B/R NBA Staff: The 7 Biggest Draft Busts Since 2010 Not Named Anthony Bennett

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2020

B/R NBA Staff: The 7 Biggest Draft Busts Since 2010 Not Named Anthony Bennett

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    A handful of names are synonymous with "NBA draft bust." When you limit that field to 2010 through today, one name, in particular, comes to mind. 

    We're leaving that guy out of it. 

    After looking at recent draft steals (including a certain "King steal" who really got folks heated and debating in the B/R app), Bleacher Report's NBA writers were asked to break down seven of the league's biggest draft busts over the last 10 years. 

    Writers were asked to avoid the big bust of the 2010s, and in return, they hit us with some names we bet you've already forgotten. 

    Bill Wennington, three-time NBA champion from the Chicago Bulls' second three-peat, joins “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” to discuss his recollections about Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA, MJ as a teammate, coach Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman as a player, teammate and friend, and whether the Bulls could have won a fourth consecutive title had the team stayed together.

Pick No. 10 (2011): Jimmer Fredette

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    One of the best college basketball players of the decade, Jimmer Fredette was taken No. 10 overall in 2011 (acquired by Sacramento Kings via trade), just before eventual All-Stars Klay Thompson (No. 11), Kawhi Leonard (No. 15) and Nikola Vucevic (No. 16). 

    Fredette was unbelievably polarizing out of BYU given his historic numbers, exciting style and suspect physical profile.

    "Some people really like me. Some people don't like me at all," he told me for NBADraft.net before the 2011 draft.

    As a senior at BYU, he averaged 28.9 points and 4.3 assists with a super-efficient 59.4 true shooting percentage. He put up 43 points in January against a Kawhi-led San Diego State team before carrying BYU to a pair of NCAA tournament wins.

    But he also stood 6'2" while lacking quickness, athleticism and point guard instincts. 

    It turns out the skeptics were right. Nothing translated for Fredette outside of shooting, and his jumper wasn't enough to compensate for his inability to create, separate or defend. Since he was bought out by Sacramento, he has worn four more NBA jerseys, never topping his rookie scoring average of 7.6 points per game. 

    Fredette has had success overseas, particularly in China, where he averaged over 36 points in three straight seasons from 2016-19. He's now one of the best shooters in Greece and a productive, efficient role player with Panathinaikos in Euroleague, widely considered the second-best league in the world. 

    Jonathan Wasserman

No. 2 Pick (2011): Derrick Williams

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    After blitzing the Pac-12, becoming a consensus All-American and leading Arizona to the Elite Eight, Derrick Williams seemed an obvious choice to go second overall in the 2011 draft.

    It made sense on a personnel level, too. Combining his athleticism and versatility with the floor-spacing capabilities of Kevin Love and the passing wizardry of Ricky Rubio made the Minnesota Timberwolves seem like a future force to be reckoned with. 

    As you can probably guess from Williams' placement on this list, it didn't work out too well for either side.

    After shooting 56.8 percent from three on nearly two attempts per game during his sophomore season at Arizona, Williams' jumper disappeared in the NBA. He never made more than 33.2 percent of his three-pointers in seven seasons, and while lacking a shot still isn't necessarily life or death in the league, he couldn't maintain his staggering two-point efficiency in the pros, either. Only once did he record an effective field-goal percentage over 50 percent.

    Williams spent two full seasons with Minnesota before he was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Luc Mbah a Moute in 2013. After that trade, the forward played for three additional teams over the next three seasons before going to play in China. He returned to the NBA for a brief two-game stint with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017-18, but he was unable to stick and has since played in Germany and Turkey.

    Mandela Namaste

No. 6 Pick (2011): Jan Vesely

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    A year after drafting franchise point guard John Wall, the Washington Wizards were looking for a star to pair with him while picking No. 6 overall in 2011.

    Vesely was a 6'11" athlete who could throw down incredible dunks, although the rest of his game was pretty raw. That became obvious right away as he rarely drifted out of the paint or attempted a shot outside of 10 feet. He was a career 40.8 percent free-throw shooter, and he created spacing issues for Wall when paired with JaVale McGee in the Wizards frontcourt.

    In 162 NBA games, Vesely never made a three-pointer, attempting just two in his three seasons. He was completely reliant on others to set up his shots and carried a measly career assist percentage of 6.0 percent.

    ESPN's Jay Bilas said right before Vesely was selected that "there's been a lot of speculation they might pick up Kawhi Leonard," the now two-time NBA Finals MVP who was chosen 15th overall.

    Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Tobias Harris, Isaiah Thomas and Nikola Vucevic were all still on the board when the Wizards picked since the 2011 draft was full of future All-Stars and quality starters.

    While Vesely has gone on to have a successful career in Euroleague, his time in Washington—and later with the Denver Nuggets—was a complete failure.

    Greg Swartz

No. 5 Pick (2012): Thomas Robinson

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    After waiting his turn behind the Morris twins at Kansas for two seasons, Thomas Robinson seized opportunity's knock as a junior. He was the best player—by stats and the eye test—on a Jayhawks team that won 32 games before losing the national championship to Anthony Davis' Kentucky Wildcats.

    Robinson's seasoning, athleticism and build seemingly propped up his floor. His limited exposure at Kansas and budding offensive game appeared to heighten his ceiling. That sweet spot between safety and upside convinced the Sacramento Kings he was worthy of 2012's fifth overall pick.

    The Kings bailed on Robinson the following February, and he started swapping jerseys like he was trying to keep up with a fashion trend. He played for six different teams across five NBA seasons. He only started 12 of his 313 games, in which he averaged just 4.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per night.

    He was never afforded a rhythm, but he also didn't force teams to grant him a bigger role. He was a non-shooter at a time when the league started leaning heavily toward stretch 4s. Moving him to the 5 exposed defenses since he was never much of a shot-blocker. He was a 50.5 percent free-throw shooter who fouled too much (4.7 per 36 minutes) and committed too many turnovers in a narrow role (2.7 per 36 minutes).

    His last NBA appearance came in April 2017, and he has played in Russia, China and the G League since.

    Among the 43 players drafted fifth overall between 1970 and 2012, Robinson produced the fifth-fewest win shares. Adding insult to insult, five-time All-Star Damian Lillard was drafted with the very next pick.

    Zach Buckley

No. 3 Pick (2015): Jahlil Okafor

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    Had Jahlil Okafor been drafted with the third overall pick in 2005 instead of 2015, he wouldn't be on this list of busts. Instead, he stands out as the near-perfect example of the evolving NBA.

    Okafor came into the league from Duke as an elite, traditional center. He has great hands and a strong inside/around-the-basket game. While he's not quite a 7-footer, at worst, he should have had an Al Jefferson-like career.

    Instead, Okafor didn't last with the Philadelphia 76ers despite averaging 17.5 points per game as a rookie. He's spent the past couple of seasons on minimum contracts with the New Orleans Pelicans. What's missing from his game, which has become a near-requirement in the modern NBA, is an outside shot.

    He doesn't have the true size of Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic. He doesn't have anything close to Jokic's passing game. He also doesn't offer much defensively. He's not versatile enough to guard multiple positions, so switching onto guards is a problem. As a rookie, he blocked 1.2 shots per game, but that's a career high he hasn't touched since.

    The NBA has evolved over the past decade, going away from traditional big men. A few outliers remain, but Okafor just isn't at the same level.

    His selection at No. 3 makes it worse considering Embiid was picked at the same number a year earlier (also by Philadelphia). Gobert was a steal at No. 27 in 2013 (by the Utah Jazz via a draft-day trade), as was Jokic at No. 41 in 2014 (by the Denver Nuggets). 

    Eric Pincus

No. 4 Pick (2016): Dragan Bender

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    It may be a bit premature to throw out terms like "bust" for a 22-year-old, but indications that the Phoenix Suns invested too much in Dragan Bender are readily apparent. 

    The 2016 fourth overall pick may have become a victim of his draft status and the performance of 2015 fourth overall pick Kristaps Porzingis more so than his own play. After all, DraftExpress' Mike Schmitz and Jonathan Givony cautioned us from the very beginning that Bender's game would translate a bit slower than Porzingis'. 

    "Dragan Bender is not the next Kristaps Porzingis, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that," Schmitz wrote. He and Derek Bodner also added, "Despite showing a high base on a diverse set of skills, it could be a couple of years before Bender turns that into consistent production at the NBA level."

    Now in his fourth season, Bender has shown an overall lack of aggression on both ends. In his rookie year, he took more than five shots just seven times despite playing in 43 games. In 2017-18, he took 10 shots or more just eight times in 82 tries.

    The opportunities were there. The Suns managed just 64 wins across his three seasons, almost begging him to take as many shots as he pleased. 

    "He's just a little too timid sometimes. He just wouldn't attack the basket or shoot when we want him to all the time. He's a great shooter, but we got to tell him to shoot the ball sometimes," teammate Josh Jackson said in 2018. 

    Phoenix declined Bender's option for the 2019-20 season. With the Milwaukee Bucks, he suited up just seven times before he was relegated to the G League. The Golden State Warriors then signed him to a 10-day contract, and he showed glimpses of promise, including a 23-point performance before the season was suspended.

    Bender may ultimately find a place on a 15-man roster, maybe even earning time as a meaningful rotation player, but it's beyond improbable he'll bounce back to justify Phoenix's initial investment.

    Preston Ellis

No. 4 Pick (2017): Josh Jackson

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    Josh Jackson was the top recruit in his high-school class, per 247Sports, and the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft after his freshman season at Kansas.

    There were concerns about Jackson leading up to the draft, stemming from an incident during his lone year in college in which he and a teammate allegedly vandalized the car of the teammate's ex-girlfriend.

    Jackson had a promising rookie season for the Phoenix Suns but took a step back in his second campaign and was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies last summer. The Grizzlies viewed him as a reclamation project, and he spent most of the 2019-20 season in the G League—and was at one point suspended by the Memphis Hustle for violating team policy.

    He was in the process of rehabilitating his on-court reputation with a strong stretch of play when the season was suspended, but he still has a long way to go before shaking the bust perception.

    Sean Highkin


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