The top 10 NBA Draft busts of all-time

June 25, 2013 – 8:37 pm by Will Rettig

Greg Oden

The days leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft certainly make fans think back on past draft experiences. While this year’s draft class has been deemed “weak” by many draft experts and analysts, it is still sure to produce a number of steady and, most likely, memorable players in the future.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the top 10 busts in the history of the NBA Draft.

Jonathan Bender

10. Jonathan Bender – No. 5 pick, 1999 draft, Toronto Raptors (traded to Indiana Pacers)

Bender was drafted out of high school, fifth overall in 1999 by Toronto. Bender had unlimited potential as a 6-foot-11 forward with length, ball-handling skills and athleticism. He posted his best season statistically in his third year, playing in 78 games for the Indiana Pacers.

However, Bender would only appear in a combined 76 games over the next four seasons due to serious knee issues. Bender then shut himself down for three seasons, making one final attempt to play in 2009-10 with the New York Knicks. He played in 25 games that season before retiring for good.

In parts of eight seasons, Bender averaged 5.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.6 blocks, 14.7 minutes in 262 games.

Drafted before: Wally Szczerbiak, Richard Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko. 

9. Keith Edmonson – No. 10 pick, 1982 draft, Atlanta Hawks

Edmonson was a 6-foot-5 guard drafted 10th overall in 1982 by the Hawks. He played alongside Joe Barry Carroll at Purdue University – one whom some consider to also be an NBA bust. Together they led the Boilermakers to the 1980 NCAA Final Four. Edmonson averaged  21.3 points per game as a senior at Purdue. He went on to play in just 87 games during two seasons in the league.

During those two seasons Edmonson averaged 6.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 10.7 minutes in 87 games.

Drafted before: Lafayette Lever, Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, Ricky Pierce, Mark Eaton.

Yi Jianlian

8. Yi Jianlian – No. 6 pick, 2007 draft, Milwaukee Bucks

Yi Jianlian ended up being a journeyman over five NBA seasons after being drafted sixth overall by Milwaukee. He was compared to Yao Ming – the Houston Rockets’ towering All-Star center – leading up to the 2007 draft. Jianlian was more athletic than Ming, but wasn’t a pure center. He posted decent averages in points and rebounds in his first three seasons. He faded off the map however in his last two seasons with the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks. He returned to China after the 2012 season.

In five NBA seasons, Jianlian averaged 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 blocks and 22.2 minutes in 272 career games.

Drafted before: Joakim Noah, Arron Afflalo, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Marc Gasol.

Marcus Fizer

7. Marcus Fizer – No. 4 pick, 2000 draft, Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls chose Fizer with the fourth overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. He was the third of three consecutive draft busts, following Stromile Swift and Darius Miles, taken second and third respectively. The 6-foot-9 forward played his best games during his second season, but never fully reached his potential. Fizer never played a full 82 games and thus didn’t last more than six seasons.

In his six seasons, Fizer averaged 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.3 blocks and 20.9 minutes in 289 career games.

Drafted before: Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, Jamaal Magloire, Morris Peterson, Michael Redd. 

Adam Morrison

6. Adam Morrison – No. 3 pick, 2006 draft, Charlotte Bobcats

Michael Jordan took Morrison with the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft out of Gonzaga. Surprisingly, he had his best days during his rookie year with averages of 11.8 points and 2.9 boards a game. Morrison didn’t play a minute in his second season and split his third year between Charlotte and the Los Angeles Lakers. He saw action in 31 games in his fourth season before calling it quits after that.

In parts of four seasons, Morrison averaged 7.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 20.4 minutes in 161 career games.

Drafted before: Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Thabo Sefolosha, Rajon Rondo, Steve Novak, Kyle Lowry. 

Michael Olowokandi

5. Michael Olowokandi – No. 1 pick, 1998 draft, Los Angeles Clippers

Olowokandi landed in the top spot in the 1998 draft. The Clippers passed on the likes of Antwan Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce to take the big fella. Olowokandi posted sub-par career averages of 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He wouldn’t play close to a full season during his last five years in the NBA. He is a shining example of wasted potential.

In parts of nine seasons, Olowokandi averaged 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 26.3 minutes in 500 career games.

Drafted before: Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Rashard Lewis.

Darko Milicic

4. Darko Milicic – No. 2 pick, 2003 draft, Detroit Pistons

Milicic could arguably be the biggest draft bust of all time. Detroit took him with the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. He was sandwiched in the draft between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, both current NBA superstars. Milicic, on the other hand, has played 10 seasons with six different teams and has career averages of six points and 4.2 rebounds.

In 10 NBA seasons, Milicic current carries averages of 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 0.9 assists and 18.5 minutes in 468 career games.

Drafted before: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, David West, Kendrick Perkins, Josh Howard, Mo Williams, Kyle Korver. 

Sam Bowie

3. Sam Bowie – No. 2 pick, 1984 draft, Portland Trail Blazers

Portland selected Bowie with the second pick in the 1984 draft. Although his career averages are pretty solid, he never played a full season. The worst part of Bowie’s career was that Portland passed on a ton of future stars to select him, including Michael Jordan, who was selected directly after him.

In 10 seasons, Bowie averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 blocks and 27.6 minutes in 511 career games.

Drafted before: Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis, John Stockton.

Kwame Brown

2. Kwame Brown – No. 1 pick, 2001 draft, Washington Wizards

Brown was taken first overall in the 2001 NBA Draft as a 19-year old with room to grow. Now 30, Brown has played 12 seasons in the league with career averages of just 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. This past season, he was playing on his seventh NBA team with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brown always had issues with his hands, catching the ball in the post. The most news he made in the league came when he was part of the trade that sent Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his 12 seasons, Brown hold averages of 6.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 blocks and 22.1 minutes in 607 career games.

Drafted before: Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas, Mehmet Okur.

Greg Oden

1. Greg Oden – No. 1 pick, 2007 draft, Portland Trail Blazers

I apologize to Portland fans in advance, but I had to put Oden and Bowie both in my top three. Oden went No. 1 to the Trail Blazers in 2007. He was thought to have the potential to be one of the best centers the NBA had ever seen. Extreme knee injuries have thus far limited his career to just 82 games combined in two seasons. Portland was forced to decide between Oden and Kevin Durant, who ended up turning into one of the best players in the league. Oden hopes to attempt an NBA comeback in the near future.

When he was healthy, Oden actually showed flashes of being a very good NBA player, but he barely saw the floor.

In parts of two NBA seasons, Oden has averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 22.1 minutes in 82 games.

Drafted before: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Marc Gasol

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  1. 27 Responses to “The top 10 NBA Draft busts of all-time”

  2. LOl I think you forgot Ralph sampson and Carter out of St. johns that the Nicks drafted 2 years in a row….

    By anthony mancuso on Jun 27, 2013

  3. The biggest one has to be Len Bias. His choice to use drugs effected the Celtics for years and cost him his life. This has to be the biggest bust of all time.

    By trainman-hjc on Jun 27, 2013

  4. LaRue Martin — former #1 overall. Drafted in ’72 ahead of Bob McAdoo, Paul Westphal, and Julius Erving.

    Who’s LaRue Martin, you ask? My point exactly.

    By David Scott on Jun 27, 2013

  5. ..And, incredibly, LaRue Martin was a center drafted by the Portland Trailblazers.

    By David Scott on Jun 27, 2013

  6. How can you call a guy a bust because of injuries. Greg Oden played less than a full season at Ohio State and carried them to the National Championship game. Being injured is way different than just being a crap player like the other 9. Len Bias should be #1 based on how you analyze. Huge talent never played an NBA game.

    By Phil on Jun 27, 2013

  7. How could you have not included Chris Washburn out of North Carolina State!?!?!? Picked 3rd in the same draft as Len Bias, 1986 by the Golden State Warriors.

    By Earl on Jun 27, 2013

  8. Phil, I agree with your comments about Oden in reference to knee injuries vs being a crap player. However, Sam Bowie was clearly the poster child for injuries…fractured tibia multiple times and involving both legs. ESPN 30 for 30 recently profiled Bowie’s saga and showed incredible character and determination. Despite his fragile legs, he still posted better career stats than the others on the top 10 list.

    By JC on Jun 27, 2013

  9. I think you have to consider a bust from all angles. No one said Oden was a terrible player, he actually showed flashes of being very good. But the key is what value did he give the team that drafted him? The Blazers got almost nothing out of him, which makes him a bust. No one said he was awful, he just ended up being a terrible value because of injuries. You can’t plan for that sort of thing, but he certainly qualifies as a bust.

    As for Bias, I think his talent has always been overblown. Going into the draft if you read back on scouting reports, people said he was set to be a good NBA player. Now – largely because he died tragically – he has somehow morphed into the second-coming of Jordan. That was never the case, but people have romanticized what he could have been.

    By Ryan Phillips on Jun 27, 2013

  10. I would have put Greg Oden No. 1 – 2007, as you did, Sam Bowie No. 2 – 1984, and Lu Rue Martin No. 3 – 1972 all Portland Trail Blazer picks over a span of 35 years. You Blazers, passed on Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, and Dr. J. (Julius Erving)! READ MY LIPS – TAKE THE BEST ATHELETE AVAILABLE! It took 40 years to get it right with your 2012 pick Damien Lillard, NBA Rookie of the Year.

    By Steve L on Jun 28, 2013

  11. Two words: Pervis Ellison. No list of NBA draft busts is complete without him.

    By Glenn on Jun 28, 2013

  12. How can you not include Eddie Curry and Joe Barry Carrol on this list?

    By Jay on Jun 28, 2013

  13. Raphael Araujo #1 pick of the Toronto Raptors was such a bust he doesn’t get mentioned? Wow! Now he has to be the number one of all time!

    By Tony John on Jun 28, 2013

  14. Interesting list…and always room for TONS of debate.
    And the injury vs outright poor playing thing always enters into it. I really think there should be 2 lists- one for injury guys like Bowie, Oden, Bias, etc and one for the guys with crap attitudes and/or grotesquely overrated talent like Joe Barely Cares, Chris Washburn, Kwame Brown etc.

    By Kenny on Jun 28, 2013

  15. How about the Honorable mention of Glen Robinson drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, never quite really grasp how to play in the NBA.

    By Outlaw B on Jun 28, 2013

  16. How about the Honorable mention of Glen Robinson(The Big Dog) drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, never quite really grasp how to play in the NBA.

    By Outlaw B on Jun 28, 2013

  17. How can Len Bias not be the biggest bust? At least all the other people got in a game. I know this is not PC, but reality is truth.

    By Todd on Jun 28, 2013

  18. ummmm.. Michael Beasley anyone? Busstttt

    By cc on Jun 28, 2013

  19. How is Glenn Robinson a draft bust? Only Kareem scored more points for the Bucks in his rookie season and the Big Dog is the second all-time leading scorer for them as well.

    By Jason on Jun 28, 2013

  20. Yes, LaRue Martin. So along with the aforementioned Sam Bowie and Greg Oden, it tell me that the State of Oregon should make it illegal for their Trailblazers to never, ever, ever, ever, draft a center in the first round again…did I say ever??

    By tb on Jun 28, 2013

  21. How can anyone forget the Nets’ Yinka Dare?

    By Bill Bredin on Jun 28, 2013

  22. how about sixers munute bol and shawn bradley the biggest stiffs ever

    By jake on Jun 28, 2013

  23. I cant believe no one remembers Steve(Stipo)Stepanovich.

    By Missouri fan on Jun 28, 2013

  24. There are plenty of draft busts out there… unfortunately I can only include 10. I chose the 10 I did based on specific statistics, results and hype. Most of these comments are geared toward not including this player or that player and injury chatter. Injuries = bust. Oden went #1 overall – mind you, over Kevin Durant. Thus, he’s my #1. Len Bias, unfortunately, died and thus I chose not to include him in this list out of due respect to his family and friends.

    By Will Rettig on Jun 28, 2013

  25. what ever happened to Stacey King from Oklahoma . He was a number one pick that didn’t do anything in the NBA

    By chepster on Jun 29, 2013

  26. While Sam Bowie did not live up to potential, the injuries that he suffered, should make people want to think of two lists of those that didn’t live up to potential.

    Those that didn’t and had no injuries.

    Those that had injuries that limited them.

    By barry1817 on Dec 4, 2013

  27. Add Brad Davis , Mavericks 1980….
    Having Davis at PG, Mavs passed on Isiah Thomas, got Mark Aguirre.
    Having Aguirre at SF, passed on Charles Barkley, got Sam Perkins.
    Having Perkins at PF, passed on Karl Malone,
    got Detlef Schrempf.
    Then compounded not getting LA Tech forward
    by drafting the complete bust – Randy White.
    We finally hoodwinked Milwaukee to give us
    Dirk for Tractor Traylor.

    By Frank on Dec 6, 2013

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