I recently came across Jon Star's run down of the Top 10 Biggest Busts of All-Time.
It was an interesting read but I did not agree with the number one choice which was Sam Bowie. The question becomes: how is a draft bust measured?
Is a draft bust measured by the amount of games played?
The overall number where the player was selected?
Do injuries play a role in the career? If so, when they were able to play, and did they put up numbers?
Did they become a role player instead of a number one option?
How did they perform compared to players that were drafted ahead of him or behind him?
Were they considered a project coming into the draft?
Was there a certain amount of hype surrounding the player?
How do they compare to players drafted at the same position in years before and after?
In 1950, the first NBA draft was held. The first pick in the draft was Chuck Share out of Bowling Green. During that time, there were only 11 selections per round and it went for 12 rounds.
Share played in 596 career games averaged 8.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, on 40 percent shooting, 69.3 percent from the free throw line, and averaged 21.9 minutes per game.
The second pick in the draft was Don Rehfelt out of the University of Wisconsin averaged 7.1 points, 5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, on 37 percent shooting, 75.8 percent form the free throw line, and played 20.2 minutes per game.
Rehfelt only played 98 games in his career. Would he be considered a bust along with Share as the first two picks in the draft in 1950? What about the sixth pick of the draft? Irwin Dambrot out of the City University of New York never played a game in the NBA.
But, looking at the rest of the picks in the draft, the realization is that the numbers put up by Share and Rehfelt were similar to the remaining selections.
Only three players averaged over double digits and those were Bob Cousy the third pick who averaged 18.4 points, Larry Foust the fifth pick averaged 13.7 points, and George Yardley the seventh pick averaged 19.2 points.
In 1951, the first pick of the draft, Gene Melchiorre out of Bradley, and the third pick out of the University of Oklahoma, Marcus Freiberger, didn't appear in an NBA game.
The fourth pick, Zeke Sinicola out of Niagra, averaged 1.1 points in 12 career games, the fifth pick John McConathy out of Northwestern State University averaged 1.3 points in 11 career games, and the sixth pick of the draft averaged Ed Smith out of Harvard averaged 2.5 points in 11 career games.
The first pick in the draft, Mark Workman out of West Virginia, averaged 4.9 points and the second pick Jim Baechtold out of Eastern Kentucky University averaged 9.7 points.
Only one player in the first round of this draft averaged double digits, and that was the second pick Mel Hutchins out of Brigham Young University, who averaged 11.1 points.
1952 saw three first round selections who did not appear in the NBA, and those were Joe Dean out of Lousiana State University who was the fourth pick, Bob Stauffer was the sixth pick out of the University of Missouri, and the eighth pick Chuck Darling out of the University of Iowa.
Busts include the previously mentioned Workman, Ralph Polson out of Whitworth who averaged 3.9 points in 49 games, and Bob Lochmueller out of the University of Louisville who averaged 3.7 points in 62 games.
This time, two players were able to score in double figure in points. The first was Dick Groat, who was the third pick out of Duke, and he averaged 11.9 points and Clyde Lovellette out of the University of Kansas who averaged 17 points.
If you dig deeper though you will find that Groat played in only 26 games for his career while Lovellette played in 704 games.
Out of all the drafts the 1953 is interesting because there were only seven selections in the first round. There were two territorial picks meaning that a team can revoke its first round selection and take a player from their immediate area.
So, that meant if a team like Boston decided they wanted to take advantage of the territorial selection, they would then find a player close to Boston and make that player their selection for the draft.
Out of the selection for the draft though three averaged double figures in points, but that includes a player who only played in 29 career games in the NBA.
The busts were Jim Neal the sixth pick of the draft out of Wofford College who averaged 4.4 points in 80 games and Jim Fristsche out of Hamline University who averaged 3.9 points in 84 games.
There were nine picks in the 1954 draft. Four of the nine players averaged double figures but one only played in 85 career games.
In this draft, the bust was Jack Turner who was the eighth pick of the draft out Western Kentucky. He averaged 4.3 points in 65 games.
As the drafts went on that same theme continue to play. There would be some great players averaging double figures in points and then there would be players that hardly did anything in the NBA.
1955 was no exception, although there were only six picks in the first round. Maurice Stokes, Kenny Sears, and Ed Conlin all averaged double figures in points. While Dick Ricketts, Jim Locutoff, and Johnny Horan didn't make double digits.
Horan the sixth pick in the draft out of the University of Dayton averaged 1.8 points in 26 career games.
For the 1956 draft only one player averaged double figures. That player is in the NBA Hall of Fame and that was Bill Russell out of the University of San Francisco. Russell for his career averaged 15.1 points.
Who would be considered a bust? Hal Lear out of Temple University who played in three games for his career and could only muster 1.3 points per game. Ron Shavlik out of North Carolina State also averaged 1.3 points in his career and played in only eight career games.
Like the 1956 draft, the 1957 draft saw only one player in the draft average double figures. That was Sam Jones out of North Carolina Central University he was also the last pick of the first round which was number eight he averaged 17.7 points.
The busts of this draft averaged 1.3 points in three games and that was George Bon Salle out of the University of Illinois. Brendan McCann out of Saint Bonaventure University averaged 1.8 points in 41 career games.
Pete Brennan out of the University of North Carolina heads the list for the 1958 draft in 16 career games he averaged 2.5 points.
For the 1959 there were only six selections in the first round and the bust for that draft was the sixth pick. John Richter out of North Carolina State University averaged 4.3 points in 66 games.
It's important to note that in the draft four players averaged over double digits and the least amount of games played by a player averaging double digits was 874.
Who were the biggest busts from 1950-1959?
I'd say Irwin Dabmrot, Gene Melchiorre, Marcus Freiberger, Zeke Sinicola, John McConathy, Ed Smith, Joe Dean, Bob Stauffer, Chuck Darling, Mark Workman, Ralph Polson, Bob Lochmueller, Jim Neal, Jim Fritsche, Jack Turner, Johnny Horan, Hal Lear, Ron Shavlik, George Bon Salle, Brendan McCann, Pete Brennan, and John Richter.
In 1960 it appeared that teams were getting used to how to draft. There were only eight picks in the first round of the draft, and the only bust was Al Bunge out of the University of Maryland who never appeared in the NBA.
Though in 1961 the draft did regress back to inconsistent picks. Tom Stith the second pick in the draft out of Saint Bonaventure averaged 3.1 points in 25 games and the fifth pick Wayne Yates out of the University of Memphis averaged 1.9 points in 37 games.
The 1962 draft saw a very consistent draft in fact at the time it could be considered the best draft in NBA history in terms of the way the first round went. In fact, the only player that could be even considered a bust was the number two pick in Duke Hogue out of the University of Cincinnati who averaged 6.3 points in 65 games.
A big regression hit for the 1963 draft where four out of the eight draft picks qualified as busts.
Gerry Ward the fifth pick out of Boston College averaged 3.2 points in 169 games, Tom Hoover the sixth pick out of Villanova University averaged 3.5 points in 100 games, Roger Strickland the seventh pick out of Jacksonville University averaged 2 points in one game, and Bill Green out of Colorado State University didn't play in the NBA.
For the 1964 draft it saw a little bit better results than the previous draft. Only two out of the seven picks would qualify as a bust. Gary Bradds the third pick out of Ohio State who averaged 3.3 points in 44 games and Barry Kramer the sixth pick out of New York University averaged 3.6 points in 52 games.
In 1965, the drafting was much better out of the eight picks only two were busts for the first round. The seventh pick Nate Bowman out of Wichita State averaged 2.9 points in 243 games and the eighth pick Ollie Johnson out of the University of San Francisco who did not appear in a NBA game.
A continued improvement was seen in the 1966 draft which had a total of 10 picks in the first round. Only one would be considered a bust in this draft and that was the 10th pick of the draft Schellhase who averaged 2.8 points in 73 games.
After the improvement you would think that there would be a chance of at least having the same amount of success as the previous draft, but instead a major regression took place for the 1967 draft. Out of the 12 picks, half of them would be considered busts.
The fourth pick, Sonny Dove out of Saint Johns University, averaged 3.1 points in 57 games, the eighth pick, Tom Workman out of Seattle University, who averaged 2.5 points in 43 games, Dave Lattin the 10th pick out of the University of Texas El-Paso who averaged 4.5 points in 112 games, Mal Graham the 11th pick out of New York University who averaged 4.7 points in 70 games, and Craig Raymond out of Brigham Young University who averaged 2.5 points in 27 games.
There was a tremendous improvement in the 1968 draft out of the 14 players selected only one was a bust. That was Bill Hosket out of Ohio State University who was selected number 10 he averaged 4 points in 143 games.
For 1969 there were 15 selections and only two players considered busts. Terry Driscoll who was the fourth pick in the draft out of Boston College averaged 4.2 points in 244 games and Bud Ogden the 13th pick out of Santa Clara University averaged 3.5 points in 74 games.
The busts from 1960-1969: Al Bunge, Tom Stith, Wayne Yates, Gerry Ward, Tom Hoover, Roger Strickland, Bill Green, Gary Bradds, Barry Kramer, Nate Bowman, Ollie Johnson, Dave Schellhase, Sonny Dove, Tom Workman, Mel Daniels, Dave Lattin, Mal Graham, Craig Raymond, Bill Hosket, Terry Driscoll, and Bud Ogden.
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