17. Washington Wizards: Kwame Brown
One of our toughest choices.
On one hand: With the 12th pick in the 1985 draft, the Washington Bullets selected Kenny Green, a man whose less than illustrious NBA career featured a total of 265 points, or 36,663 fewer points than the man drafted immediately after him, Karl Malone.
On the other: With the top overall selection in the 2001 draft (when Malone was still making All-NBA teams and getting MVP votes), the Washington Wizards select Kwame Brown, who ended up carving out a semi-respectable NBA career, albeit one of the worst among those taken with the first pick.
Green has a legit argument. It’s the largest disparity of points in NBA history between draftees selected back to back, and the Bullets had a glaring hole at power forward. It would be filled by journeyman Charles Jones for most of the season. If they’d taken Malone instead, he’d have been paired with the Bullets’ starting center that year, a 7-foot-7 beanpole Washington took with their second-round pick in the same draft, Manute Bol.
But it has to be Brown. Getting the 12th pick wrong is far less justifiable than the first, and of the three other reasonable selections in 2001 — Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol and Eddy Curry — two would have been considered successes. Heck, even Curry averaged 19 and 7 one season.
Brown would also go one to become the face of “too much, too soon,” a sentiment that got the NBA to change the age limit soon thereafter.