30 Worst Draft Picks of the Last 30 Years
The NBA draft is a gamble.
For players such as Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Michael Jordan, this was the start of greatness, and a long journey that ended with an induction into the basketball Hall of Fame.
For other players, the journey is not so gracious. Many high draft choices have experienced nothing but failure in the NBA. Over the last 30 years, many great players have joined the NBA, but some horrendous players have come and gone as well.
Whether a player's career was shortened due to injuries or simply because he didn't have the talent to succeed, some of the greatest busts in professional sports have come from the NBA draft.
So without further ado, and before I put you guys to sleep with all of this nonsense, here are my 30 worst draft picks of the last 30 years.
1980: James Ray, Fifth Overall, Denver Nuggets
James Ray, who played his college basketball at Jacksonville University, finished his four-year college career averaging 14.5 points and 7.2 assists, and was a highly talented forward coming out of college.
During his time at Jacksonville, Ray played in 110 games, played over 2,400 minutes, shot better than 54 percent from the field, and scored over 1,500 points.
Drafted as the fifth overall pick by the Denver Nuggets in the 1980 NBA draft, Ray played three seasons with the team, appearing in 103 games and finishing with career averages of 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
Unable to compete in the NBA, Ray moved to Europe to play professionally overseas.
In 2001, well after his short-lived basketball career, Ray was diagnosed with a fatal lung condition called Sarcoidosis. But In 2008, Ray received a transplant, just after he was told he would only live for three months without one.
Ray, who has become more famous for having to breathe with the constant assistance of an oxygen tank, never lived up to the ability that he was projected to have.
But if I were Ray, I'd just be thankful to be alive.
(Selected ahead of: Andrew Toney, Kiki Vandeweghe, Kurt Rambis)
1981: Danny Vranes, Fifth Overall, Seattle Supersonics
When the Seattle Supersonics weren't the Oklahoma City Thunder, before Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton were Supersonic icons, and before Kevin Durant was even born, Danny Vranes was drafted as the fifth overall pick in the 1981 NBA draft.
The Supersonics failed to draft four-time All-Star Tom Chambers, four-time All-Star Rolando Blackman, three-time NBA All-Star and 1984 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion Larry Nance, or two-time NBA Champion and one-time All-Star Danny Ainge.
Following a 34-48 season, resulting in a sixth place finish in the Pacific Division, Vranes, a 6'7" small forward from the University of Utah, was drafted. He played only seven NBA seasons from 1981 to 1988, playing in 510 games and scoring a total of 2,613 points.
Vranes' best season came during the 1983-84 season as a member of the Supersonics, appearing in 80 games and averaging 8.4 points per game. The following four seasons, Vranes saw a decrease in playing time, and in his points per game.
Vranes played the final two seasons of his NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers, but in his final year, Vranes only appeared in 57 games, averaged 13.7 minutes per game, and scoring a mere two points per game.
Vranes began his NBA career as the number five overall draft pick, but retired as the biggest bust of the 1981 draft class.
1982: Keith Edmonson, 10th Overall, Atlanta Hawks
In a draft class that included Hall of Famers Dominique Wilkins and James Worthy, and former All-Stars and All-NBA team players Terry Cummings and Lafayette Lever (who almost averaged a triple-double over the course the 1988-89 season, with 19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 7.9 assists), there's one NBA bust that stands alone.
It's not Clark Kellogg, the eighth overall pick of the Indiana Pacers, who was selected for the NBA All-Rookie Team, but was only able to play three full seasons, and portions of two others due to chronic knee problems that forced him to retire. But the biggest bust of the 1982 NBA draft was Keith Edmonson.
Edmonson, a 6'5" guard with great shooting ability, led the Purdue Boilermakers to the 1980 NCAA Final Four, and during his senior year, scored 21.3 points per game and was named a Academic All-American.
Edmonson was selected as the 10th overall pick in the 1982 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. However, Edmonson had an extremely disappointing career, averaging just six points in 87 games played during his three year career with the Hawks, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Denver Nuggets.
Edmonson starred in college, but with the brighter spotlight in the NBA, the lights went out fast on Edmonson's NBA career.
(Selected ahead of: Ricky Pierce, Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, Mark Eaton)
1983: Russell Cross, Sixth Overall, Golden State Warriors
From being named the 1980 McDonald's All-American game MVP, to being elected as a member of the First Team All-Big Ten his junior year at Purdue, to being the sixth overall pick in the 1983 NBA draft, Russell Cross lasted just one season in the NBA, averaging 3.7 points in 45 games played.
(Selected ahead of: Thurl Bailey, Antoine Carr, Dale Ellis, John Paxon, Jeff Malone, Doc Rivers, Craig Ehlo, Hall of Famer Clyde "The Glide" Drexler)
1984: Sam Bowie, Second Overall, Portland Trailblazers
Did Sam Bowie, the Second overall pick of the 1984 NBA draft, have the worst NBA career of any player taken in this draft?
Certainly not, and by no means was Bowie an awful NBA player.
But drafted right after him was Michael Jordan.
Portland drafted Bowie, and the Bulls drafted Jordan.
Any ideas how that worked out for Portland?
I'll let you decide.
(Selected ahead of: No. 23)
1985: Kenny Green, 12th Overall, Washington Bullets
Except for Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Gus Johnson (no, not THAT Gus 'Rise and Fire' Johnson), the Washington Bullets have not had the greatest success when it comes to drafting future NBA Hall of Famers.
Ed Horton, Doug Roth, and Anthony Jones are just a few of the biggest bust in Bullets history during the franchises 12 year span between 1974-1997, before the Bullets became known as the Washington Wizards.
But the biggest bust label of the 1985 draft class belongs to Kenny Green, who was selected 12th overall by the Bullets.
Green played his college basketball at Wake Forest University, where he averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game, but those numbers did not translate into becoming an NBA star.
Green played in two NBA seasons from 1985-1987, for the Bullets and Philadelphia 76ers. He played 60 games and scored a total of 265 points during his brief stint in the NBA.
Green is just another player, who fell to the curse of playing for the Bullets.
(Selected ahead of: Karl Malone, Joe Dumars, A.C. Green, Terry Porter, Gerald Wilkins)
1986: William Bedford, Sixth Overall, Phoenix Suns
Besides the late Drazen Petrovic, who was killed in an automobile accident coming off an All-Star caliber fourth season, no player from this draft class has been inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame.
Top 10 draft choices Chris Washburn and Roy Tarpley, were both expelled from the league for violating the NBA's drug-use policies and served time behind bars for drug related issues.
Len Bias, who was the second overall pick by the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics, died from a cocaine overdose two days after being drafted.
And the biggest disappointment and biggest bust from the 1986 draft was William Bedford, who was selected sixth overall by the Phoenix Suns.
Bedford, a 7'0" center, played six NBA seasons averaging 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in his career. Bedford was projected as an NBA star, but his career was a disappointment as he surrendered to drug use, never reaching his full potential.
Since leaving the NBA, Bedford has been arrested twice for drug possession, and in 2001 was accused of transporting 25 pounds of marijuana in Michigan.
Bedford is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence, and is scheduled for release in 2013.
(Selected ahead of: Johnny Dawkins, Dell Curry, Mark Price, Dennis Rodman, Kevin Duckworth, Jeff Hornacek)
1987: Dennis Hopson, Third Overall, New Jersey Nets
The 1987 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year out of "THE" Ohio State University, Dennis Hopson was selected as the third overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets.
Hopson had a relatively short career in the NBA, lasting five years while averaging 10.9 points 2.8 rebounds per game. It's not that Hopson had a dreadful NBA career, but the Nets opted to draft Hopson instead of another forward.
Scottie Pippen. You might have heard of him.
(Selected ahead of: Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson)
1988: Derrick Chievous, 16th Overall, Houston Rockets
Derrick Chievous, selected by the Houston Rockets as the 16th overall pick of the 1988 NBA draft, is the winner of the biggest bust from this year's draft.
Having his best season during his rookie year, appearing in 81 games and averaging 9.3 points per game, Chievous entered the draft as Missouri's all-time leading scorer with 2,580 points.
But after his rookie season, Chievous saw a decrease in his points and minutes per game, calling it a career at the end of the 1991 season.
Chievous was a great scorer in college, but couldn't quite handle the NBA.
(Selected ahead of: Rod Strickland, Vernon Maxwell, Anthony Mason)
1989: Danny Ferry, Second Overall, Los Angeles Clippers
Are you surprised that Danny Ferry, the former Duke Blue Devil and 1989 College Player of the Year, is on this list?
Ferry, who was selected second overall in 1989 NBA Draft, was just another player who fell victim to the curse of being drafted by the ill fated Los Angeles Clippers.
Appearing in 917 Games, averaging 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 1.3 APG during his NBA career, Ferry was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ron Harper (one year after playing in Italy) after refusing to play for the Clippers (can you blame him?).
Given an extremely lucrative 10 year deal by Cleveland, Ferry was supposed to be a future Hall of Famer but hardly produced during his pro career. Ferry had his best year statistically in the 1995-96 season, when he averaged 13.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.5 blocks. Ferry had a decent career in Cleveland, but he never became the star the Cavs were hoping for based on his performances as a "Dukie."
(Selected ahead of: Sean Elliot, Glen Rice, Mookie Blaylock, Tim Hardaway, Dana Barros, Shawn Kemp, Vlade Divac)
1990: Bo Kimble, Eighth Overall, Los Angeles Clippers
Bo Kimble, taken eighth overall in the 1990 NBA draft, will always be remembered for shooting his first free throw of each game left-handed, in memory of the late Hank Gathers.
Averaging just 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game, Kimble's three-year career was plagued by injuries, but if his best friend never died of heart trouble, who knows what type of career Kimble would've had?
Maybe one worthy of the eighth overall pick in an NBA draft.
(Selected ahead of: Tyrone Hill, Elden Campbell, Toni Kukoc, Antonio Davis, Cedric Ceballos)
1991: Doug Smith, Sixth Overall, Dallas Mavericks
Doug Smith played his college basketball at the University of Missouri, where his No. 34 is retired.
Smith finished his collegiate career with 2,184 and 1,305 rebounds, but that was all the basketball success Smith would encounter.
In six seasons with the Mavs and Celtics, Smith averaged eight points and 4.2 rebounds per game. The big man never became a solid player and didn't last too long before his career ended.
(Selected ahead of: Terrell Brandon, Dale Davis, Chris Gatling)
1992: Harold Miner, 12th Overall, Miami Heat
"Baby Jordan, huh?"
Harold Miner was a two-time Slam Dunk champion (1993,1995) and undoubtedly one of the game's best dunkers, but he never lived up to the hype.
Career Statistics: 9.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
I think it's time for a new nickname.
(Selected ahead of: Latrell Sprewell, Hubert Davis, P.J. Brown)
1993: Calbert Cheaney, Sixth Overall, Washington Bullets
The 1993 NBA draft had some talented players at the top, but injuries and personal problems hurt many of them.
Chris Webber became a borderline Hall of Famer, and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, who could've been one of the best, was an incredible talent and "actor" beleaguered by injuries.
Although many of your opinions might vary, Calbert Cheaney, who was selected as the sixth overall pick by the Washington Bullets, is the biggest bust from this year's draft class.
Cheaney entered the NBA as Indiana University's All-Time leading scorer, a member of Indiana University's All-Century First Team and an Indiana University legend.
He appeared to be heading towards greatness on the next level, averaging 15 points per game during his first three years, but after being traded for Chris Webber and the NBA lockout, Cheaney spent his final seven years in the league with four different teams.
Can someone who played professionally for 13 years and made over $30 million during his time in the NBA be considered a bust?
To some maybe not, but to me, Cheaney certainly was. He never lived up to his ability, and Cheaney will always be loved more in Indiana, than in any NBA city he ever played in.
(Selected ahead of: Vin Baker, Allan Houston...What a miserable draft class.)
1994: Sharone Wright, Sixth Overall, Philadelphia 76ers
Sharone Wright's NBA career was cut-short due to a car-accident in which he suffered multiple injuries, including broken arms and a collarbone.
Wright was selected sixth overall in the draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Playing in four NBA seasons, his best year came during his rookie year with the 76ers, appearing in 79 games and averaging 11.4 points and six rebounds per game, en route to being named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
In 203 career games, he averaged 9.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 22.3 minutes per game.
I can't fault Wright for his career ending car accident, but if the 76ers could go back in time and select Donyell Marshall instead, that should say enough about the type NBA career Wright had.
(Selected ahead of: Eddie Jones, Jalen Rose, Aaron McKie)
1995: Joe Smith, First Overall, Golden State Warriors
When describing Joe Smith, the first overall pick in the 1995 draft, it's pretty simple: very good college player who never developed into an NBA star.
Smith was a huge disappointment for the Warriors, and never lived up to expectations.
Warrior fans can only wonder, how different the franchise would've been if they selected the rail-thin project out of high school.
(Selected ahead of: Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Michael Finley)
1996: Todd Fuller, 11th Overall, Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors compiled a record of 85-161 in the three consecutive seasons after they selected Joe Smith and Todd Fuller, respectively.
Fuller, drafted 11th overall in 1996 NBA draft, averaged just 3.7 points and three rebounds per game during his career. Fuller never showed promise of being much of anything, having a career high of 15 points and lasting only two seasons with the Warriors, while playing in only four seasons in the league.
(Selected ahead of: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilkgauskas)
1997: Ron Mercer, Sixth Overall, Boston Celtics
In one of the weakest draft classes in NBA history, Ron Mercer was the biggest bust of this class.
Playing in eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 13.1 points per game during his career, Mercer experienced success during his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky, but was never able to experience the same success in the NBA.
Having been an All-American and All-SEC player, and part of a national championship team in his freshman year, Mercer was never able to build a successful NBA career, and has not played in the league since the 2004-2005 season.
(Selected ahead of: Tracy McGrady, Stephen Jackson)
1998: Michael Olowokandi, First Overall, Los Angeles Clippers
Michael Olowokandi, selected as the first overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, was not only a bold choice, but was also an awful draft choice.
The Clippers were looking to improve their franchise, but simply got worse, as the "Kandi Man" turned out to be nothing more than a decent NBA center.
Olowokandi was taken before future All-Stars and a host of other great players.
Who were some of those players? Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, and Rashard Lewis.
1999: Jonathan Bender, Fifth Overall, Toronto Raptors
Coming off a McDonald's All-American Game record by scoring 31 points, all signs pointed towards Jonathan Bender being the next Kevin Garnett.
With the fifth overall pick in the 1999 draft, the Toronto Raptors selected the kid out of Picayune High School, but Bender was immediately traded to the Indiana Pacers for Antonio Davis.
Bender would be forced to retire at the age 25 due to debilitating chronic knee pain. When healthy, Bender was an exciting yet underachieving player, but never became the dominating force Garnett had imposed on the league.
(Selected ahead of: Richard Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, Manu Ginobli)
2000: Marcus Fizer, Fourth Overall, Chicago Bulls
More famous for his tattoos than a successful NBA career, Marcus Fizer was selected with the fourth pick of the 2000 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. Fizer was expected to be traded for another player, since the Bulls already had Elton Brand at the power forward position.
But the trade never happened and Fizer spent the next four years with the Bulls, never averaging more than 12.3 points per game. Fizer tore his ACL in January of 2003, basically ending his playing career.
Appearing in 289 career games, making 35 starts, and averaging 9.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.2 APG during his four-year NBA career. Fizer is the most notable NBA bust from a draft class that included players such as Jerome Moiso, Stromile Swift, Courtney Alexander, Dalibor Bargaric, Mateen Cleaves, and Chris Mihm.
(Selected ahead of: Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson, Michael Redd)
2001: Kwame Brown, First Overall, Los Angeles Lakers
Kwame Brown, selected by the Washington Wizards, holds the distinction of being the first high schooler to ever be selected first overall in an NBA Draft.
The choice to select Brown was made by basketball legend Michael Jordan, but Brown struggled to display any production or maturity in his first few years as a Wizard.
Brown has never played anywhere near well enough to justify his selection by the Wizards, and is one of the biggest busts in NBA history.
(Selected ahead of: Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, Shane Battier, Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, Tony Parker)
2002: Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Fifth Overall, Denver Nuggets
Nikoloz Tskitishvili was supposed to be the versatile seven-footer, who could do-it-all, but this was a scouting report gone terribly wrong.
If you never heard of him, don't blame yourself.
With a career average of 3.0 points and 1.8 rebounds per game over his first three seasons, Tskitishvili has given a terrible name to all foreign players wanting to make it in the NBA.
(Selected ahead of: Amar'e Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer)
2003: Darko Milicic, Second Overall, Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars chose to draft Darko Milicic as the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft.
Still on the board were Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, but instead, the Pistons drafted the little known forward out of Europe.
How'd that work out for them?
Do you really need an explanation?
2004: Rafael Araujo, Eigth Overall, Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors needed a center, and they didn't find one when they drafted Rafael Araujo with the eighth pick of the 2004 NBA draft.
Araujo finished his dreadful NBA career averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, in 139 games played.
Araujo was prime example of what happens when you draft for need instead of talent. His play on the court was atrocious, and Araujo is a perfect example of why a player should never be drafted based on a players size.
(Selected ahead of: Andre Iguodala, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West)
2005: Fran Vazquez, 11th Overall, Orlando Magic
Fran Vazquez was selected as the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NBA drafted by the Orlando Magic, and was supposed to join Dwight Howard in the front court, forming a dominant duo.
But Vazquez announced that he would remain playing in the Spanish ACB League for at least one season, and to date, has not joined the Magic.
Vazquez might be dominating abroad, but he gets my vote as the biggest "bust" in this year's draft.
(Selected ahead of: Danny Granger, David Lee)
2006: Adam Morrison, Third Overall, Charlotte Bobcats
Adam Morrison, the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft by the Charlotte Bobcats, was a dominate force while at Gonzaga, en route to being being named the 2006 USBWA College Player of the Year.
Morrison had the ability to score from anywhere on the court, and after a fantastic junior season, Morrison declared for the 2006 NBA Draft and was looked by many as a second coming of Larry Bird.
(I'm not really sure who decided that.)
But once again, executive Michael Jordan failed to realize what type of future Morrison had in this league.
During his rookie season, Morrison averaged only 11.8 points per game, but showed flashes of brilliance that made him the high draft pick.
But in his second year in the league, Morrison tore his ACL causing him to miss his entire second season.
Morrison was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2008-2009 season.
As Morrison is set to become a free agent this offseason, his NBA future is unknown, and his NBA career might be coming to an end.
(Selected ahead of: Tyrus Thomas, Rudy Gay, Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo)
2007: Greg Oden, First Overall, Portland Trail Blazers
September 14, 2007: Greg Oden has microfracuture surgery on his ailing right knee causing him to miss the entire season.
October 29, 2008: Greg Oden injures his foot against the Los Angeles Lakers causing him to miss two weeks.
February 13, 2009: Greg Oden injures his left knee in a game against the Golden State Warriors causing him to miss three weeks due to a chipped knee cap.
December 5, 2009: Greg Oden injures his left knee, is taken off the court on a stretcher, and undergoes surgery for a fractured left patella causing him to miss the rest of the season.
(Selected ahead of: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Jeff Green, Joakim Noah, Aaron Brooks, Glen Davis)
2008: Joe Alexander, Eighth Overall, Milwaukee Bucks
Joe Alexander was a great scorer and player under coaches John Beilein and Bob Huggins at West Virgina University, but he'll never make it on the NBA level.
Do you disagree with me?
Alexander was assigned to the NBDL's Fort Wayne Mad Ants on January 20, 2010, and on February 18, 2010, Alexander was traded to the Chicago Bulls.
Check back with me in about five years, and you'll see that Alexander was nothing more than an NBA player who rode the bench for his entire career.
(Selected ahead of: Brook Lopez, Jerryd Bayless, Mario Chalmers)
2009: Hasheem Thabeet, Second Overall, Memphis Grizzlies
Is it too early to call Hasheem Thabeet a bust? Nope.
Never thought he was going to be good in the NBA, and he never will be.
(Selected ahead of: James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison)