NBA Draft 2011: Top 32 Draft Busts of the Last Decade
NBA general managers take note: The following Bleacher Report opinion piece may be detrimental to your well-being. Take all precautions before proceeding.
If at any time during the reading of this article you begin to experience sweaty palms, nausea or dizziness, take several deep breaths and remind yourself that the mistakes listed below were either someone else’s gaffe or are so far in your past that you’ve managed to hold on to your position as one of the league’s 32 top decision-makers.
Just don‘t make the same mistake twice.
And so, until tomorrow, you can laugh at reading about the worst 32 draft selections of the past 10 years. We probably could field a list of 100 bonehead moves that didn’t pan out, but since lunch breaks only last an hour, we decided to limit the qualified candidates.
For the rest of you fans, the ones who love to analyze every minute detail about prospects, feel free to write in to say “I told you so” about No. 20 or “That other guy would have been a perennial All-Star if he hadn’t fallen off a motorcycle while riding without a helmet.”
All kidding aside, being a GM in the NBA and coming up with the pick who will lead your team to the promised postseason championship land of tomorrow is not as easy as it looks. As you’ll see from this list of “can’t-miss” prospects who ultimately became “can’t-play” also-rans, what one accomplishes in high school, college or the Italian league doesn’t always translate on the NBA level.
Tomorrow is the time for GMs to shine—time will tell how shiny (or dull) their selections were. Today, we take a look at the Thrilling 32 who came into the league with enormous expectations only to fizzle out like an open can of soda on a hot summer day at the beach.
These basketball busts have not been numbered—that would be cruel. The reality is they all underperformed in their own uninspiring way.
Javaris Crittenton, No. 19, 2007, Los Angeles Lakers
He was Mr. Basketball in Georgia while attending Southwest Atlanta High School and became a hero by staying at home to play for Georgia Tech where he became the team's starting point guard.
Javaris Crittenton came to the Lakers as a first-round draft pick with high expectations due to his athleticism and leadership on the court. Something just never really clicked for the 6'5" shooting guard and he saw limited action under the guidance of coach Phil Jackson, never one to play his rookies and young, inexperienced players.
Crittenton lasted less than a season with Los Angeles and is probably best known for being part of a monster deal that brought All-Star forward Pau Gasol to the West Coast. Crittenton was sent packing along with Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol and first-round picks in 2008 and 2010.
It all quickly went downhill from there—Crittenton lasted one year with the Grizzlies before being traded again, this time to Washington. He was later implicated and ultimately found guilty, along with teammate Gilbert Arenas, of drawing guns on each other in the Wizards locker room during a Christmas Eve argument regarding gambling debts.
Crittenton pleaded guilty and was suspended for the rest of the NBA season. He has since gone on to play basketball in China and the D-League team in North Dakota.
He's only 23 and may still come back but it seems unlikely.
Joe Alexander, No. 8, 2008, Milwaukee Bucks
In two seasons, this once-hot prospect never seemed to get started once he reached the association and was relegated quickly to a non-issue.
Alexander's averages over two years were 4.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and .7 assists per game.
Here's what one Western Conference executive said of Alexander just prior to draft day in 2008. The quote comes courtesy of Yahoo! Sports and Adrian Wojnarowski:
“I’m blown away by him. He’s a freakish talent. And it’s scary how good he could be, because he’s just now starting to figure it all out. He isn’t driven, he’s obsessed. I think he’s the next Tom Chambers.”
Who knows? Maybe he'll figure it out one day—in the D-League.
Robert Swift, No. 12, 2004, Seattle SuperSonics
This can't-miss prospect was so good he skipped college and went directly to Seattle. Since that time in 2004, both Robert Swift and the Seattle SuperSonics have left the area and gone elsewhere.
Swift, at 7'1", was all-world while in high school in Central California. He was so good, he decided to pass up the chance to star for USC and went directly to Seattle in the draft.
The brass in Seattle should have seen what was coming—Swift had refused to work out for teams before the draft and maybe that little clue would later speak volumes about his abilities or lack thereof.
In just 97 games, Swift averaged just 4.3 points per game and recently left the D-League's Bakersfield team which may indicate his career, at 24, is over.
There were other reasons for Seattle leaving the Pacific Northwest for the beautiful surroundings of Oklahoma City. Certainly, the arrival and quick departure of Robert Swift didn't help.
Shaun Livingston, No. 4, 2004, Los Angeles Clippers
Sometimes a player comes along that has everyone talking about him being the "next someone." In the case of Shaun Livingston, there were comparisons to Earvin Magic Johnson when he was drafted by the Clippers to come play in Los Angeles in 2004.
Livingston, at 6'7" and 185 pounds, is much lighter than Johnson but possessed some of those same exceptional passing skills that the Lakers Hall of Famer displayed in college and throughout his illustrious career.
What set this kid way back wasn't so much his lack of talent as his extremely unfortunate, career-threatening injury that he suffered in 2007 in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Landing awkwardly after a drive to the basket, Livingston tore just about everything in his knee and many people thought that was it for the phenom from Illinois.
Livingston would have proven the scouts right had it not been for the terrible injury that threatened his career.
While many would have been done with the sport, Livingston refused to give up and last summer signed a two-year, $10 million deal with Charlotte, where he averaged 6.6 points for the Bobcats this past season as a role player.
Eddy Curry, No. 4, 2004, Chicago Bulls
Great things were expected from the 7'0", 295-pound Eddy Curry when the Bulls took him in 2004 with the fourth overall pick.
Curry, in nine seasons, has been a disappointment for both the Bulls and New York Knicks, his most recent club. His career averages of 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and .6 assists per game are really considered a bust by most standards.
Curry's best year was 2006-07 when he averaged 19.5 points and seven rebounds per game for the Knicks. Major injuries in 2008-09 and 2009-10 limited him to a total of 10 games.
Curry didn't play at all this past season and was traded to and released by Minnesota earlier this spring.
His career is at a crossroads. He's a free agent and, at 28, some team will probably sign him to a minimum contract. If he's willing to put in the work, Curry may yet have a future in the NBA.
Most experts, however, aren't betting the house on that happening.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili, No. 5, 2002, Denver Nuggets
In six seasons, Tskitishvili averaged LESS than three points (2.9) per game for four different teams. The Nuggets should have known better but, then, they drafted him without ever seeing him play. How's that for competency?
Tskitishvili's best season was his first—he played in 81 games for the Nuggets who probably felt compelled to play him since they were paying him big dollars. He went off for a whopping 3.9 points per game. Extraordinary.
The 7'0", 225-pound power forward seemed more at home off the court than on it. His career field-goal average was 30 percent and, after his rookie season, he never started another game.
The Russian import was traded to Golden State after three tortuous years with the Nuggets. He was out of the NBA by 2006.
Eddie Griffin, No. 7, 2001, New Jersey Nets
This is a sad tale. Eddie Griffin had talent and potential—he lost it to alcohol and eventually lost his life in a terrible train accident.
Griffin was a star at Seton Hall. Issues with attitude apparently dropped his draft status down to the No. 7 spot where the Nets took a chance on the 6'10", 240-pound center. His draft rights were then immediately traded to the Rockets" title="Jason Collins, Brandon Armstrong and Richard Jefferson.
Griffin enjoyed a couple of decent seasons at Houston, averaging 8.8 and 8.6 points plus 1.84 and 1.44 blocks per game. But his troubles, mostly from drinking, began to take a toll and he was never quite the same player after that.
Griffin was a pretty good NBA player who happened to suffer from a disease that ultimately cost him everything.
Marvin Williams, No. 2, 2005, Atlanta Hawks
Marvin Williams has been in the NBA for six years, all with the team that drafted him with the No. 2 pick in the 2005 draft. Aside from the No. 1 pick, center Andrew Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks, Williams was drafted ahead of such future stars as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton and Andrew Bynum.
Williams has largely been a disappointment. His average after six seasons stands at 11.7 points per game—not exactly All-Star caliber.
Williams was a highly recruited 6'9" forward who signed to play at North Carolina under Roy Williams. His freshman season Williams averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 22 minutes per game as the first player off the bench for the Tar Heels.
The conventional wisdom was that Williams as a pro would develop more of an offensive game as his minutes increased. That has not happened.
Ike Diogu, No. 9, 2005, Golden State Warriors
Five teams in seven seasons and a 6.0 scoring average is not exactly the stuff of legend for the 6'9", 250-pound power forward from Buffalo, New York.
Diogu was the ninth pick in the first round of 2005 by Golden State. He's been with seven teams since then and there's not much to show for it.
Diogu has literally been traded almost every year that he has been in the NBA. He's never played in more than 69 games in one season and that was his first in 2005-06.
The former standout from Arizona State just has not shown up as a big-time professional player. There is no reason to suspect that will change anytime soon.
Adam Morrison, No. 3, 2006, Charlotte Bobcats
A lot of so-called experts thought Adam Morrison was the second coming of Larry Bird. What we learned later on was that he was more like the second coming of Big Bird.
Morrison is one of the draft's huge disappointments of the past decade. He did average over 11 points per game his rookie season for Charlotte, but everything after that spiraled downward.
The 6''8" fourth-year forward has been a non-factor for the Bobcats and Los Angeles Lakers ever since that first season. He was a tremendous All-American for Gonzaga University where he was finalist for the Naismith and the Wooden Award.
But as an NBA player, Morrison has been a bust. There's just no two ways around it. He has two world championship rings, being fortunate to have sat on the bench as a Los Angeles Lakers reserve in 2009 and 2010.
Morrison went to training camp last fall with Washington but was waived before the season started and is out of the game.
Rafael Araujo, No. 8, 2004, Toronto Raptors
Araujo, a 6'11" 290-pound center, was out of the NBA by 2007. The Brazilian just couldn't cut it in the U.S.
He went to training camp with Minnesota in 2008 but was waived before the season started. He's now back in Brazil playing for Franca Basquetebol Clube.
Stromile Swift, No. 2, 2000, Vancouver Grizzlies
An 8.4 scoring average for nine seasons after being the No. 2 pick in the entire draft in 2000? That sounds like a bust to me—Stromile Swift was anything but swift.
The 6'10", 220-pound power forward who starred at Louisiana State was anything but impressive when he landed on Vancouver's doorstep in 2000. His best season was 2001-02 when he averaged 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds in 26.5 minutes. These would turn out to be the best numbers of Swift's career.
Jay Williams, No. 2, 2002, Chicago Bulls
Jay Williams had all the potential in the world when he was drafted by the Bulls at No. 2 in 2002. In three seasons at Duke, he averaged just under 20 points per game, plus six assists and close to 40 percent accuracy from three-point range.
In Williams' first season at Chicago, he averaged 9.5 points and almost five assists. Not bad for a rookie. But Williams soon found trouble and it came in the form of a motorcycle.
Williams was severely injured in June 2003 while riding a motorcycle. He was not wearing a helmet and didn't have a license to ride a bike in the state of Illinois.
Yi Jianlian, No. 6, 2007, Milwaukee Bucks
Yi Jianlian was the next Yao Ming. Or so the experts thought when he was taken sixth in 2007 by the Milwaukee Bucks.
In three years, Yi averaged just 8.5 points per game. The 7'0" 250-pound center is now with the Washington Wizards where he produced another subpar season of 5.6 points and four rebounds in 63 games.
Some have questioned Yi's real age—he claims to be 23. But no one is disputing the fact that his play in the NBA is way below that of a first-round draft choice.
The next Yao Ming? I don't think so.
Kedrick Brown, No. 11, 2001, Boston Celtics
Kedrick Brown was picked No. 11 in 2001 by the Boston Celtics. His obscure status as a junior college player did him no good upon graduating to the professional ranks.
Brown, a 6'7" guard/forward, did little to excite the NBA and found himself out of the league and out of a job by 2005.
Brown averaged just 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in his brief career and was never a factor in the Celtics rotation.
Chris Mihm, No. 7, 2000, Chicago Bulls
Injuries played a big role in the demise of this former first-round draft pick who was picked by the Bulls and traded immediately to Cleveland where he got his start.
Chris Mihm had the will and the heart, he just never had the luck of good health. Nor the overall talent.
Mihm averaged 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game over nine seasons. Average numbers for a very average player.
Mihm played hard when he made it out onto the court healthy. He was a decent shooter, hitting on 46 percent of his shots, including 2004-06 when he averaged 50 percent for two seasons with the Lakers.
DerMarr Johnson, No. 6, 2000, Atlanta Hawks
DerMarr Johnson had it all: High School All-American and Parade's National High School Player of the Year. He attended University of Cincinnati with future NBA players stars Kenyon Martin, Kenny Satterfield and draftee Steve Logan.
Seven seasons later, Johnson had an NBA average of 6.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. Not exactly Hall of Fame numbers.
Prior to the 2002 season, Johnson crashed his car into a tree and was severely injured. He missed the entire season and wasn't quite the same after that.
You have to give the guy credit because he kept making comebacks and did get back in 2004-05 with Denver where he averaged seven points per game on 50 percent shooting.
He had another go around in 2008 with San Antonio before his career began to sputter. A disappointment for sure, but you have to applaud his persistence and fortitude.
Yaroslav Korolev, No. 12, 2005, Los Angeles Clippers
Talk about a brief stint in the Show. Korolev played a total of 34 games in the NBA before heading back to his native Russia.
He just never possessed what it took to be a a regular player in the NBA, let alone a star worthy of being drafted that high.
Korolev's stats: 1.1 points, half a rebound and less than that in assists per game over the course of two seasons.
As bad as the Clippers were and usually are, Korolev's play was not even worthy of that team. Chalk one up to really bad draft-day decisions by Clippers management.
Hasheem Thabeet, No. 2, 2009, Memphis Grizzlies
Thabeet has been a bust from day one.
In two seasons, the 7'3" center has averaged just 2.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.1 assists per game. He also was the highest-drafted player in history to be sent down to the Developmental League.
There is still time for Thabeet to develop into a decent NBA player but so far he's been a major disappointment. As a college senior at Connecticut, Thabeet averaged 13.6 points per game on 64 percent shooting from the floor. He also pulled down 11 rebounds per game.
But then, playing in the Big East is not quite the same as playing in the NBA. Despite his size, Thabeet is not strong enough to go head to head with the league's big men yet.
His day may come. It's a big maybe.
Mike Dunleavy, No. 3, 2002, Golden State Warriors
The son of former NBA head coach Mike Dunleavy, the younger Mike has always been a decent role player but nothing more.
When he was selected in 2002 with the No. 3 pick by Golden State, the consensus, at least among the Warriors coaching staff, was that Dunleavy had all the makings of a great scorer and floor leader that would ultimately lead them to the promised playoff land. It never happened and he was traded midway through his fifth season with the team.
Although he can put the ball in the hole, Dunleavy is not a strong defensive player and that has hurt his teams wherever he was. His best offensive year was 2007-08 as a member of the Indiana Pacers—Dunleavy averaged 19.1 points on 48 percent accuracy from the field, including 42 percent from three-point range.
Although a solid scorer, what makes this a missed opportunity and a bad pick is that Dunleavy never amounted to more than a guy who would average 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. At 6'9" and 230, the former Duke standout should provide more support on the boards but he just doesn't.
Sheldon Williams, No. 5, 2006, Atlanta Hawks
Williams was so strong as a college player, dominating with his aggressive play and shot-blocking ability that he earned the nickname "The Landlord." He shined at Duke, winning Defensive Player of the Year Awards in successive seasons and having his jersey retired when he graduated in 2006.
At 6'9", 250, the Hawks felt they had a future All-Star defensive force when they drafted Williams. He didn't get better at the next level; if anything, he regressed. Williams averaged just 5.5 points his first season and three points in just 11 minutes per game during his second campaign in Atlanta.
The Hawks traded Williams to Sacramento midway through his second season but he didn't fare any better on the West Coast. He was traded the following year to Minnesota and joined the Celtics for a cup of coffee the year after that.
Williams signed with Denver in July of last year and then was traded again, this time in a blockbuster deal with the New York Knicks on February 22 that also brought Carmelo Anthony to the Big Apple.
His stellar stats for his career: five teams over six seasons, 309 games and a 4.5 points per game average. Williams plays 14 minutes per game and hauls down 0.4 rebounds per contest.
His has been a disappearing act.
Renaldo Balkman, No. 20, 2006, New York Knicks
The stats tell the whole story: Over the course of five seasons and two teams, Renaldo Balkman is averaging 14.2 minutes and 4.1 points per game. Not exactly the stuff of legends.
Everyone, including former Knicks GM Donnie Walsh, was excited to draft and bring home (he is from Staten Island) the 6'8" forward from South Carolina with the 20th pick in the 2006 draft.
Balkman had a pretty productive college career, although he never was known for his scoring. He averaged 7.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in 104 games in three seasons at South Carolina.
During that time, the Gamecocks won back-to-back postseason NIT titles in 2005 and 2006 and Balkman took him the MVP Award in ’06.
Unfortunately, Balkman left all of his talents and potential at the college level. He's been beyond subpar since joining the NBA.
Marcus Fizer, No. 4, 2000, Chicago Bulls
Marcus Fizer was selected by the Bulls after leaving Iowa State following his junior year. He was the fourth pick in what was considered a very weak draft, but Fizer was thought be a star on the rise.
That star never got too high in the sky.
Fizer never averaged more than 12.3 points per game in four seasons with the Bulls. He tore his ACL in 2003 and in 2004 was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats in the expansion draft. He later signed with Milwaukee after failing to make the Bobcats roster.
Fizer bounced around the league after that. After that one year with the Bucks, he was unable to sign with another team and so he joined the Developmental League where he played for two seasons, twice signing 10-day NBA contracts (Seattle and New Orleans).
Fizer eventually made his way to Spain, Puerto Rico and Israel, where he played for a few more years before retiring.
Sebastian Telfair, No. 13, 2004, Portland Trail Blazers
The 6'0" Sebastian Telfair was a high school phenom in New York and decided to skip college and go right to the pros, despite reservations by many of the NBA scouts.
Seven years later, the 26-year-old Telfair has a 7.8 points per game scoring average and not a lot of supporters for a dismal game that's seen him go from Portland to Boston, Minnesota, Cleveland, Los Angeles and back to Minnesota.
Telfair never developed into a playmaker (3.8 assists) and his career shooting of 39 percent from the floor and 31 percent from beyond the arc are not NBA-worthy.
Telfair had a storied high school career at Abraham Lincoln High School where he was named New York State Mr. Basketball his senior season. He is the cousin of NBA player Stephon Marbury. He was the subject of a documentary, a film by Jonathan Hock which follows Telfair through his last year in high school and his decision to choose the NBA over college.
That film may probably end up being Telfair's highlight reel for his career.
Mouhamed Sene, No. 10, 2006, Seattle SuperSonics
The 6'11", 230-pound forward from Thies, Senegal just turned out to be a major bust and another example of bad scouting.
He's now performing for BCM Gravelines Dunkerque.
In four campaigns with Seattle, Oklahoma City and the New York Knicks, Mouhamed Sene averaged just 2.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and no assists.
That, my basketball friends, is mediocrity at its finest.
Vladimir Radmanovic, No. 12, 2001, Seattle SuperSonics
He came to the U.S. with a lot of fanfare in 2001. Vladimir Radmanovic was drafted by Seattle and has managed to survive 10 years in the NBA but his statistics certainly look like someone who was totally underachieving for such a high pick.
Ramanovic, who has played for Seattle, Clippers, Lakers, Charlotte and Golden State, has a scoring average of just 8.5 points per game, most of that coming as a role player off the bench. Even at 6'10" and 235 pounds, Vladi never developed a love of the backboards and is a below-average rebounder—3.9 per 23 minutes of playing time over his career.
He had a couple of seasons where he became a fairly accurate three-point shooter and that is why teams traded for him later in his career. Yet, he was wildly inconsistent with that as well and begins his 11th season as a Warrior with a big question mark on his future in the league.
Dajuan Wagner, No. 6, 2002, Cleveland Cavaliers
You hope to get more than a couple of years out a first-round draft pick. The No. 6 overall in the draft of 2002, Dajuan Wagner graduated from Memphis with a lot of promise that just never materialized in the pros. Much of that can be attributed to a deteriorating health condition.
After a decent rookie season in which he averaged 13.4 points in 29 minutes per game, Wagner's game just came unglued. Over the next two seasons in Cleveland his minutes shrunk to 16 and then nine per game and his scoring average went to 6.5 and then four in his third campaign with the Cavs.
Wagner's health forced him out of the league after just three years with Cleveland and one game with the Warriors.
Greg Oden, No. 1, 2007, Portland Trail Blazers
Why is this man still smiling? Greg Oden has barely touched the hardwood since coming to Portland from Ohio State in 2007. Might be because he signed a guaranteed contract with Portland before his first injury in the preseason ended his rookie campaign.
The 7'0", 285-pound center was supposed to be the "answer in the middle" for the next decade for the Trail Blazers. Instead, they experienced the second coming of Sam Bowie, another big center with a lot of potential who also fizzled out due to one injury after another that kept him from putting on the uniform.
Oden sat out his rookie year, appeared in a total of 13 games over the next two seasons and sat out again last year due to a knee injury. He had microfracture surgery on his left knee and missed all of last season.
Oden is still just 23 years old and some team is bound to sign him as a backup center. He's been cursed by injuries and we may never get to see his true talents on the court. Time will tell.
Fran Vazquez, No. 11, 2005, Orlando Magic
This may be the biggest bust of the decade. Selected 11th overall in 2005 by the Magic, Fran Vazquez has yet to play one minute in the NBA. What happened to Fran?
He ended up going back to Spain and has actually done quite well there. Vazquez's draft rights are still held by the Magic and they actually invited him back for the 2011-12 campaign but he declined due to the uncertainty surrounding the labor situation and a possible lockout that is threatening the coming season.
A wasted lottery pick? Six years later, I would have to say yes.
Darko Milicic, No. 2, 2003, Detroit Pistons
This was not exactly Joe Dumars' finest moment as GM of the Pistons. Dumars passed on (hold onto your ticket stub) Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade and instead opted to pick this little-known 7'0", 275-pound center from Montenegro.
Talk about mistakes! While Bosh, Anthony and Wade went on to become three of the elite players in the game, Darko quickly faded into oblivion as a seldom-used, awkward-looking big man for Detroit.
In his short career for the Pistons, Milicic averaged five, seven and six minutes of total playing time per game over three years.
His scoring averages: 1.4, 1.8 and 1.5. Darko now plays for Minnesota. He's only 26 and actually had his best season last year in Minneapolis, averaging 24 minutes, 8.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 47 percent from the field.
Not exactly the numbers to get you any endorsement deals with Coke or an invitation to be on Jay Leno.
Luke Jackson, No. 10, Cleveland Cavaliers
This was a classic case of a college All-American who just couldn't graduate to the next level. Luke Jackson averaged 21 points and seven rebounds for Oregon his senior year and gained national attention.
The 6'7", 215-pound small forward got the attention of Cleveland who elected to select him with the 10th overall pick in the draft. His pro experience was not a good one.
Jackson has played just 73 games in five NBA seasons. He shot 36 percent from the field and averaged just 3.5 points per game. His average time on the court was just 9.9 minutes.
He is 29 now and playing for the Idaho Stampede, his third time with the team.
Pavel Podkolzin, No. 21, 2004, Utah Jazz
He was 7'5" and 260 pounds. Sure, Pavel Podkolzin was somewhat of an unknown from Russia but, my goodness, he was tall.
Utah took a chance and grabbed Pavel with the 21st overall pick of the 2004 draft. They quickly traded his draft rights to Dallas, who also saw something in the remarkably tall, big Podkolzin.
In two years, the Russian was on an NBA court for a total of 20 minutes and scored four points. This selection has to rank right up there with the worst of the decade.
Pavel was originally slated to go into the 2003 draft but waited a year due to a pituitary disorder. In hindsight, the Jazz and Mavericks both should have seen a growing problem developing. They took a chance and failed miserably.
And so, Pavel Podkolzin never developed anything beyond his height. He stands tall today knowing that his height got him a serious look in the NBA. If only he knew how to play basketball.