The easiest thing to do when the topic of the worst draft pick in NBA history comes up at your favorite watering hole is to shout the name of Sam Bowie above the fray.
Most people will nod their head in an agreement. How could anyone disagree that the Portland Trailblazers selection of Bowie with the second overall pick in the draft ahead of Michael Jordan in 1984 was anything but a blunder?
Well truth be told, the selection of Bowie ahead of Jordan was not the worst draft pick in the last 30 years.
Bowie never blossomed into an all—star but his lack of success was not due to lack of talent or lack of will but rather because of chronic knee injuries.
In the three seasons he was healthy, Bowie put up respectable numbers suggesting he was talented enough to average at least 15 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Despite his injuries, Bowie played in more than 500 games posting career averages of 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 blocks a game.
Bowie was a hardly the worst draft pick in the last 30 years.
Well, if Bowie wasn’t the worst pick in the last 30 years then who was the worst draft pick? Let the debate begin.
Alright, we have to have some ground rules concerning the process for crowning the worst draft pick in the last 30 years.
First, the debate is limited to players who were selected among the first top 10 picks in their draft class as very few draft classes are deeper than 10 players.
Second, players drafted pick number six or higher are given more of a pass than a player who is drafted number five or lower.
Again, the expectations for players drafted number five or lower is that the player is going to have at least a modest career in the NBA.
Third, a modest career in the NBA is defined as a career in which the player appeared in more than 500 games. If you are a big man, did you post journeyman numbers of 7.5 points and five rebounds a game? If you are a guard, did you average at least 7.5 points and two assists a game?
Fourth, we will project career numbers for players drafted in the last five years as they will not have had an opportunity to play in at least 500 games.
Finally, if a player was the number one overall pick in the draft the modest career rule does not apply.
Number 10-Ed O’Bannon, 1995, Drafted No. 9 by the New Jersey Nets.
O’Bannon played in 128 games, mostly with the Nets, averaging five points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.2 blocks a game. O’Bannon’s was a “tweener” who was not big enough to play forward and not quick enough to play as a guard. His inability to knock down the open jumper also doomed his NBA career as he shot only 37 percent from the floor and 22 percent from behind the arc.
Number Nine—Bo Kimble, 1990, Drafted No. 8 by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Everyone fell in love with Kimble’s game after the 1990 NCAA Tournament and he was a media darling after he shot free throws with his left hand in honor of his teammate Hank Gathers who had died of a heart attack.
Unfortunately, Kimble could never recreate that magic in the NBA. Kimble lasted only three years in the league, two with the Clippers and one very brief stay with the New York Knicks that lasted only nine games.
Kimble appeared in 105 games where he averaged 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists a game.
Number Eight—Joe Alexander, 2007, Drafted No. 8 by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Alexander saw limited action in his first season with Milwaukee averaging 4.7 points in 12 minutes of action. Joe had to believe that he was going to see more playing time when Richard Jefferson became a San Antonio Spur. Instead, Alexander saw the D-League and the end to the bench after being traded to the Chicago Bulls where he saw action in only eight games. If he doesn’t turn it around this season, Alexander could be moving up this list.
Number Seven—Rafael Araujo, 2004, Drafted No. 8 by the Toronto Raptors.
Araujo, who hails from San Paulo, Brazil, played his college ball at Brigham Young. Araujo had a very brief stay in the NBA as he played in the league three years averaging 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.1 blocks a game. The Raptors gave Araujo an opportunity to show what he could do in the league as the 6’11" 280 pound center started 75 out of the 111 games he appeared in for the Raptors.
Number Six—William Bedford, 1986, Drafted No. 6 by the Phoenix Suns.
After Bedford saw almost 20 minutes of playing time his rookie season, he struggled to see 10 minutes of playing time for the rest of his career. The 7’0" 225 pound big man from Memphis had trouble passing out of the post as he had more turnovers than assists in his career; Bedford averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds a game.
Number Five—Russell Cross, 1983, Drafted No. 6 by Golden State Warriors.
Very little has been written about Russell Cross and his incredibly short 45 game NBA career. Russell, a former Purdue star, appeared in 45 games for the Warriors averaging 3.7 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.5 assists.
Number Four—James Ray, 1980, Drafted No. 5 by Denver Nuggets.
James Ray spent his entire 103-game career in the NBA with the Nuggets where he averaged 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds a game. After leaving the NBA, Ray played overseas in Italy, Spain and Turkey.
Number Three—Jonathan Bender, 1999, Drafted No. 5 by the Toronto Raptors.
Jonathan Bender is the lone high school player from the United States on this list; Bender simply came to the NBA too soon as he has never truly developed into a consistent player in the league. Bender is still currently on the roster of the New York Knicks. In his career Bender is averaging 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds a game.
Number Two—Nikola Tskitishvili, 2002, Drafted No. 5 by the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets rolled the dice on Tskitishvili with the fifth overall pick and came up snake eyes. Tskitishvili played in only 172 games during his four year NBA career. Nikola posted career numbers of 2.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.3 blocks a game.
Number One—Darko Milicic, 2003, Drafted No. 2 by the Detroit Pistons.
Milicic had a decent second half of the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and given that he has not yet celebrated his 25th birthday, Darko may still yet develop into a player that averages 10 points and 10 rebounds a game. Currently, Milicic’s career averages are 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. Whatever he's is able to do with his career, Milicic will always likely be viewed as a bust given that he was drafted before perennial NBA All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
A couple of players who fell just short of making the top 10: Michael Olowokandi, Shawn Bradley, Kwame Brown, Hasheem Thabeet, Stacey King, Eric Montross and Marc Macon.
The career numbers for Olowokandi, Bradley and Brown are too good to have them make them top 10 worthy but when their respective careers are compared to other players taken first or second overall in the draft, they are clearly considered among the bottom of the barrel in the last 30 years.
The player most likely to fall out of the top 10 is Darko Milicic. Yes, he is currently number one on the list, which is due in part to how high he was drafted, and three players that Detroit passed on in drafting Darko.
The player most likely to fall into the top 10 is Hasheem Thabeet.
Oh...the pictures for the slide show were selected because the photos came up when I requested NBA Draft Lottery photos from Bleacher Report. Hey, you didn’t really think I would be able to find photos for the 10 worst draft picks in the last 30 years did you?
Let me know your thoughts on the worst draft pick.