15 Biggest NBA Draft Busts of All Time
As the next NBA draft rolls around, there most assuredly will be a team or two that misses the boat completely. It happens.
Every GM, coach and fan's biggest fear with a high draft pick is that management will lay an egg and doom their franchise for years to come.
Not every team can draft Michael Jordan. Although hindsight is 20-20, many of the picks on this list, even at the time, drew a collective "WHAT?!?"
So here we have it, the biggest eggs laid in NBA draft history. It's hard to believe that what seemed like such a sure thing on draft day could for whatever reason turn into a disastrous pick that is mocked for years and years.
15. Joe Barry Carroll: Golden State Warriors (No. 1, 1980)
Joe Barry Carroll actually had a nice NBA career. He even made an All-Star team once.
However, he had to be on this list. The Warriors traded Robert Parish and the No. 3 pick in the draft to move up two spots for Carroll. That third pick turned out to be Kevin McHale.
Any time two Hall of Famers get traded to acquire a first overall pick, that warrants draft bust status.
Carroll acquired the nickname, "Joe Barely Cares" during his tenure in the Bay, often declining interviews and playing with a nonchalant demeanor.
His Warriors didn't win a whole lot during his six seasons, while the Celtics brought home some serious hardware.
Selected before: Kevin McHale
14. Joe Alexander: Milwaukee Bucks (No. 8, 2008)
If you're drafted eighth overall, you had better score more than 282 points in your NBA career.
Alexander was pegged as the best athlete in the 2008 draft coming out of West Virginia. He had unparalleled leaping ability and a lethal jump shot.
Absolutely none of that translated into the NBA.
The 6'8" swingman managed to last two uninspiring seasons in the NBA before fading into the abyss. TWO.
Just about every other player taken behind him in the first round has already managed to at least carve out a solid niche for themselves, but not Alexander. He was just plain awful
Selected before: Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum
13. Hasheem Thabeet: Memphis Grizzlies (No. 2, 2009)
Thabeet was heralded as the next Dikembe Mutombo. If he wasn't still so young, he might find himself higher on this list.
After a nice career at UConn, Memphis took a chance on Thabeet thinking he would continue to develop into a star. At 7'3" he was able to have his way with anyone and everyone at the college level...except for DeJuan Blair.
Thabeet has proven to be a worthy shot-blocker in his short career and still stands to improve overall. He has yet to receive hefty minutes to prove himself.
However, Memphis sported an anemic offense at the time and bypassed much more capable players with the second pick. They already had Marc Gasol as their future center, so this turned out to be a wasted pick. Thabeet was traded after a season-and-a-half in Memphis.
Selected before: James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry
12. Marvin Williams: Atlanta Hawks (No. 2, 2005)
Surprisingly leaving North Carolina after his freshman season, Williams was deemed to have the most potential out of the 2005 draft.
After seven years, it is safe to say that his potential will always remain strictly potential.
Williams was a solid producer for years for the Hawks, but he never developed into the star he was supposed to be. Perhaps he left college too early, as he has carved out his place in this league as nothing more than a role player.
Even at North Carolina, he did not exhibit the kind of skills that would be warranted of a second overall draft pick. Even worse, Atlanta skipped over some franchise-changing talents for his services.
Selected before: Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum
11. Shawn Bradley: Philadelphia 76ers (No. 2, 1993)
What a glass of milk is to Oreo cookies is exactly what Shawn Bradley was to the NBA.
In other words, Bradley got dunked on far more than he would have liked.
Quite possibly the biggest draft bust on this list, (literally), Philly took the 7'6" monster to be its defensive anchor. If he hadn't been as thin as a rail, that might have worked.
Bradley's blocked shots did not outweigh all the times he got put on a poster. He did average over three blocks per game in his two-and-a-half years in Philly and averaged 2.5 for his career. It still didn't make up for the dunks.
Philly thought it was getting a franchise cornerstone in the paint and instead got a human poster who turned the league into a game of who could dunk on him the hardest.
Did I mention he got dunked on a lot?
Selected before: Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Allan Houston
10. Jay Williams: Chicago Bulls (No. 2, 2002)
Jay Williams came into the NBA draft as a can't-miss point guard prospect.
After a stellar career at Duke, he was widely regarded as the best player in the country. Along with Yao Ming, he was the cream of the crop in an underwhelming 2002 draft.
The Bulls took him second overall, and he gave them a solid rookie season. Ultimately, his career was cut short when he crashed his motorcycle, severing a nerve in his leg and shredding three knee ligaments, including his ACL. Rehab proved unsuccessful, and he hasn't stepped on the court since.
Chicago moved on quickly, drafting Kirk Hinrich in the next draft. They did not have to pay Williams anything remaining on his deal since he was violating his contract by riding a motorcycle.
One boneheaded decision sent Williams from superstar prospect to draft day debacle.
Selected before: Amar'e Stoudemire, Caron Butler
9. Robert Traylor: Milwaukee Bucks (No. 6, 1998)
Traylor was actually drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1998 before being the main piece in what would go down as one of the worst trades in draft day history.
Dallas traded Traylor to the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 9 pick and the No. 19 pick, which was used to select Pat Garrity.
The No. 9 pick? It turned out to be Dirk Nowitzki.
Traylor went on to have an unheralded career as an NBA journeyman while Nowitzki went on to lead his team to the 2011 NBA title. He also won an MVP back in 2007 and will go down as likely the greatest European basketball player ever. He is also the barometer for which every top 7-foot European prospect is compared to, even though they usually turn out to be busts.
The bottom line is: Nowitzki blossomed into a superstar. He has averaged 22.6 points per game over the course of his illustrious career that will land him in the Hall of Fame. In stark contrast, Traylor's career high for points scored in a game was 22.
Sadly, Traylor passed away of an unexpected heart attack in 2011. He was 34 years old.
Selected before: Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce
8. Chris Washburn: Golden State Warriors (No. 3, 1986)
The 1986 draft was one filled with controversial figures.
Four of the top 10 players selected that year that led to huge problems. No. 2 pick Len Bias died of an overdose two days after the draft, with fellow top picks William Bedford (No. 6) and Roy Tarpley (No. 7) not lasting long in the league due to drugs either.
Washburn was right up there with him. After getting caught stealing a stereo while enrolled at NC State, as well as being known for having no work ethic, Golden State still deemed him too good to pass up with the third pick.
The '86 draft did not produce very many great players at all, so in that aspect it was not the worst year to swing and miss on a high draft pick.
In three years, he failed three drug tests and was subsequently banned from the NBA for life. He scored 222 points total in his disastrous NBA tenure.
Selected before: Ron Harper, John Salley, Dell Curry, Arvydas Sabonis
7. Adam Morrison: Charlotte Bobcats (No. 3, 2006)
Morrison came out of Gonzaga as the most prolific scorer in the draft. He averaged 28 points per game during his junior season.
Sadly, he left all that scoring ability out in Spokane.
In that stellar junior season, Morrison scored roughly 300 points less than he did during his entire NBA career. After a promising rookie season, he tore his ACL in a preseason game after being crossed up by Luke Walton of all people. He played poorly upon returning before being shipped to the Lakers where he won two rings as a benchwarmer and was never heard from again.
Morrison was Michael Jordan's first draft pick as the head honcho in Charlotte. Needless to say, he whiffed on that one much like he did during his baseball career.
A once highly regarded scorer only was able to churn out 37 percent shooting during his underwhelming stint in the league. Adam Morrison fell flat on his face upon entering the NBA.
Selected before: Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo
6. Kwame Brown: Washington Wizards (No. 1, 2001)
Had Kwame Brown not still been playing in the NBA 12 years after being inexplicably drafted first overall, he'd be higher on this list. The 2001 draft was also terrible at the time, but as a No. 1 pick, more is expected of you than a career average of 6.6 points per game.
Michael Jordan's first draft pick did not even remotely live up to the hype. At seven feet tall, Kwame can barely palm a basketball.
His immaturity and lack of fundamental basketball skills plagued him early in his career. He was drafted on potential instead of actual talent, which just goes to show that not any 7-footer can develop into a superstar.
After three seasons in Washington, Brown was truly starting to improve before rejecting a $30 million contract offer to test free agency. He then suffered through an injury-plagued fourth season before being dealt to the Lakers for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins...which in hindsight looked like a ridiculously bad trade for L.A.
Despite the Lakers' faith, he did not produce for them either. His career has not gone without controversy, as he has gone through a 2007 arrest, a rape accusation, and an incident where he threw a cake at a fan...yep.
Apparently, Brown meant to throw the cake at teammate Ronny Turiaf. I guess his small hands backfired on him once again.
Selected before: Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph
5. LaRue Martin: Portland Trail Blazers (No. 1, 1972)
Martin likely had the least productive career of all first overall draft picks. He averaged a measly 5.3 points per game over his four-year career.
He is not higher on this list because the 1972 draft was nothing to write home about. Despite the lack of talent, there were better options than drafting a 208-pound center out of Loyola University.
Martin shot an abysmal 41.6 percent from the floor despite being a 7-footer. He blocked half a shot per game and couldn't even crack the starting lineup. He is a bust in every sense of the word.
Selected before: Bob McAdoo, Julius Erving
4. Greg Oden: Portland Trail Blazers (No. 1, 2007)
Heading into the 2007 draft, there was much debate over who should be selected first: Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Nobody blamed Portland for going with Oden.
Hindsight is 20-20. No one is surprised at the type of player Durant has turned into, but Oden was deemed a once-in-a-generation-type talent at the center position, and rightfully so. Scouts had been raving about him since his early days in high school.
One knee injury after another resulted in Oden being out of the league, though he has full intentions of making a comeback next season. His bust status is 100 percent related to injuries. In what little court time he saw, he was showing very loud signs of turning into an absolute beast.
Since entering the national spotlight, he has yet to be fully healthy. Even in his one season at Ohio State, he had a broken hand. He played through it and dominated everyone left-handed because he was just that good.
Although he displayed immense potential, Oden did incite controversy over a nude photograph he took of himself and his love of alcohol. He clearly was bored during years of rehabilitation.
Chalk this one up to Portland just being snake-bitten in terms of drafting centers.
Selected before: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah
3. Michael Olowokandi: Los Angeles Clippers (No. 1, 1998)
Olowokandi was a 7-foot project out of the University of Pacific. Drafting him first overall was never a good idea.
Even worse, Michael Olowokandi did not begin playing organized basketball until the age of 18. No, that is not a typo.
Over 10 uninspiring seasons with the Clippers, Timberwolves and Celtics, he averaged a mediocre 8.3 points per game. He cracked 45 percent shooting once in his 10 seasons.
The Kandi Man developed into a solid shot-blocker, but as a first overall pick he was a disaster.
Selected before: Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce
2. Darko Milicic: Detroit Pistons (No. 2, 2003)
For this one, I blame the scouts and general managers. Every 7-foot European prospect gets pegged as the next Dirk Nowitzki, and none of them have come even remotely close to Dirk's status.
Milicic never should've been selected this high. Even at the time it was blasphemous.
By now, everyone knows who else was taken along with him in the top five. Detroit was more in a position to be drafting for need, as it was one of the absolute best teams in the league at the time. Milicic was drafted to be groomed for the future, as he was barely 18 when they selected him.
Detroit went on to win a title in his rookie season even though he played sparingly. Maybe if he was drafted into a different position he would have thrived, but nothing he has showed in his NBA career has given off that impression.
Milicic looks inept when he is on the court. Although he has managed to hang around for 10 seasons, he has never even shown glimpses of what made him a No. 2 draft pick. Six points per game over his career when compared to the players selected around him looks horrible.
1. Sam Bowie: Portland Trail Blazers (No. 2, 1984)
Sorry, Portland. Maybe you should just stop drafting centers.
Bowie missed two full seasons at Kentucky after suffering stress fractures in his legs.
Whatever, he was 7'1", what could go wrong?
Everything. Bowie was only able to manage 139 games in five years with Portland before salvaging a bit of hope during a solid four years with the Nets.
Oh yeah, some guy named Michael Jordan was drafted third overall that year, one pick after him. Combined with the injuries, that is more than enough to make him the biggest draft bust of all time.
Bowie was just one of a collection of Blazers big men who failed to reach their potential. At the time, Portland was fixated on drafting a center, as it was already a great team having won 48 games the previous season.
Bowie was supposed to be the final piece to the puzzle. The roster was already stacked with talent from the likes of Clyde Drexler, Mychal Thompson, Kiki Vandeweghe and Jerome Kersey. Bowie's downfall destroyed title hopes for this squad.
The icing on the cake is that Portland lost a coin toss for the first pick in the draft that year. Who went No. 1?
Hakeem Olajuwon. End of story.
Selected before: Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton