Atlanta Hawks: 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks Since 1990

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2012

Atlanta Hawks: 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks Since 1990

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    The Atlanta Hawks have been a fairly inept franchise when it comes to making good choices on draft day. 

    It was tough to cut the list of bad draft picks since 1990 down to just 10, but I had to for my own sanity. 

    Looking at the title picture, it's pretty clear that Al Horford isn't going to be featured in any of these slides.

    But will Acie Law or Marvin Williams?

    In this purely objective look at draft picks' value, you'll have to read on to find out. 

How Draft Value Was Determined

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    First of all, 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 which is the maximum length of a rookie contract. When looking at draft steals, we 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 and every single player drafted into The Association, tracking 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.

    Moreover, players who were drafted by one team and immediately traded to another were considered as drafted by the team who wound up with their services. 

    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. 

    Let's look at Monta Ellis, a player commonly referred to as a draft steal, for an example.  

    Ellis was drafted 40th overall, so he should have been expected to produce 3.08 four year win shares. The shooting guard actually produced 13.7 over the first four years of his career, meaning that the Golden State Warriors "stole" 10.69 four year win shares when they drafted him. This was still a great pick, there's no denying that. It's just not as great as quite a few players drafted ahead of him.

    It's important to realize exactly what we're looking at. As some of you may have realized, even No. 1 picks may be considered steals.

    Because I was only able to look at data from 1990-2007 as the last four draft classes haven't yet played out their fourth seasons in the league, players drafted in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 have to be excluded from this list.  

10. Rodney Monroe (No. 30 in 1991)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: -0.2

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 4.7

    Difference: -4.9 

    Rodney Monroe played in just 38 games for the Atlanta Hawks during the 2001-2002 season, totaling only 313 minutes played in his entire career. 

    The player who was once nicknamed "Fire and Ice" went on to play in some foreign leagues, ending his NBA career with averages of 3.4 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. 

9. Priest Lauderdale (No. 28 in 1996)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: -0.8

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 5.1

    Difference: -5.9 

    Before he became a journeyman in leagues other than the NBA, Priest Lauderdale made a negative impact on two teams at the NBA level. 

    The Atlanta Hawks drafted him out of Central State in 1996 and the 7'4" center played 35 games for them. Without ever starting a game, Lauderdale averaged just 3.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. 

    After the season, he was traded to the Denver Nuggets for Efthimi Rentzias and a second-round draft pick in the 2000 NBA draft that turned into Hanno Mottola. Lauderdale played in 39 games for his new team, averaging 3.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest while playing a few more minutes per game than he did during his rookie season. 

    Lauderdale was done in the NBA after "earning" -0.2 win shares with the Hawks and -0.6 with the Nuggets. 

8. Cal Bowdler (No. 17 in 1999)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: 1.8

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 8.0

    Difference: -6.2

    The forward from Old Dominion was nearly taken in the lottery of the 1999 NBA draft, but he only lasted in the NBA for three seasons before he ventured overseas and played basketball for three more seasons. 

    All of his time in The Association was spent with the Atlanta Hawks, the team with which he played 142 games with nary a start. 

    When he left the NBA for good, Bowdler did so with career averages of 3.0 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. 

7. Ed Gray (No. 22 in 1997)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: 0.1

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 6.5

    Difference: -6.4 

    A former Pac-12 Player of the Year for California, Ed Gray flamed out in the NBA thanks to inconsistency, a low level of production, injury and off-court trouble. 

    The 6' 3" guard played in 30 games and started three during each of his two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. 

    While his rookie season was decent, Gray averaged 7.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game while accumulating 0.8 win shares, his second year was anything but. 

6. Rumeal Robinson (No. 10 in 1990)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: 4.6

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 11.1

    Difference: -6.5

    During his six year NBA career, Rumeal Robinson managed to play for six different teams (seven if you include the Portland Trail Blazers twice). His first two years out of Michigan were spent with the Atlanta Hawks and he didn't do too much to justify being picked at No. 10 in the 1990 NBA draft. 

    As a rookie, the point guard started 16 games and finished the season averaging 5.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He broke out a little bit during his second campaign as he averaged 13.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per contest, but the Hawks still decided to trade him to the New Jersey Nets for Mookie Blaylock and Roy Hinson. 

    Robinson's production declined during each of the next two seasons and he never regained his form. 

5. Roshown McLeod (No. 20 in 1998)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: 0.2

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 7.1

    Difference: -6.9 

    Roshown McLeod had to suffer through an unfortunate end to a too-short NBA career. Take it from the man himself: 

    "I had a tough time dealing with the way my NBA career ended due to injury.  I had a pinched nerve in my knee which caused me to have a drop foot.  I continued to try and play but my leg kept going numb. I eventually ruptured my Achilles tendon by over compensating.  I then figured out that if I was going to be happy in basketball, I'd have to figure out another way to apply myself.  So, I started coaching to get back in the game.  Basketball has given me a lot and hopefully in the future somebody may want to bring me on their staff.  I'd like to find a program that I could help, using my personality."

    It's unlucky that McLoed has to end up on a list like this, but I can't objectively leave him out after he averaged just 7.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game during his three year career. 

4. Doug Edwards (No. 15 in 1993)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: 0.2

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 8.7

    Difference: -8.5 

    When you earn the nickname Doughboy during your NBA career, chances are you're a bust. Such is the case for Doug Edwards, a former Kansas State Wildcat who almost snuck his way into the lottery of the 1993 NBA draft. 

    Edwards lasted in the NBA for just three seasons, playing 54 games with the Atlanta Hawks over two years and 31 with the Vancouver Grizzlies

    He hung up the sneakers with career averages of 2.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. 

3. DerMarr Johnson (No. 6 in 2000)

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    Actual Four Year-Win Shares: 5.3

    Expected Four-Year Win Shares: 14.1

    Difference: -8.8

    If you ever see that an NBA player was drafted in the 2000 NBA draft, just save yourself the trouble and assume that he didn't work out for his team. 

    DerMarr Johnson played two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks to start his career before he broke his neck in a car accident and was nearly paralyzed. After sitting out a season and rehabbing, Johnson re-entered the league but was never able to live up to his massive potential. 

    He ended the four year window in question with averages of 6.7 points, 2.5 rebounds an 1.0 assists per game. 

2. Acie Law (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 

    The first Texas A&M Aggie of any sport to have his jersey hung from the rafters, Acie Law was supposed to bring his sharp-shooting ways to the next level. 

    He didn't; but instead left them behind in College Station. 

    Law played the first two seasons of his career with the Atlanta Hawks, averaging only 3.6 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as a reward to the team that wasted a lottery pick on him. 

    The Hawks traded him to the Golden State Warriors before the start of his third season, and he didn't stick around there long either. 

    Quite frankly, I'm surprised that Law even managed to earn 1.6 win shares in his four year career. 

1. 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 

    This one is fresh enough that it's still painful to this Atlanta Hawks fan. 

    Shelden Williams was absolutely dominant for the Duke Blue Devils, dominant enough that he was drafted at No. 5 in the 2006 NBA draft. 

    The Landlord quickly fell apart though, lasting less than two seasons with the Hawks before they dealt him to the Sacramento Kings

    Over the course of his first four seasons in the league, Williams averaged only 4.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.