2011 NBA Draft Lottery: The Worst Lottery Screw-Up in Each Team's History
The NBA Draft Lottery has been around since 1985, and it is not without its critics, but there is one thing that is undeniable about the lottery: It makes the NBA draft endlessly more exciting with all of the possibilities that it brings up.
The worst team in the NBA has only won the lottery five times in 25 years, so it definitely keeps teams from tanking near the end of the year for the number one pick, plus a team as good as 11th worst in the lottery has ended up with the number one pick in the draft (the 1993 Orlando Magic), which almost instantly turned them into a contender.
Now, just because a team ends up with a lottery pick doesn't mean that they are going to end up with a good pick; in fact, it seems like there are more screw-ups in the lottery than there are great picks.
Almost every team has a borderline disaster with the draft lottery, and it is something that definitely hurts a team when they swing and miss on a high pick.
So, I have taken a look at each draft in the past 25 years and picked out the worst instance in the lottery for each team in the NBA.
Atlanta Hawks, Trading Pau Gasol
Back in 2001, the Atlanta Hawks were undertaking a rebuilding effort, and with the third pick in the draft picked Pau Gasol.
Later that day, they traded Gasol to the Memphis Grizzlies with Brevin Knight and Lorenzen Wright for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jamaal Tinsley.
Gasol would go on to win the Rookie of the Year Award, be a part of four All-Star teams, make three All-NBA teams (two third and one second) and win two championships.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, meanwhile, would go on to have two decent years with Atlanta before they traded him for Rasheed Wallace, who was of course traded to the Pistons after one game in a Hawks uniform for Chris Mills, Zeljko Rebraca, Bob Sura and a draft pick.
Boston Celtics, Len Bias
It's hard to blame the Boston Celtics for what happened with Len Bias, and I wouldn't call it a screw-up, but it was probably the biggest disaster in the history of the lottery era of the NBA draft.
As we all know, the Celtics drafted Bias with the number two pick in the 1986 draft as the heir apparent and insurance policy to Larry Bird, who was not without his injury problems in the middle of his career with the Celtics.
A day later, Bias was pronounced dead from a likely cocaine overdose which led to a cardiac arrhythmia.
It's hard to imagine the Celtics taking the downturn that they did in the mid-'90s if Bias hadn't have died or if the Celtics would have drafted another forward like Chuck Person or Ron Harper.
Charlotte Bobcats, Adam Morrison
I have a theory against ever drafting a white guy between the heights of 6'3" and 6'10", which I'm thinking about calling the Morrison Theory.
When you think about it, those restrictions take into account every great white player of the past 20 years with the exception of Larry Bird (the biggest exception to the rule), Chris Mullin and Dan Majerle.
So, when the Bobcats drafted Adam Morrison with the third pick in the 2006 draft, they completely ignored my theory (I must have forgotten to tell them).
Adam Morrison shot well under 40 percent in his year-and-a-half with the Bobcats and averaged fewer than three rebounds and two assists.
Meanwhile, they could have taken Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay to play the same position that Morrison did and nobody would be complaining.
Chicago Bulls, Trading for Tyson Chandler
Back in 2001, the Chicago Bulls were unsure of how to continue on after Michael Jordan's retirement just a few short years before.
They wanted to go after big men in the 2001 daft, trading for Tyson Chandler, who was drafted second, and drafting Eddy Curry fourth.
Curry did pretty well in his years with Chicago, and Chandler was a decent player, but the problem was who they gave up for Chandler.
Chicago traded away Elton Brand, who had just averaged 20 points a game in his first two seasons with Chicago and went on to average between 18 and 24 points for the next six years with the Clippers.
Cleveland Cavaliers, Dajuan Wagner
Dajuan Wagner wasn't the worst pick the Cavs ever made with a lottery pick (that would belong to Luke Jackson), but who he was drafted in front of makes this pick the biggest screw-up.
In 2002, the Cavs drafted Wagner sixth, just ahead of Nene and a few picks ahead of Amare Stoudemire.
Both were good in their rookie years (Stoudemire actually won the ROY Award in a weak year), but they weren't great, so it is hard to say how much either team would have helped them the following year.
They would have done better than their 17-win total of 2002-03, but not much better, which would have still garnered them a high lottery pick, leading to possibly getting LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade.
That means there is a good chance that the 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers could have boasted either the offensive machine Stoudemire or the defensive stalwart Nene alongside James, Anthony, Bosh or Wade.
Excuse me while I go sob in the corner for a few hours.
Dallas Mavericks, Randy White
With the eighth pick in the 1989 draft, the Dallas Mavericks picked Randy White, who played five years in the NBA, maxing out at 10 points and six rebounds a game.
Dallas drafted him above a painful number of players who turned into very good or great NBA players, including Nick Anderson, Mookie Blaylock, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, B.J. Armstrong, Vlade Divac and Clifford Robinson.
Any one of those guys would have helped the Mavericks build a foundation that would have helped them avoid their 1992-94 stretch where they won 24 games in two years.
Denver Nuggets, Nikoloz Tskitishvili
The Nuggets drafted Nikoloz Tskitishvili with the fifth pick in the 2002 draft, when they could have ended up with Nene (who they traded for later in the 2002 draft) and Amare Stoudemire as thier frontcourt.
Instead, they ended up with Tskitishvili, who maxed out in his rookie season averaging three points and two rebounds a game.
Detroit Pistons, Darko Milicic
Is there any surprise that this is the worst pick for the Pistons in their draft lottery history?
Sandwiched in between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in the 2003 draft, the Pistons picked Milicic, who became known as the Human Victory Cigar, only coming into the game for the Pistons when they were up big late in the game.
He did go on to become a productive player, and is a very good shot blocker at this point in his career, but he was never anything good for Detroit.
Golden State Warriors, Trading Vince Carter
I could have went with Patrick O'Bryant, I could have went with Joe Smith, I could have went with Chris Washburn or I could have went with trading away Anfernee Hardaway, but I went with Vince Carter here, and I'll tell you why.
Golden State actually traded Vince Carter twice.
Trading away the pick that would eventually be Vince Carter was a part of the terrible trade that netted the Magic Anfernee Hardaway in 1993.
Golden State traded their first-round pick in 1993, '96, '98 and '00 for Chris Webber. A year later, they traded Webber to the Bullets for Tom Gugliotta, Chris Mihm, Todd Fuller and the pick that would end up being Carter.
Then, because I suppose they couldn't stand having lottery picks in the '90s, they traded him with a bucket of cash straight up for Chris Webber.
Under the current rules and salary cap I don't think you'll find a more zany series of events.
Houston Rockets, Trading for Eddie Griffin
With the seventh pick in the 2001 draft, the New Jersey Nets drafted Eddie Griffin, and the Rockets must have seen something in the big guy from Seton hall.
They traded away Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins and Brandon Armstrong to get their hands on Griffin.
Griffin scored 1,300 points for the Rockets over two years while Jefferson and Collins went on to be big parts of the great Nets teams of the early 2000s.
Indiana Pacers, George McCloud
To the Pacers' credit, they have never made a huge mistake in the lottery era of the NBA draft; they did pass on hometown hero Larry Bird back in 1978, but that was before the lottery was created.
They picked George McCloud seventh in 1989; he went on to have a decent career as a role player with the Pacers, but there are quite a few players picked after him that would have been beneficial to the Pacers.
Tim Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Shawn Kemp and Vlade Divac were all picked after McCloud in 1989.
Los Angeles Clippers, Michael Olowokandi
The infamous number one pick for the Los Angeles Clippers back in 1998 was picked out of the University of the Pacific (who were eliminated in the first round of the NIT tournament in that season).
Olowokandi went on to peak at 12 points and nine rebounds a game for the Clippers, but injury troubles the following year led to a harsh downfall in production.
Instead of Olowokandi, the Clippers could have taken Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki or Paul Pierce.
Los Angeles Lakers, Nobody
The Lakers have only ever had one lottery pick (two if you count the trade for Kobe Bryant), which ended up being Andrew Bynum in 2005.
There was nobody drafted after Bynum in the 2005 draft who would have helped the Lakers more, so I guess I just have to take my hat off to the Lakers front office.
Memphis Grizzlies, Having the No. 2 Pick
The Grizzlies have had four number two picks in their 15-year history, and the best thing that ever came of it was three years of Mike Bibby.
Their most recent number two pick was Hasheem Thabeet, who they took despite being dismantled any time he played an NBA style center in college (see Thabeet vs. DeJuan Blair). Thabeet did nothing for the Grizzlies in the two years he was with the team.
In 2000, they drafted Stromile Swift with the number two pick, who was a monstrous shot blocker for a few seasons, but never put an offensive game to go along with the defensive game.
In 1999 they drafted Steve Francis, who they traded to Houston for what amounted to Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Brent Price and a few draft picks.
The year prior, they drafted Bibby, who gave them three good years before he was traded to the Kings.
Miami Heat, Michael Beasley
Just a few short years ago, there was actually a debate over who should be picked first in the 2008 draft, Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley.
Well, Chicago took Rose first, leaving Beasley for Miami second.
Miami took Beasley over O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Brook Lopez.
Milwaukee Bucks Trading Dirk Nowitzki
The Dallas Mavericks drafted Robert Traylor (may he rest in peace) back in 1996 with the sixth pick in the draft.
Well, a few picks later Milwaukee decided they wanted the Tractor, and traded their number nine pick for the big man. That number nine pick just so happened to go on to be the best European player in NBA history.
Nowitzki went to Dallas, turned into an offensive machine and is currently leading the team with a ferocious charge in the playoffs, while the Tractor was out of the league at age 28.
Even weirder, can you imagine Nowitzki wearing a Bucks uniform—it just seems like it would look so unnatural.
Minnesota Timberwolves, the Weird 2009 Draft
The Minnesota Timberwolves went into the 2009 draft with two lottery picks and four first-round picks in all.
Minnesota took four guards with those four picks, including three point guards, the worst of the two coming with their two lottery picks.
First, they drafted Ricky Rubio with the number five pick, who has refused to sign with Minnesota and still resides in Europe.
Next, with the sixth pick they drafted Jonny Flynn, who just had one of the most gawd-awful years in recent memory with a defensive rating of 114 and an offensive rating of 85.
What makes it all just a bit worse, Golden State drafted a point guard by the name of Stephen Curry with the pick immediately after Minnesota drafted Rubio and Flynn.
Thank the heavens for David Kahn.
New Jersey Nets, Drafting Dennis Hopson
Dennis Hopson was one of the first players compared to Michael Jordan, and was even drafted third just like the man he was compared to.
Unlike Jordan, however, he pretty much just sucked for his whole career.
The former Buckeye topped out at 15 points a game before New Jersey traded him and lasted just five years in the NBA.
New Jersey could have ended up with Reggie Williams, Scottie Pippen, Kenny Smith, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant or Reggie Miller, all of which were top-11 picks.
New Orleans Hornets, Kobe for Divac
In 1996, Kobe Bryant was a flashy kid graduating from high school and taking the NBA world by storm by declaring for the draft while Vlade Divac was coming off his least productive year in three years, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds.
Charlotte drafted Kobe with the last pick of the lottery and traded him for Divac straight up a few weeks later.
Divac went on to get fatter while Kobe did a few good things.
I think this is the only draft trade that could have kept a team from moving to a different city had it not happened, besides altering the next 15 years and at least five championships.
New York Knicks, Trading Nene
This is easily one of the worst draft-day trades in the history of the NBA, as the Knicks basically waived the white flag and killed their team for the next eight years instead of trying to stay afloat.
New York drafted Nene seventh in the 2002 draft and proceeded to trade him with Mark Jackson and Marcus Camby for Antonio McDyess and Frank Williams.
Nene and Camby are two of the best defensive centers in the NBA and Mark Jackson was a good role player for his 17-year career, while McDyess played in only 18 games for the Knicks in a year and a half before they traded him.
Oklahoma City Thunder, Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice
With the New York Knicks top pick in 1987, the Seattle Supersonics drafted a guy that went by the name of Scottie Pippen fifth in the draft.
Scottie Pippen sounded good to Seattle, but I guess Olden Polynice sounded better, so they swapped Pippen for Polynice, drafted three picks later with a few other players thrown in.
Pippen went on to be the key to the Bulls, winning six titles and becoming a Hall of Fame inductee, while Polynice spent 17 years as a role player.
Orlando Magic, Fran Vazquez
I'm guessing unless you're a hardcore Magic fan that you have never heard of this dude, which would make sense considering he has never played an NBA game.
The Magic drafted Vazquez 11th in 2005, and he then pulled a Ricky Rubio, returning to Europe, where he has been since.
Orlando would have been better off drafting Yaroslav Korolev (who was drafted 12th), who only ended up playing 34 games in the NBA.
Philadelphia 76ers, Shawn Bradley
Shawn Bradley won the WAC Player of the Year Award as a freshman in 1991, he then went on a missionary trip to Australia, not playing basketball competitively for two years, and entered the draft in 1993.
Philadelphia drafted him second, despite the fact that he hadn't played basketball in two years, despite the fact that he towered over most college players by a foot, allowing him to block any shot within three feet of him, and despite the fact that he was skinnier than Christian Bale in The Machinist.
Bradley did what he was supposed to do, blocking three shots a game for Philly, but he was clumsy, slow and couldn't score as well as they thought he could, so they traded him to New Jersey.
Philly could have drafted Anfernee Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Vin Baker, Allan Houston or Sam Cassell in his place.
Phoenix Suns, Trading Loul Deng
Back in 2004, the Phoenix Suns drafted Luol Deng with the seventh pick of the draft, then they must have realized that he played defense, so they traded him to the Bulls for Jackson Vroman and a 2005 pick that would turn into Nate Robinson.
Deng went on to become one of the best defenders in the league and a threat to drop 20 points on any given night, while Vroman played 10 games for Phoenix and Nate Robinson was traded for Kurt Thomas before playing any.
Who knows, maybe Deng's defense would have been enough to get the rest of the team to buckle down and get them over the hump in '05 or '06 when they just couldn't get past the Western Conference Finals.
Portland Trail Blazers, Greg Oden
You're lucky that 1983 wasn't a lottery year Portland, because you would have the worst lottery pick ever, instead you'll have to settle for one of the worst.
In 2007, Portland picked Greg Oden with the number one pick in the draft over Kevin Durant, which seemed defensible at the time.
Four years later, Durant has two scoring titles under his belt while Oden has two microfracture knee surgeries and a surgery to fix a fractured patella under his belt.
Sacramento Kings, Pervis Ellison
The Kings drafted Never Nervous Pervis Ellison with the number one pick of the 1989 draft and traded him a year later.
He averaged eight point and six rebounds in his rookie season and the Kings decided they had seen enough, trading him for a pile of garbage in retrospect, which amounted to Bob Hansen, Eric Leckner, Anthony Bonner, Walter Palmer and Mike Iuzzolino, with Bonner being the only one to score more than 300 points in a season for the Kings.
The '89 draft featured six other players that Sacramento could have taken that scored over 10,000 points in their career.
San Antonio Spurs, Nobody
The San Antonio Spurs have had three lottery picks in 15 years and have drafted David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Tim Duncan with those picks.
Robinson and Duncan were franchise players and Elliott was a big part of the Spurs for the 1990s, so it's hard to call him a screw-up.
San Antonio has been such a well-run franchise for the past two decades that they haven't had many chances to screw up a lottery pick.
Toronto Raptors, Rafael Araujo
The year after the Raptors drafted Chris Bosh, they ended up with the number eight pick in the NBA draft.
With that pick, they could have taken Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson or Josh Smith, but ended up with Rafael Araujo.
Iggy, Jefferson and Smith have all turned into monstrous players, while Araujo was in the league for three years.
Utah Jazz, Kris Humphries
With the 14th pick in the 2004 draft, the Utah Jazz were looking for a forward that they could put into their system, they took Kris Humphries.
Humphries averaged four points and three points for the two years he was with Utah before they traded him, and even worse, he was drafted directly before Al Jefferson, who is now on the Utah Jazz.
They could have saved themselves a lot of runaround and gotten a head start by just picking Jefferson in the first place.
Washington Wizards, Kwame Brown
Lauded by many as the biggest draft bust in NBA history, Kwame Brown was horrible for his four years with the Wizards.
The strange thing is that the guy who drafted him, Michael Jordan, may have played a part in how terrible he was.
When Jordan made a short-lived comeback from 2001 to 2003, it was reported that he made Brown cry when trying to motivate him.
It can't be a good thing when the guy that drafted you makes you cry in front of the rest of the team.
This also marks the second appearance of a Michael Jordan pick on this list, which can't mean good things for the future of the Bobcats.