent from the field. Rather than build on his best year, the Knicks decided to trade Sweetney to the Chicago Bulls in a deal headlined by Eddy Curry.
Sweetney put together another decent season in his Bulls debut (8.1 points, 5.3 boards) but flopped after his minutes took a hit a year later. After the 2006-07 season, Sweetney was barely heard from again.
He resurfaced in 2011 when the Boston Celtics signed him to a deal. Unfortunately, Sweetney proved to be more Ben & Jerry's than Ben Wallace. Some reports (most notably, this one from TheBostonJam.com) speculated that the former Hoya weighed around 450 pounds.
Needless to say, he didn't last in Beantown for very long.
Who New York Could Have Drafted
The 2003 draft was very heavy at the top (no pun intended) with names such as James, Anthony, Wade and Bosh. However, there were a couple hidden gems that could have been nice additions for the Knicks.
If New York really wanted an undersized power forward, why not go for David West? After all, he was a two-time All-American and a former AP Player of the Year at Xavier. Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins and Josh Howard are some other alternatives to consider as well.
Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder: Mouhamed Sene (No. 10 Overall, 2006)
Without fail, every NBA draft breaks down into three categories: guys who became stars, guys who became busts and guys you've completely forgotten about.
2006 10th overall pick Mouhamed Saer Sene managed to make Column B and Column C.
Before the team now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder catapulted into the elite after drafting Kevin Durant and Westbrook, it was actually comically bad at making sensible draft picks. Here's a quick rundown of the then-Seattle Sonics' lottery picks pre-Durantula:
- 2001: Vladimir Radmanovic (decent stretch 4, never lived up to 12th pick)
- 2003: Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour (adequate role players, probably overdrafted)
- 2004: Robert Swift (bust)
- 2006: Sene (bust)
Sene and Swift were neck and neck for the title of being Seattle/Oklahoma City's worst. In the end, Swift's paltry career numbers were somehow double that of Sene's (Swift: 4.3 points, 3.9 rebounds; Sene: 2.2 points, 1.6 boards.)
Sene was drafted higher. Swift was in a better draft and played more minutes. If you want to replace Sene with Swift, I won't fight you on it.
Like Swift, Sene was a raw, athletic big man who passed the eye test. He was a legit seven-footer with an impressive 7'8" wingspan. He possessed soft hands, great ability and a limited knowledge of the game.
The thing about drafting guys who need time to grow is that...wait for it...they need time to grow.
Sene logged 5.5 minutes per game as a pro. How can a guy who just started playing basketball three years prior to being drafted expect to develop with minimal playing time?
As a result of Sene only seeing mop-up duty, his production was pretty lackluster. He played in just 47 games with the Sonics/Thunder and Knicks. By the time he was 22 years old, he was done playing pro basketball.
Who Seattle/Oklahoma City Could Have Drafted
As mentioned throughout this article, the 2006 draft was pretty bad. If Seattle wanted someone with a little more knowledge of the game, Redick would have been a fine pick. Of course, with Ray Allen on the roster, that wouldn't have made much sense.
Point guards Rondo and Lowry could have been had as well. Both would be upgrades over the Sonics' starter at the time, Ridnour.
Orlando Magic: Fran Vazquez (No. 11 Overall, 2005)
We all remember the Fran Vazquez era in Orlando, no?
Oh, right. He never actually played for the Magic or any NBA team, for that matter.
The Magic used the 11th overall pick in 2005 to pair Vazquez with Dwight Howard and form a talented frontcourt tandem.
However, Vazquez had other plans. The Spanish big man opted to stay in Europe after the draft. Since then, there have been more rumors circulating about a possible U.S. arrival than the Dr. Dre Detox album.
In 2012, then-Magic general manager Otis Smith told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel that the plan was to bring Vazquez over that summer. The summer of 2012 came and went with Vazquez still never touching American soil.
These days, there isn't much use for a 31-year-old big man on a rebuilding Magic team. If it's any consolation to the team's fans, Vazquez was named Spanish King's Cup MVP en route to winning a Euroleague championship in 2010.
So, at least he has that going for him.
Who Orlando Could Have Drafted
Literally, anyone else would have been more productive than Vazquez. However, if it is noteworthy names you crave, Granger, Nate Robinson and Lee were all taken after Vazquez in Round 1.
Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova were also two of the best players taken in Round 2. On the bright side, every Magic fan can now say they've contributed as much to the team as Vazquez has.
Philadelphia 76ers: Evan Turner (No. 2 Overall, 2010)
Evan Turner wasn't a draft bust, although his career could have been more eventful. It's just that the Philadelphia 76ers' other lottery picks over the last 15 years were better than him. In truth, the Sixers haven't had many high draft picks.
There was Iguodala (No. 9 overall) in 2004. Then, there was Thaddeus Young (No. 12) in 2007. After that, it was Turner, the No. 2 pick in 2010. Most recently, the team drafted the reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and acquired the rights to Nerlens Noel, who hasn't played yet.
Iggy was a solid two-way player on the wing before being traded to the Denver Nuggets. Young has been remarkably consistent as a combo forward for the Sixers ever since his arrival.
As for Turner, he really started to blossom over the last two seasons. He averaged 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 2012-13. This season, the versatile Ohio State product was contributing 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists before being traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Turner's run with the Pacers wasn't as productive as his first few months in Philly. He averaged just 7.1 points per game as one of Indiana's key reserves. Most notably, he and Stephenson got into a spat prior to the team's Game 2 showdown with the Atlanta Hawks, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Turner will be a restricted free agent this summer, and it will be interesting to see what kind of direction his career goes in from here.
Who Philadelphia Could Have Drafted
The most obvious name is the guy who ended up being Turner's teammate in Indiana, George. While it was tough to forecast George's stardom at the time, the Fresno State standout has become a household name.
Another interesting debate would be whether Detroit Pistons big man Monroe would have been a better option than Turner. Again, the Turner pick wasn't a complete failure. It just didn't reap the immediate benefits that Philadelphia's other lottery picks did.
Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall (No. 13 Overall, 2012)
This season, Kendall Marshall showed flashes of being a viable starting point guard. The problem for the Phoenix Suns is that it happened while Marshall was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Suns used the No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 draft on the North Carolina product to be the successor to Steve Nash's throne. As it turned out, Marshall did just that...in a Lakers uniform.
Phoenix gave up on Marshall after just one season. The team traded him along with Marcin Gortat and some other throw-ins to Washington in exchange for Emeka Okafor and a first-round pick. The Wizards quickly cut Marshall loose.
After a string of injuries ravaged their point guard depth chart, the Lakers came calling for Marshall's services. He rewarded the team by averaging 8.0 points and 8.8 assists per game for the Purple and Gold.
With Nash's career up in the air, Marshall could be the Lakers' point guard of the future.
Still, while Marshall's resurgence is a nice story, his dreadful rookie season with the Suns can't be overlooked. He contributed just three points and three assists in just under 15 minutes per game for the Suns.
While there have been other Suns picks that haven't panned out (Earl Clark comes to mind), Marshall gets the call for having such a brief tenure in the desert. Furthermore, Phoenix gets some of the blame for cutting ties with Marshall a bit too soon.
Who Phoenix Could Have Drafted
The pickings get rather slim once you get past Marshall. John Henson (No. 14 overall) is developing into a fine, young big man. The same can be said for the Houston Rockets' Terrence Jones (No. 18). Both probably would have stuck around Phoenix longer than one season.
Portland Trail Blazers: Greg Oden (No. 1 Overall, 2007)
It's easy to look at the Portland Trail Blazers now and chastise them for taking Greg Oden over Durant in 2007. However, even the greatest of skeptics couldn't have seen what happened to Oden coming.
Oden wasn't a draft bust. He was an NBA tragedy. His body failed him in a way that makes you cringe when you think about it. It started with microfracture surgery on his right knee before his rookie season even began.
After being sidelined for the entire year, Oden came back, only to have his season cut short by injury yet again. Oden tried making another comeback, but he suffered another gruesome knee injury.
By 2012, the big man underwent three microfracture surgeries. He had been away from the game for three seasons before the Miami Heat signed him this past summer. At just 26 years old, he's a shell of what was once a potentially franchise-changing big man.
In just seven years, Oden has gone from phenom to underdog. He's one of sports' greatest ironies: a man with all of the physical gifts in the world except for the durability to allow him to put them on display. As he attempts yet another comeback, you can't help but root for the guy.
That being said, there's no question that his poor health left a dent in what could have been a promising Blazers team. When a team drafts a franchise big man, it expects to get more than 82 games out of him over the course of five seasons.
Who Portland Could Have Drafted
Once again, it's easy to say in 2014 that Portland should have drafted (insert player here). In 2007, the only other name that made sense as an alternative to Oden was Durant. That still holds true today.
Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Fredette (No. 10 Overall, 2011)
While Oden's failures were tough to forecast on draft day, the same can't be said for Jimmer Fredette.
Here's NBADraft.net's write-up under the "weaknesses" section for the former BYU star:
A very poor defender at BYU ... His team couldn't afford for him to get in foul trouble which may account for his lackluster defensive effort ... Struggles to close out on shooters ... As the primary offensive option on his team, he hasn't proven he can be a pass-first point guard ... Assist-to-turnover ratio is poor (4.3 assists to 3.5 turnovers), but understandable due to his role on the team ... Prone to getting blocked on his drives to the rim ... Athleticism is certainly below average for an NBA point guard, which may hinder his ability to get his shot off at the next level.
"Very poor defender." "Struggles to close out on shooters." "Assist-to-turnover ratio is poor." "Athleticism is certainly below average." Do any of these critiques scream "potential franchise point guard" to you?
That didn't stop the Sacramento Kings from acquiring his draft rights from Milwaukee. The upside to Fredette was he was an electric scorer at BYU. He averaged 28.9 points per game as a senior and took home a slew of individual honors.
Still, for all of his offensive ability, he was clearly flawed. At 6'2", he was too small to be a shooting guard and too slow to run point. You throw in his lack of defensive chops and you have yourself a liability on both ends of the court.
Fredette saw decent playing time in Sacramento but not enough to be much of a factor. After logging 18.6 minutes a game as a rookie, The Jimmer's playing time dwindled each year. Eventually, the Kings gave up on the undersized combo guard and shipped him to Chicago in the middle of this season.
The Bulls had even less of a use for Fredette. He played in just eight games and was on the floor for a total of 56 minutes. He'll be a free agent this summer, but it's hard to see him getting a serious offer.
Who Sacramento Could Have Drafted
Sacramento technically drafted Biyombo first with the No. 7 overall pick. It eventually traded his rights as part of the three-team deal that landed Fredette. Biyombo wasn't a much better option, but he's at least shown some promise with Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets).
Some options that were better than both Biyombo and Fredette include Klay Thompson, Leonard and Iman Shumpert.
San Antonio Spurs: None
Since drafting Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick in 1997, the San Antonio Spurs haven't even sniffed the NBA lottery. The closest the team has come to a pick in the top half of the first round was striking a draft-day trade with Indiana in 2011 for the rights to the No. 15 overall pick, Leonard.
As years pass, that trade looks considerably more one-sided in San Antonio's favor.
The Spurs have been basketball's gold standard for success. Since The Big Fundamental's arrival, the team has won at least 50 games nearly every year. The lone exception was the strike-shortened season in 1998-99, when San Antonio went 37-13 (winning percentage of .740).
Oh, and the Spurs won the championship that year as well. That would turn out to be the first of four titles during the Duncan/Gregg Popovich era. After barely missing out on their fifth title last year, the Spurs are currently one win away from avenging last year's defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat.
The key to San Antonio's dominance has been great coaching, a once-in-a-lifetime franchise big man, and the knack to find value late in drafts (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, to name a few).
The Spurs are the only team without a representative on this list. That's a strong testament to just how great this franchise has been over the last 15 years. While other teams are making mistakes, the Spurs just keep getting better.
Toronto Raptors: Rafael Araujo (No. 8 Overall, 2004)
In Toronto's defense, Rafael Araujo was coming off a productive final season at BYU. He averaged 18.4 points and 10.1 rebounds a game for the Cougars. Despite the gaudy numbers, he was still a bit of a reach when the Raptors selected him at No. 8 overall.
For starters, he was a little old for a rookie. He was a few months shy of his 24th birthday when Toronto drafted him. Second, as will be pointed out again later, there were better players available when Toronto went on the clock.
Regardless, Araujo didn't do much to prove the doubters wrong in the pros. In two seasons in Canada, he averaged nearly three points and three rebounds per game. In the summer prior to his third season, he was traded to Utah for Kris Humphries and Robert Whaley.
He lasted with the Jazz for one season before opting to play overseas.
Who Toronto Could Have Drafted
Iguodala was taken a pick later and would've been a nice replacement for Vince Carter (who would leave a year after Araujo was drafted). If the Raptors were set on taking a big man, Al Jefferson was available. Josh Smith would have been an interesting choice as well.
Utah Jazz: Ronnie Brewer (No. 14, 2006)
The Utah Jazz have made the most of their few lottery chances over the last 15 years. Humphries didn't amount to much in Utah, but he eventually became a decent big man for the New Jersey Nets down the road. Deron Williams, drafted third in 2005, was a franchise point guard before being traded to the Nets.
Gordon Hayward, the team's No. 9 overall pick in 2010, continues to get better each year and will be pursued heavily on the free-agent market this summer. There's also Enes Kanter, the third overall pick in 2011, who has the potential to be a excellent starting center.
In 2006, however, the Jazz were stuck in no-man's land. Picking 14th in a draft that wasn't very deep, the Jazz tried to make the best of the hand they were dealt. They ended up selecting Arkansas forward Ronnie Brewer.
Now, Brewer had a couple decent years in Utah. He averaged double digits in scoring in his second (12.0 points per game) and third seasons (13.7) with the Jazz. Midway into his fourth season, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Later that summer, he signed with Chicago Bulls and made a name for himself as a solid perimeter defender. Brewer would bounce around the league from New York to Oklahoma City to Houston and back to Chicago.
While he never regained the scoring touch he had early in his career, his defensive acumen should keep him employed in the NBA for a little while longer.
Who Utah Could Have Drafted
After drafting Williams to be its point guard of the future a year earlier, there wouldn't be much sense in the team drafting Rondo or Lowry. As odd as it sounds, Brewer was the best option for the Jazz for where they were picking.
Washington Wizards: Kwame Brown (No. 1 Overall, 2001)
Kwame Brown was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he declared for the 2001 NBA draft. As if being the No. 1 pick wasn't enough pressure for a 19-year-old kid, Brown had the added wrinkle of being the first high school kid to be drafted No. 1 overall.
If that wasn't bad enough, it was about to get worse for the prospect out of Glynn Academy. Brown was about to begin his NBA career playing alongside Michael Jordan, one of sports' most intense competitors. The team was also being coached by Doug Collins, a man with a reputation for being hard-nosed.
A 2002 piece by Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post detailed how rough things were in the early going for Brown. The physical and mental toll of playing in such a highly competitive environment with lofty expectations clearly had an effect on Brown's confidence.
That's not to make an excuse for one of the biggest draft flops in recent memory. He had numerous opportunities on different teams to turn things around and never did. When he wasn't aloof, he was out of shape.
Still, you have to wonder what would have became of Brown if he were drafted under better circumstances. If he was taken by a team more committed to bringing him along slowly, could he have lived up to his potential? We'll never know.
Instead, Brown survived four seasons in the nation's capital. He averaged 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the Wizards before being traded to the Lakers for Butler. His numbers in Los Angeles were on par with his production in Washington (7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds) but not what you'd expect from a top pick.
After his tenure in Los Angeles was over, Brown played for five different teams in six seasons. There were never any signs that he was on the cusp of greatness. Instead, he sits with a career mark of 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Who Washington Could Have Drafted
How the talented Spaniard would have handled Collins and Jordan's tough love is another debate. However, there's less of a question over whether Gasol would have been the safer (and ultimately better) pick.