Oct 01, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Kwame Brown (54) poses for a photo during media day at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft: Biggest Busts in History

The NBA draft is the time of year when anything can happen for a struggling team. Sometimes teams draft a player who takes out of the cellar of the NBA and into the realms of championship glory, but sometimes a player is drafted and not only does he not live up to expectations but to add insult to injury the player the team passed on has taken his respective team into the playoffs. These draft busts can cause many fans to sulk in bed with the thoughts of what could have been.

There have been many draft busts throughout the years, but I am here to sift through all the failures and disappointments and find the absolute biggest  Busts.  My criteria for an NBA draft bust goes like this.

1. He has to be a top five pick

While some people go to the entire top ten to find busts, we need to limit this to players who were considered to be team changing. Usually top 5 picks are the only players to ever get the recognition of having that much potential.


2. He cannot be on any team roster at the moment.

Some NBA draft busts never live up to the expectations of a top five pick but they can end up being decent role players. So we need the busts that truly just fell far from grace in the NBA.

This is not a top ten list however because it is really easy to rank each player’s bust status simply because of the player that was picked next. While that is a decent indicator of how bad the pick was, I am going more on strict talent than anything else. I am not gonna pick the worst busts in order of who was worst, I am just gonna pick players hurt their respective team the most when he was on the floor. Which players truly just sucked when they got to the NBA. Thats why you won’t see Greg Oden on this because he was a bust for having injury problems, not because he was a bad player. I’ll pick five players, in no particular order, and hopefully this years players don’t have playing careers like these.

Kwame Brown: Washington Wizards (No.1, 2001)  

The 2001 NBA draft was a terrible draft where no one player seemed to leap off the page in terms of talent. While several talented players were drafted like Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Joe Johnson, the draft had no game changing player and it was hard for scouts to figure out who to pick.

With that in mind, its still baffling that the Wizards took Kwame Brown. I guess they thought that a seven footer would contribute in some form, but Kwame could barely hold onto the ball and if you let him dribble, the game was lost. He only averaged 6.6 points per game which is embarrassing for not only a first overall pick but a first round draft pick. This draft is a perfect example of what can go wrong when you draft for potential and not talent. Hopefully with this year’s weaker draft class, the same mistake won’t be made twice.

Sam Bowie: Portland Trail Blazers (No. 2, 1984) 

I had to put him here, it wouldn’t be a draft bust list without Sam Bowie. After the Trail Blazers passed over Michael Jordan, this pick was destined to fail. Michael Jordan turned into arguably the greatest basketball player while Bowie became bench player for the Nets. I really wish I didn’t have to put Bowie because he wasn’t as bad as a player as Kwame Brown was but because of the legendary legacy of the 1984 draft his spot will always be reserved in lists like this. A descent role player can’t compare to legend himself Michael Jordan.

Chris Washburn: Golden State Warriors (No. 3, 1984)

The 1986 NBA Draft is considered by many to be one of the worst in history. Four top ten picks had major drug problems, with the second overall pick Len Bias dying two days after he was drafted because of a drug overdose.  Chris Washburn fits into this category, but he had more than a drug problem. He had no work ethic whatsoever and he was caught stealing a stereo while at NC State. He could still play basketball so the Warriors took because of his pure talent expecting at least a descent player. However all they got were three years of failed drug tests and below average play. He is one of those players that NBA teams need to watch out for. A player who thinks he is the next big thing, who doesn’t put the amount of effort necessary to play in the NBA. Chris Washburn was a draft bust simply because he felt that he deserved success even though he did nothing to earn it. He hurt his team because of that and he hurt himself as he eventually got banned from the NBA because of his conduct.

Michael Olowokandi: Los Angeles Clippers (No. 1, 1998)

Talk about blind faith. Olowokandi played in the University of Pacific of all places and didn’t even start playing basketball until he was 18. To say that this was a risky pick is an understatement, but the Clippers must have thought that a 7-footer would do fine in the NBA but as we have seen before, just because your tall it doesn’t mean that your skills are gonna translate into the NBA. The best Olowokandi did over the ten seasons of his career was cracking 45 percent shooting once, while starting the game on the bench, and becoming a decent shot blocker. Wow, what a great first pick, I am sure thats exactly what the Clippers wanted with their franchise player. In the end, the lesson we can learn here is that if a player is really tall, don’t automatically assume their gonna kick ass in the NBA.

Darko Milicic: Detroit Pistons (No. 2, 2003)

This pick should be the most infamous pick of any draft ever. The 2003 draft is one of the absolute best drafts in the history of the NBA. Four of the first five picks developed into superstars, like Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and of course Lebron James.

While James was the first pick and the Pistons were already a good team and really didn’t need any one specific player, they really dropped the ball on this one. If they wanted a big man, they could have gotten Chris Bosh or they could have gotten a great scorer in Carmelo Anthony or a great leader in Dwayne Wade, it really didn’t matter who because they were all good. While the Pistons won the championship his first year there, he really nothing to do while on the team.

He was on the bench for most of the year and whenever he played he looked absolutely incompetent and he has never shown why he was picked number 2 in the draft. Sure the Pistons were good without him, but look at them at now. They are an awful team now because they didn’t think about the future. They were in the perfect scenario in the 2003 Draft, they were a team built to win a championship already but with the 2nd pick they could start to build for the future. The Pistons hurt themselves with the pick and helped every other team that selected after them, especially the Miami Heat.

Tags: 2013 NBA Draft Detroit Pistons Featured Golden State Warriors Los Angeles Clippers Popular Portland Trail Blazers Washington Wizards

  • Cam

    Despite being a Louisville fan, I’m surprised to not see Pervis Ellison on this list…All those injuries derailed his career after being No. 1.

    • Wes

      Did you read the requirements to be a bust in this article?

  • Jon

    Kwame Brown is still on an active roster… The Philedlphia 76ers’.

  • disqus_QfWJEab7Qo

    Greg Oden?

  • Ro

    Decent rather than descent