The 2014 NBA Draft could make or break a franchise for the better part of a decade. Choose the right player, watch him blossom into a superstar, then enjoy the ride as your franchise contends for the NBA Championship each season. Choose the wrong player — the bust — and find yourself stuck in lottery purgatory, struggling to get yourself back to NBA relevance, wondering why your scouts didn’t push you to the other player.
Now, that may sound a little dramatic, but those kinds of decisions happen every single year. One of the most (un)popular decisions in NBA history involved the 1984 NBA Draft, when the Portland Trail Blazers chose Sam Bowie No. 2 overall, instead of choosing Michael Jordan. You know, the player who would end up becoming one of the best players to ever grace the court — the one who brought the Chicago Bulls six championships. How many championships have the Portland Trail Blazers had since then? If you guessed zero, you win.
The draft lottery began the next season, with a system that involved a random drawing from a hopper. The New York Knicks won that lottery in a way that seemed too good to be true. Conspiracy theorists believe that the NBA rigged the lottery so that Georgetown center Patrick Ewing could go to the Knicks. Nothing was ever proven. The Knicks avoided a bust that season, but they wouldn’t be so lucky down the line.
The current system uses a weighted lottery, where the worst teams have the better chance to earn the first pick. Now, not only do you have to get lucky enough to earn the first pick, you have to get lucky enough to avoid the big bust. Let’s count down the years and look at the biggest draft busts of the lottery era.