10 Worst No. 1 NBA Draft Picks of All Time

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent INovember 8, 2011

10 Worst No. 1 NBA Draft Picks of All Time

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    At the start of every NBA season, there is no greater amount of pressure on anyone than the lucky individual who was taken with the first overall pick in the most recent draft.  Here is a rookie whose talent was considered to be so unbelievably good on the college level, some team in desperate need of rebuilding has chosen to make him the one to lead them out of the cellar.

    Yet, as history as shown us, not all of the players taken as the No. 1 pick pan out well.  In recent years, a notable case of a first overall pick busting out is current free agent center Greg Oden (pictured), who was taken at that position in 2007 and has never lived up to his potential.

    Thus, here are the 10 worst No. 1 NBA draft picks of all time.

No. 10: Joe Smith, 1995

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    Joe Smith was a collegiate star at the University of Maryland, where he averaged 20.2 points and 10.7 rebounds in two seasons.  The Golden State Warriors took him with the first pick in 1995 and while he is not what most would consider to be a complete and utter bust, he has still failed to produce on the dominant level that he did in college.

    Also, at this point, Smith seems to have become known more for the number of teams he has played on and less so for his talent.  In his 16-season career, Smith has played for 12 teams and has not played more than 25 minutes per game since 2005.

    On top of that, let's not forget that Smith is one of the main reasons for the Minnesota Timberwolves' decline in recent years.  In 2000, team management secretly offered Smith a future lucrative contract if he first signed with them for below market value, thus freeing up salary cap space so that other top free agents could be pursued.

    Sure enough, the NBA found out and Minnesota was forced to surrender three first-round picks and was fined $3.5 million.

    One can only wonder what would have happened if Golden State chose to draft Rasheed Wallace or Kevin Garnett instead.

No. 9: Pervis Ellison, 1989

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    In four years at Louisville, "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison established himself as a tough presence at the center position despite being on the smaller side at 6'9", 210 pounds.  Still, with a national championship under his belt, the Sacramento Kings used the first overall pick to draft him in 1989.  His tenure in Sacramento was short, as injuries limited him to 34 games and he averaged just eight points and 5.8 rebounds per game before being traded to the Washington Bullets before the start of his second season.

    Ellison rebounded in 1991 and actually had two good seasons with the Bullets, but the fact that he had a reputation for being oft-injured didn't do much to salvage his reputation as a draft bust.  Keep in mind, in 11 seasons, Ellison appeared in more than 70 games just once.

    Also, the following players were taken after Ellison in the 1989 draft: Glen Rice, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp and Vlade Divac, just to name a few.

No. 8: Mark Workman, 1952

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    Considering how Mark Workman played just two years of professional basketball, it is hard to include him anywhere except this position on the list.  A 6'9" center out of West Virginia University, his NBA career was barely noticeable.  He played one year for the Milwaukee Hawks and another for the Baltimore Bullets.

    For his career, Workman averaged just 4.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 14.9 minutes per game.  Had he stayed in the game, who knows when or if he would have improved?  Yet, considering how a Hall-of-Famer in Clyde Lovellette was drafted behind him, you have to wonder what made Workman stand out to be drafted first overall.

No. 7: Andy Tonkovich, 1948

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    Andy Tonkovich was the first overall pick in just the second ever draft, back when the NBA was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA).  A 6'1" guard out of Marshall, he played just one season with the team that drafted him, the Providence Steamrollers.

    Needless to say, his lone season as a pro was not one to write home about.  He averaged just 2.9 points and 0.6 assists in 17 games and was then out of the league.

    How is this a bad pick?  Well, how about the fact that he was taken ahead of one of the greatest rebounders of all time, Dolph Schayes?

No. 6: Bill McGill, 1962

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    At 6'9" and 225 pounds, Bill McGill was a college star who just couldn't cut it in the NBA.  He led the nation in scoring in the 1961-1962 season with 38.8 points per game when he was at the University of Utah, so the Chicago Zephyrs took him with the No. 1 pick in that year's draft.

    Sure enough, McGill did not live up to the hype.  He lasted just three seasons in the NBA before being out of the game for three years and resurfacing in the ABA for another two seasons.  For his career, he averaged just 10.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

    And to think that he was drafted ahead of John Havlicek.

No. 5: Kwame Brown, 2001

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    Going into the 2001 draft, Kwame Brown was a 6'11", 270 pound center who was surrounded by hype.  The man could score, rebound and block shots with authority, so the Washington Wizards used the No. 1 pick on him in hopes that he could help make the team a contender.

    Instead, Brown turned out to be not only an underachiever, but an immature head case.  He was traded from the Wizards to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005 and has played for a total of five teams in his now 10-year-old career.  Sure enough, he has never lived up to his potential and has averaged just 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds for his career.

    Considering his size, those numbers are just unacceptable.  Also, it should be noted that he was drafted ahead of future All-Stars like Pau Gasol and Joe Johnson.  Oh, and let's not forget Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas.

No. 4: Kent Benson, 1977

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    Considering how 6'10" Kent Benson averaged double figures in both scoring and rebounding while a student athlete at Indiana, it's almost shocking how bad he was as a pro.  The Milwaukee Bucks drafted him with the No. 1 pick in 1977 and as a rookie, he averaged just 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per contest.

    He had a couple of productive years with the Detroit Pistons, but finished his career with disappointing averaged of 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds.  To give you an idea of the talent that was drafted behind him, I've got two words for you: Bernard King

No. 3: Michael Olowokandi, 1998

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    Here we have one of many draft mistakes made by the Los Angeles Clippers.  In 1998, the team chose to draft seven-footer Michael Olowokandi from the University of the Pacific.  The previous season, Olowokandi had averaged 22.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.

    On the professional level, the "Kandi Man" just looked lost on the floor.  He was decent at shot blocking, but that was about it.  In other departments, he was average at best.

    Olowokandi was out of the NBA by age 31 and averaged just 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds, all after being taken ahead of a group of future Hall-of-Famers that includes Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce, just to name a few.

No. 2: Greg Oden, 2007

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    The hype going into the 2007 NBA Draft was incredible.  The first two picks belonged to the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics and there was one question that loomed: who would be taken first?  Would it be Ohio State seven-footer Greg Oden, or Texas's sleek athlete in Kevin Durant?

    Ultimately, the Blazers chose Oden, who had averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game in his lone season for the Buckeyes.  Soon, however, team management would regret this decision as Oden missed all of the 2007-2008 season due to microfracture surgery on his knee.

    To date, Oden has played in just 82 NBA games and his health has always been an issue, including another microfracture surgery that caused him to miss all of last season.  He has averaged just 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds and while he still has time to save his career at age 23, it seems a safe bet that he will never be on the same level as Durant.

No. 1: LaRue Martin, 1972

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    LaRue Martin was taken with the first pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1972 draft and is considered to be one of the worst, if not the worst, No. 1 pick in basketball history.  At 6'11", he was expected to be a top NBA center.

    Yet, despite being taken ahead of future stars like Bob McAdoo and Julius Erving, Martin never adjusted to the professional level and was out of the NBA in just four seasons.  His career stats were very disappointing for someone his size, just 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game.


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