The Worst NBA Draft Picks of the Decade
As the decade draws to a close I thought it appropriate to look back on some of the worst decision-making that went on. These selections ruined franchises, cost people jobs and caused heads to roll. (some more than others). The way I’ve gone about choosing these is a combination of how big of a waste the pick was, how high the pick was, and what could have potentially been done with the pick had the team gone in another direction.
This list does not include 2009 because there has not been enough time to assess that draft. I did look at the drafts from 2008 and 2007, but none of those players made this list either. I think it’s also important to note that Marty Blake, the NBA's director of scouting, praised most of these selections when they happened, and yet he’s still considered a genius by most people in the NBA.
If there’s someone you felt should have been on the list, or shouldn’t have, write about it in the comments section and hopefully we can have some productive discussion.
Here’s some guys who just missed the cut.
Yi Jianlian 2007, 6th overall, Bucks
Patrick O'Bryant 2006, 9th overall, Warriors
Shelden Williams 2006, 5th overall, Hawks
Luke Jackson 2004, 10th overall, Cavs
Chris Wilcox 2002, 8th overall, Clippers
Dajuan Wagner 2002, 6th overall, Cavaliers
Jay Williams 2002, 2nd overall, Bulls
Eddie Griffin 2001, 7th overall, Nets
Darius Miles 2000, 3rd overall, Clippers
Marcus Fizer, 2000, 4th overall, Bulls
Stromile Swift 2000, 2nd overall, Grizzlies
DerMarr Johnson 2000, 6th overall, Hawks
10. Renaldo Balkman (2006, 20th overall, Knicks)
How do you have an all-decade waste of a draft pick when you’re not even picking in the lottery? When you take a guy that no one else even had on their board, just to try and validate yourself as a smart GM.
This pick was an attempt by Isaiah Thomas to show the rest of the league that he was not as dumb as everyone presumed, by taking a “diamond in the rough” that no one else had picked up on. Unfortunately the plan backfired, and Balkman is now riding the Nuggets' bench. The worst part about this pick is that they probably could have gotten him in the second round and picked up someone to help immediately. Taken with the very next pick? Rajon Rondo. A guy the Knicks maybe could have used…
9. Chris Mihm (2000, 7th overall, Bulls, then traded to Cavs)
Mihm was part of a draft class that included fellow busts Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Dermarr Johnson and Stromile Swift. The Bulls did themselves a favor by immediately trading the former Texas center to the Cavs for Jamal Crawford. He played four years with the Cavs, averaging seven points per game.
Mihm has played ten seasons in the NBA and has only once averaged double digit scoring (10.2 ppg with the Lakers in 05-06). He’s now on his fourth NBA roster with the Grizzlies.
8. Marvin Williams (2005, 2nd overall, Hawks)
A talented player, but a guy nowhere near worthy of the second pick. The Hawks became enamored with his physical tools and scouts claimed his potential was through the roof.
Now in his fifth NBA season, Williams hasn’t developed in the ways they’d hoped. He’s averaged 12.3 points per game in his career and is a productive part of the Hawks’ rotation, but when you factor in that Atlanta passed on Chris Paul and Deron Williams, this definitely cracks the top ten.
7. Robert Swift (2004, 12th overall, Sonics)
One look at this guy and you begin to realize it’s no wonder why the Sonics had to leave town. Swift was one of the top high school players ever to come out of California’s central valley and passed up playing for USC to enter the draft.
The first red flag was when Swift refused to work out for teams. That didn’t deter Seattle though, from taking the 7-foot-1 center. He earned a starting job on some bad Seattle teams, but poor play and injuries caused his exit from the league. In 97 NBA games, Swift averaged 4.3 points per game. At 24 years old, Swift appears to be out of basketball for good after leaving the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League.
6. Mike Dunleavy (2002, 3rd overall, Warriors)
Dunleavy is a guy the media fell in love with, as he played on some very good Duke teams. He also was a perfect match for NBA scouts’ never-ending quest to find the next Larry Bird. Unfortunately for the Warriors, they bought into all the hype and passed on some much better players, namely Amare Stoudemire.
He gave the Warriors very little production, before being shipped to Indiana. Dunleavy has been a good scorer at times, but is a defensive liability and will never amount to anything more than a decent role player.
5. Adam Morrison (2006, 3rd overall, Bobcats)
There were a lot of bad picks in 2006, one of the weakest draft classes ever, so some teams get a pass. When you have the third pick in the draft though, you expect to get at least some production.
A prolific college scorer, Morrison hasn’t been able to get significant playing time due to his atrocious defense and poor shooting. He now finds himself on the Lakers’ bench. Not the worst place to be, but quite a fall from the standing he had at Gonzaga.
4. Kwame Brown (2001, 1st overall, Wizards)
It’s always very difficult to assess high school talent and Brown no doubt contributed to the NBA’s current age policy. With Michael Jordan as team president, the Wizards made Brown the first high school player to be taken number one overall. Brown buckled under the immense pressure of being the face of a franchise as an 18 year old.
His problems, both on and off the court, have been well documented. He’s now on his fourth NBA team and has averaged double digit scoring only once. The Wizards passed on Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas.
3. Rafael Araujo (2004, 8th overall, Raptors)
This pick has always really bothered me, as it really made me wonder if some NBA scouts even watch college basketball. With the 8th pick in the draft, you take a fat guy from BYU? The Raptors found out the hard way that a 6-foot-11 guy, even a fat one, can put up decent numbers against weak Mountain West competition.
Araujo really had no skills that set him apart as a player and on top of that, he had all kinds of character issues and was on a ban from international competition for a positive steroid test. After three years of 2.8 points per game he is out of the NBA. This one is just inexcusable, you spend your life assessing talent and this is what you come up with? I sure hope someone got fired over this. The next pick was Andre Iguodala. Take a moment to compare the disparity in athleticism.
2. Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2002, 5th overall, Nuggets).
Going into the 2002 draft, the Georgian 7-footer was playing in the Italian pro league averaging 6.6 points per game for Mike D’Antoni. That should have been the first clue. He was touted as a versatile, inside-out, big man. But once he got to the NBA he was knocked around by more physical play and struggled tremendously both offensively and defensively.
Tskitishvili was on six NBA rosters in four seasons, before being cut for the final time. His career averages: 3.0 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He now plays professionally in his native country of Georgia and is the posterboy for the “worst case scenario” European player.
1.Darko Milicic (2003, 2nd overall, Pistons)
Although Milicic has improved in the past couple years and shed some of his draft-bust status, he still hasn’t given us a reason to believe he’ll ever be an All-Star caliber player. He's still never averaged more than eight points per game in a season. He has to go down as one of the worst picks of all time, right up there with Sam Bowie, simply based on who was taken after him. Let’s take a look.
2. Detroit Pistons—Darko Milicic
3. Denver Nuggets—Carmelo Anthony
4. Toronto Raptors—Chris Bosh
5. Miami Heat—Dwyane Wade
The Pistons looked to be in great position, holding the Grizzlies pick with a chance to improve an already loaded roster. At the time, they defended the Milicic pick by saying that power forward was where they needed someone, thus they didn’t need to take Wade or Anthony. Imagine the Pistons with Wade or Anthony, teaming with Chauncey Billups and the rest of the crew. The Pistons could have used those pieces to become a dynasty of their own, rather than the middle-of-the-road Eastern Conference team they are today.