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5 Biggest NBA Draft Busts of the Last 20 Years

Many pundits have tabbed the 2014 NBA Draft as an all-timer, and probably the best and deepest since the class of 2003, which gave us LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony, along with a few other eventual stars. Still, despite all the projections, hours devoted to film study, and general draft preparation that takes place before the big night, it is safe to say that the NBA draft is nothing more than a glorified exercise in guesswork.

After all, players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were not selected first overall in their respective drafts, and even as teams continue to get smarter and statistically inclined, they are not immune to draft whiffs that can set back a franchise for years.

With the 2014 Draft full of talent and uncertainty, today we look back at those players who were selected amid high hopes only to turn into pumpkins. While we don´t wish the same fate to come upon the likes of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and the many other projected stars of the future, history suggests that at least a few of them will fall way short of expectations.

So, in no particular order, here are the worst NBA busts of the past 20 years.

Hasheem Thabeet – Selected 2nd overall by Memphis Grizzlies (2009)

Thabeet was a force in college, averaging a double-double in his final season with UConn, as many compared him to the great Dikembe Mutombo. Even as he has only been in the league for a short period of time, it is safe to say that his career has been a complete disaster and can be labeled as an absolute bust.

Oklahoma City is now his fourth team, and in 2013-14 he played for a grand total of 192 minutes, or an average of exactly 4 per game. His career PER of 10.3 tells the whole story of a below-average player, and one that was incredibly selected before James Harden and Stephen Curry.

Adam Morrison – Selected 3rd overall by Charlotte Bobcats (2006)

After Michael Jordan took over the franchise in 2006, his goal was to build a contender in Charlotte. Unfortunately, he badly missed with Morrison, a player who had excelled against mid-majors in Gonzaga, but could never translate his high-volume offense to the NBA.

After losing a full season due to injury in 2007-08, he was traded to the Lakers where he infamously “won” two championships as the last guy on the bench. He was ousted from the league in 2010, having earned more than $16 million and those two rings. Still, the outcome was tremendously poor for someone who was picked before Brandon Roy and Rajon Rondo.

Shawn Bradley – Selected 2nd by Philadelphia 76ers (1993)

Bradley was quite famous mainly for being almost 8 feet tall, but he also showed enough mobility in college to make scouts salivate at the prospect of having him guard the paint. The problem was that Bradley became a punching bag for the league, and it seemed that players took turns in finding out who could dunk on him in a more vicious way.

Aside from the posterizations, Bradley was an overall mediocre player with a career PER of 16 (replacement level sits at 15), whose only discernible skill was to block shots. He found a way to stick around for more than 12 years in the league, earn tens of millions of dollars, and even appear in Space Jam, so while his path in the league was a bust for Philly, he will always be an icon of 90´s basketball.

Kwame Brown – Selected 1st by Washington Wizards (2001)

Kwame somehow found a way to stay active in the NBA for 12 years, but his status as an all-time bust is well solidified. Beginning a trend of bad choices, Michael Jordan was again very involved with this pick, trusting Brown on his potential and ignoring players who appeared to be more polished. The 2001 Draft included franchise-altering talent like Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, and Josh Johnson, but it was Kwame Brown who got the nod as number 1.

He bounced around 7 teams before not landing a squad for 2013-14, finally ending the disaster that was his career and how it set back the Wizards for a long time.

Darko Milicic – Selected 2nd by Detroit Pistons (2003)

It would be tempting to go with Greg Oden, but his case is tragic in the form of injuries and falling to the curse of Portland big men. Still, Milicic´s case is a bit more baffling considering the talent that was selected immediately after him. LeBron was selected first overall, while Milicic was sandwiched between him, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. At the time it made no sense, and now it continues to look more and more horrible.

Milicic was overhyped as another European big man who could shoot, picked at age 18 for a Pistons team that was already good and though it could afford the chance of slowly developing a teenager. The problem was that Darko was not that good in the first place, leading to a forgettable 10-year career among 6 teams and a career PER of 12.3.

Dishonorable Mentions: Oden (Portland - #1, 2007), Michael Olowokandi (LA Clippers - #1, 1998), Jay Williams (Chicago - #2, 2002).


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