The 25 Worst NBA Draft Picks of the Last Decade

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 14, 2011

The 25 Worst NBA Draft Picks of the Last Decade

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    The NBA draft is an opportunity for teams to drastically improve their fortunes. But sometimes, teams pick players who become huge busts, entirely failing to live up to the expectations that are heaped upon their shoulders when they are picked. 

    NBA players can become famous for quite a few reasons, and the draft is just one of them. But these players have become famous just because they were absolutely terrible picks. 

    Read on for the completely objective worst 25 picks of the last decade. 

How Draft Busts Were Determined

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    Note: This is very similar to the introduction that appeared in my previous article called "25 Biggest NBA Draft Steals of the Last 10 Years."

    What exactly can teams count on when they make a draft pick? Well, unless a team releases or trades a player, they are under the team's control after the draft for up to four years, the maximum length of a rookie contract.

    So, when looking at draft busts, we really should focus almost exclusively on the first four years of a player's career. 

    As a result, I looked at the first four years of win shares data for a player, as provided by Basketball-Reference.com. Win shares are an advanced basketball metric calculated so that one win share is exactly equal to one win provided by that player to his team's cause.

    It's the combination of offensive win shares and defensive win shares, a full breakdown of which can be found on this page, called "Calculating Win Shares."

    Starting with the year 1990, when the NBA draft first introduced the current lottery system, I looked at each player drafted into the Association, and I tracked their draft position and the amount of win shares they produced in their first four seasons in the league.

    It is important to note that I only evaluated data through the 2007 draft because the players taken in 2008-2011 have not yet played out their first four seasons in the league.

    After I had data for all 1,028 players drafted from 1990-2007, I took the average number of four-year win shares for each draft position and plotted them on a scatterplot (which you can see in the embedded picture, with draft position along the x-axis and four-year win shares along the y-axis).

    Using a best-fit logistical regression, I found the following formula:

    Four-year win shares = -5.836 * ln (draft position) + 24.537.

    For the statistically inclined out there, that equation has a coefficient of determination (r^2) of 0.91024.

    For the non-statistically inclined, the equation fits extremely well. 

    Using this formula, we can plug in a number for draft position and have the formula show how many four-year win shares a player drafted there should be expected to produce. For example, the first overall pick of a draft should produce 24.537 win shares, while the 30th overall pick should produce 4.688. 

    With that data firmly established, we can tell exactly how much players have exceeded or failed to live up to the expectations associated with the slot in which they were drafted. That can be done by subtracting the expected win shares based on the draft position from the actual number of four-year win shares that players produced.

    If the difference is positive, the player exceeded expectations by that much and was a bit of a steal. If the difference is negative, the player failed to live up to the expectations and was a bit of a bust. 

    Because I was only able to look at data from 1990-2007 and I'm trying to reveal the 25 biggest draft busts of the past decade (players drafted from 2002-2011), I've included the 25 biggest draft busts from 2002-2007 and then included five potential draft busts from the previous four drafts.

    Read on to find out just who they are—you will be surprised.  

    This project would not have been possible without the help of Shashank Bharadwaj, so I need to give some pretty massive thanks to him here.

Potential Draft Bust: Joe Alexander (No. 8 in 2008)

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    Joe Alexander was drafted eighth overall in 2008 by the Milwaukee Bucks, with whom he played 59 games during his rookie season. Starting a grand total of zero games that year, Alexander averaged a solid 4.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game.

    The next season, Alexander was with the Chicago Bulls and averaged 0.5 points, 0.6 rebounds and 0.3 assists per game during the eight games in which he appeared.

    Alexander wasn't in the NBA this past year and likely won't be whenever the next season starts.

    Through those two seasons, he accumulated 0.5 win shares. If he never plays again, with an expected four-year win share total of 12.4, he'd have a difference of -11.9. That number would place him at No. 10 on this list.  

Potential Draft Bust: Hasheem Thabeet (No. 2 in 2009)

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    Hasheem Thabeet was the highest draft pick ever to be sent down to the D-League. 

    That says it all. 

    Through two seasons, Thabeet has put up 2.3 win shares. To avoid making this list, he'd need 10 more in two more years, which doesn't seem very likely.

Potential Draft Bust: Jonny Flynn (No. 6 in 2009)

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    Jonny Flynn has been given plenty of opportunities to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, starting 81 games as a rookie and eight in his second year.

    And he's been terrible. Through the first two years of his career, the former Syracuse point guard has accumulated -1.2 win shares.

    If Flynn is going to avoid being on this list after the necessary four years of experience, he'll have to throw up seven more win shares in the next two years. 

Potential Draft Bust: Terrence Williams (No. 11 in 2009)

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    The New Jersey Nets drafted Terrence Williams out of Louisville, expecting him to continue being the stat sheet-stuffing monster he was during his collegiate days. 

    It took a little more than one season for them to give up on Williams and send him to the Houston Rockets, who might be ready to give up on him after just 11 games.

    Williams has amassed -0.9 win shares. There's a chance he gets 3.3 more in the next two seasons and avoids a future inclusion on this list, but I wouldn't bet on it. 

Potential Draft Bust: Cole Aldrich (No. 11 in 2010)

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Cole Aldrich in the lottery portion of the 2010 NBA Draft, but only used him for 18 games in his rookie season. 

    With both Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka forming a good, young frontcourt for the Thunder, I can't see Aldrich getting much playing time in the next few years unless he's traded. 

25. Robert Swift (No. 12 in 2004)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 1.7

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 10

    Difference: -8.3

     

    A seven-footer who went prep to pro, Robert Swift wasn't having the greatest start to his career before he tore his ACL and never fully recovered. Swift never averaged more than 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. 

24. Martell Webster (No. 6 in 2005)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 5.7

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 14.1

    Difference: -8.4

     

    Before Hasheem Thabeet, Martell Webster was the highest-drafted player to be sent down to the D-League.

    Once more, that says it all. 

23. Troy Bell (No. 16 in 2003)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: -0.2

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 8.4

    Difference: -8.6

     

    One of the best players in Boston College history, Troy Bell played just six games in the NBA, averaging 1.8 points, 0.7 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. 

22. Brandan Wright (No. 8 in 2007)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 3.8

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 12.4

    Difference: -8.6

     

    It's kind of sad that Brandan Wright is one of the better players on this slideshow.

    Injuries plagued Wright throughout the first four seasons of his career, but he did have one decent season in 2008-2009, averaging 8.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. 

21. Cedric Simmons (No. 15 in 2006)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0.1

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 8.7

    Difference: -8.6

     

    In five years, Cedric Simmons played just 75 games. That's even worse than a certain Ohio State Buckeye who will be appearing later in these rankings. 

20. Acie Law IV (No. 11 in 2007)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 1.6

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 10.5

    Difference: -8.9

     

    As an Atlanta Hawks fan, I was excited about this pick when Acie Law was drafted out of Texas A&M, following a stellar collegiate career.

    So far, his professional career has been anything but stellar. 

19. Marcus Haislip (No. 13 in 2002)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0.5

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 9.6

    Difference: -9.1

     

    Marcus Haislip started the final eight games of his rookie season, and then never started another game. In fact, he played in just 50 games over the next three seasons of his career.

    When he did play, though, he wasn't particularly productive. 

18. Shelden Williams (No. 5 in 2006)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 5.9

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 15.1

    Difference: -9.2 

     

    Once more, I will remind everyone that I am an Atlanta Hawks fan.

    Thank you for understanding that I don't want to write anything about Shelden Williams. 

17. Reece Gaines (No. 15 in 2003)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: -0.6

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 8.7

    Difference: -9.3

     

    You know a player was a bust when you can't find a single picture of him from Getty Images in a professional jersey, but you can find plenty of pictures of him in his college garb. 

16. Yaroslav Korolev (No. 12 in 2005)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: -0.1

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 10

    Difference: -10.1

     

    Lottery picks are supposed to play at least 70 games in their rookie seasons. 

    Yaroslav Korolev played in 34 over the course of the two seasons he spent in the NBA.

    And, as you can see from his win share numbers, he actually hurt his team more than he helped them. 

15. Fran Vazquez (No. 11 in 2005)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 10.5

    Difference: -10.5

     

    Fran Vazquez never made it across the pond after he was picked 11th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft. He's still playing in Spain, and thus he has never been on the court in America for even a single minute. 

14. Corey Brewer (No. 7 in 2007)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 2.4

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 13.2

    Difference: -10.8

     

    Corey Brewer appears to be getting a little bit better, but his career still doesn't seem to be that promising after the once-high hopes that were associated with his name.

    Brewer split time between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks last season and averaged 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. 

13. Mouhamed Sene (No. 10 in 2006)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0.3

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 11.1

    Difference: -10.8

     

    After coming to America in 2006, Mouhamed Sene has gone from fairly bad, to very bad, to despicably bad. Sene averaged 1.9 points and 1.6 rebounds per game as a rookie with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Then, he played just 19 more games for his entire career. 

12. Luke Jackson (No. 10 in 2004)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0.2

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 11.1

    Difference: -10.9

     

    In the four years he spent in the NBA, Luke Jackson played just 73 games and averaged 3.5 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game. 

11. Yi Jianlian (No. 6 in 2007)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 3.1

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 14.1

    Difference: -11

     

    Yi Jianlian has to be one of the worst No. 6 picks of all time. Maybe everyone was excited about the next big Chinese import, but expectations for Jianlian were sky-high, and he definitely failed to live up to them. 

10. Patrick O'Bryant (No. 9 in 2006)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0.5

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 11.7

    Difference: -11.2

     

    You can probably tell that it's becoming a theme on this slideshow, but Patrick O'Bryant is another player who didn't play much during his NBA career and failed to live up the expectations that went along with his draft slot as a result.

    O'Bryant played in 90 games, averaging 2.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.3 assists per game. 

9. Shaun Livingston (No. 4 in 2004)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 4.2

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 16.4

    Difference: -12.2

     

    It's a shame that Shaun Livingston had to blow out his knee on a layup gone wrong, because his career was actually getting off to a promising start.

    Livingston had already accumulated 2.4 win shares in the 2006-2007 season before he killed his knee and was on pace to avoid this list. 

8. Rafael Arajuo (No. 8 in 2004)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: -0.4

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 12.4

    Difference: -12.8

     

    Rafael Araujo helped his team during his first season (just barely, though, since he only earned 0.3 win shares).

    But as a second-year player, Araujo averaged 2.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.3 assists per game and -0.8 win shares. 

7. Andrea Bargnani (No. 1 in 2006)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 11.3

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 24.5

    Difference: -13.2

     

    Andrea Bargnani is by far the best player on this list, but he was also expected to do the most since he was the first player drafted in 2006.

    As a high-volume shooter who doesn't do much else and is nearly absent on the defensive end of the court, Bargnani doesn't really put up numbers that earn him the precious win shares. 

6. DaJuan Wagner (No. 6 in 2002)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 14.1

    Difference: -14.1

     

    As a rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers, DaJuan Wagner was fairly productive, averaging 13.4 points, 1.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.

    But he only earned 0.3 win shares that season and quickly canceled that out over the next two years before playing in just one game during his fourth NBA campaign. 

5. Darko Milicic (No. 2 in 2003)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 4.1

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 20.5

    Difference: -16.4

     

    Darko Milicic's name has become almost synonymous with the phrase "draft bust" because he was drafted in the Top Five picks of the stacked 2003 draft class along with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

    But even if you don't look at the pick in the context of the draft and evaluate it from a historical perspective, Darko is a huge bust. 

4. Nikoloz Tskitishvili (No. 5 in 2002)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: -1.6

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 15.1

    Difference: -16.7

     

    I'm not sure how Nikoloz Tskitishvili even managed to stay in the NBA for four seasons, but somehow he did.

    In the 172 games he played, the Georgian seven-footer actually managed to cost his team 1.6 wins. That's not exactly what you expect from a No. 5 pick. 

3. Greg Oden (No. 1 in 2007)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 6.8

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 24.5

    Difference: -17.7

     

    Greg Oden has technically only played in the NBA for two seasons, so he has the potential to move down on this list; because he was drafted in 2007, though, he is still technically eligible.

    When he's been on the court, Oden hasn't been too terrible. That said, he was drafted right before Kevin Durant, and that makes him hard to defend as a draft pick. 

2. Adam Morrison (No. 3 in 2006)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: -1.4

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 18.1

    Difference: -19.5

     

    I still don't feel like Adam Morrison got a fair chance in Charlotte, but such is life. His life got significantly better, though, when he won multiple rings with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    It's safe to say that the mustachioed one hasn't lived up to the Larry Bird comparisons. 

1. Jay Williams (No. 2 in 2002)

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    Actual Four-Year Win Shares: 0.8

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 20.5

    Difference: -19.7

     

    Jay Williams was showing plenty of promise after he was drafted second overall in 2002, especially once he posted a triple-double during his rookie season.

    But then the former Duke Blue Devil crashed his motorcycle and never made it back to the NBA. 

     

    Adam Fromal is a syndicated writer and featured columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, and check out his other works:

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