2000: Marcus Fizer, Chicago Bulls
The 2000 NBA draft is widely considered one of the worst draft classes of the modern era. With the fourth overall selection, the Chicago Bulls drafted Iowa State forward Marcus Fizer. Fizer dominated the Big 12 in his junior season, averaging 22.8 ppg on 58% shooting.
But Fizer failed to replicate his success in the pros. In his four seasons with the Bulls, Fizer never started more than 20 games in a season. In 2003, Fizer torn his ACL, losing any chance of salvaging his disappointing career.
Fizer lasted just two more years in the NBA, and was out of the league after five very forgettable seasons. He started just 35 games in his entire career — not exactly the type of production you’re looking for in a guy picked near the top of the draft.
2001: Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards
Mention the phrase “draft bust” to a group of NBA fans and it’s likely that a majority of them will spit out the name Kwame Brown. And for good reason…
As unbelievable as it sounds looking back on it, some draft “experts” projected Brown (a high schooler at the time) as the second coming of Kevin Garnett. As we all know, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
According to reports, Michael Jordan berated Brown during Wizards’ practices, often bringing him to tears. There’s also a famous story told by Kobe Bryant, about their time together on the Lakers. In a huddle during a timeout, Brown told his Lakers teammates not to pass him the ball because he was afraid he wouldn’t make the free throws if he was fouled. Not exactly what you want to hear from a pro athlete, especially a guy selected with the #1 pick in the draft.
Forget the fact that Brown was an emotional disaster on and off the court, and sink your teeth into this… By selecting Kwame Brown, the Wizards passed on the following players; Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker, and Gilbert Arenas.
2002: Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Denver Nuggets
In search of “the next Dirk Nowitzki,” the Denver Nuggets made one of the biggest draft blunders in recent history. With the 5th overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft, the Nuggets selected Nikoloz Tskitishvili (Kudos to any NBA fan who can pronounce that). Prior to the draft, “Skita” played in Italy, winning the Italian League championship under head coach Mike D’Antoni. Coach D’Antoni had high praise for “Skita” — and said the following before the draft; “His skills are off the charts… he could be something special.”
Unfortunately, he proved to be anything but “special” during his time in the NBA. Less than three seasons later, the Nuggets traded away “Skita” — after he averaged 2.67 ppg on 31% shooting.
Notable players drafter after “Skita”… Amar’e Stoudemire (#9), Caron Butler (#10), Tayshaun Prince (#23).
2003: Darko Miličić, Detroit Pistons
Let’s play a game. It’s called “which one of these names doesn’t belong.” Here we go; LeBron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade. Need a hint?
With the #2 overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons made one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the draft. During his three seasons in Detroit, Darko averaged 5.7 minutes per game and averaged just 1.6 points per game.
In a recent interview with Yahoo! Sports he finally opened up about why he was such a massive bust. Although you can make the case that he was mismanaged by head coach Larry Brown, Milicic ultimately blamed his own behavior as the driving factor behind his horrific NBA career; “As a No. 2 pick coming from Europe, I thought I was sent by God, so I got into fights, got drunk before practices.” Milicic is now a farmer in Serbia.
2004: Rafael Araújo, Toronto Raptors
With the 8th overall pick in the 2004 draft, the Toronto Raptors selected BYU center Rafael Araújo. Intrigued by Araújo’s combination of size (6-foot-11 and 295lbs) and recent success in the NCAA Tournament (24 points and 12 rebounds against Syracuse) the Raptors thought they had found their franchise center.
But it didn’t take long to realize that Araújo wasn’t a NBA player. In his first season, he posted lowly averages of 3.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and a measly 0.1 blocks. That’s pretty pathetic rim protection for a guy who is just shy of 7-feet tall. In three seasons, Araújo finished his NBA career with a grand total of 389 points and 16 blocks.
With the very next pick, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Arizona forward Andre Iguodala. As of this writing, Iggy is a 2x NBA champion, and the MVP of the 2015 NBA Finals.
2005: Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks
There’s a reason why the Atlanta Hawks were one of the worst teams in the NBA from 2000 to 2007 — and continued to pick at the top of the draft lottery. In 2005, the Hawks were in desperate need of a point guard (they were starting Tyronn Lue). Yet, instead of choosing All-American point guard Chris Paul, or Deron Williams (who had just led Illinois to the NCAA Championship), the Hawks selected University of North Carolina’s 6th man, Marvin Williams.
Before you start to defend the Williams pick, and his very mediocre career (10.5 ppg) — consider this… while Williams hasn’t been terrible in the pros, if you put his career alongside that of Chris Paul or even Deron Williams, it starts to look pretty ugly. Chris Paul is arguably one of the best point guards in NBA history, and Deron Williams was one of the best players in the NBA during his six seasons with the Jazz (prior to being traded to the Nets).
When putting together a list like this, one of the biggest factors in rating a draft selection, is considering who the team could have drafted instead. Marvin Williams over Chris Paul seems like a pretty epic draft mistake.
2006: Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats
In fairness to Charlotte, who selected Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison with the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft, four of the top five picks turned out to be all-time busts: Andrea Bargnani, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams, along with Morrison. While he was an incredibly productive player in college (28.1 ppg in his junior season), Morrison couldn’t compete with the athletes in the NBA.
The Morrison pick looks even worse when you see who was taken after him in the draft; Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Rudy Gay, and J. J. Redick.
Regardless of his abysmal NBA career (28 career starts) Morrison won two NBA championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010, even though he was nothing more than a cheerleader on the bench. Thanks to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Adam Morrison has more NBA titles than Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and John Stockton — combined!
2007: Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
It sounds foolish now, but it wasn’t at the time… If given the chance, a majority of scouts and front office executives would have drafted Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, which is exactly what the Portland Trail Blazers did in 2007. Coming out of high school, Oden was widely regarded as the #1 player in the nation, and his flashes of brilliance during his lone season at Ohio State suggested he could be the next Patrick Ewing.
Thanks to a myriad of injuries, Oden started just 66 of a possible 492 games in his six-year career. He retired at the end of the 2014 season, at the age of 26.
Aside from Durant, the Blazers also missed out on Al Horford, Mike Conley Jr. and Joakim Noah.
In 1984, the Portland Trail Blazers drafted Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan. In 2007, the Portland Trail Blazers drafted Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant.
2008: Michael Beasley, Miami Heat
For much of the 2007-2008 college season, Michael Beasley appeared destined to be the #1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Here’s his ridiculous per game averages from his lone season at Kansas State; 26.2 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 56% fg, 1.6 bpg, 1.3 spg. He became just the 27th player in NCAA Division I history to post 26 or more double-doubles in a season.
Beasley ended up going second in the 2008 draft (Derrick Rose went #1) but he has struggled mightily in the NBA. Between his temperamental and combative personality, combined with his penchant for frequently enjoying “recreational substances” — it’s no wonder that Beasley had played for six different teams during his ten year career.
By drafting Beasley, the Heat passed on Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, and Eric Gordon, all of whom were top 10 picks that year. Believe it or not, Beasley is still just 29-years old.
2009: Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies
James harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. What do these guys all have in common? They were all picked AFTER Hasheem Thabeet, who was drafted 2nd overall, in the 2009 NBA draft.
As a junior at the University of Connecticut, Hasheem Thabeet helped the Huskies reach NCAA Final Four. At 7-foot-3 and 263lbs, Thabeet was one of the best rim protectors in recent memory, blocking a total of 417 shots in just 100 games (4.2 BPG!).
While people thought he could be a modern version of Theo Ratliff, he turned out to be one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history (2.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 20 career starts). Thabeet played on four different teams during his five year NBA career, and hasn’t been on a NBA roster since 2014. He spent the 2014-15 season in the G-League (pictured above) but his performance was far from impressive. Thabeet spent the 2017 playing overseas in Japan.
In case you needed one last reminder… The Grizzlies could have drafted James Harden or Steph Curry!
2010: Wesley Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves
Swingman Wesley Johnson absolutely dominated the Big East in his junior year. In addition to scoring 16.5 ppg on 50% shooting, Johnson added 8.5 rpg to go with 1.7 spg and 1.8 bpg. Standing 6-foot-7 and sporting a sweet stroke from behind the arc (he shot 42% from three) Johnson appeared to be the perfect “3-and-D” player.
Johnson has been a somewhat productive role player at times, but that’s hardly what teams are looking for when they draft a player with the #4 overall pick. By drafting Johnson, the Wolves passed on center Demarcus Cousins (pick #5), as well as forwards Gordon Hayward (pick #9) and Paul George (pick #10).
Johnson is currently a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, his 4th NBA franchise in 8 seasons.
2011: Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings
James Taft “Jimmer” Fredette had a storybook career at BYU. Fredette was the 2011 National Player of the Year, after leading the nation in scoring with a jaw-dropping 28.9 points per game. As a one man show with a deadly jump shot, Fredette’s season at BYU was very reminiscent of Steph Curry’s time at Davidson.
He was selected with the tenth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but only played limited minutes across four different teams over five NBA seasons. He spent the 2015-16 season in the NBA D-League and the last two seasons dominating the Chinese Basketball Association (37.6 points per game!).
Here’s where the Jimmer pick gets really ugly… With the very next pick, the Golden State Warriors drafted another sweet-shooting guard named Klay Thompson. Thompson would be nice addition to any roster, and so would Kawhi Leonard, who the Spurs selected with the #15 pick.
2012: Thomas Robinson, Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings hoped to bounce back from the Jimmer pick by adding versatile big man Thomas Robinson with the #5 pick in the 2012 draft. In his junior season at Kansas, Robinson averaged 17.7 ppg, and was an absolute beast on the boards (11.9 rpg) — earning himself the Big 12 POY award.
But like most young players, Robinson didn’t last long in Sacramento. The Kings traded him to the Houston Rockets, halfway into his rookie season! Just months later, Houston shipped Robinson to Portland, marking his third NBA team in one year. Robinson played short stints with the 76ers, Nets and Lakers before heading to Europe in 2017 to play in the Russian league.
With the very next pick, the Trail Blazers selected Weber State guard Damian Lillard. The Kings were one of many teams who missed out on Draymond Green, who somehow slipped to the pick #35.
2013: Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers
In January of 2017, four years after the Cavaliers selected him with the #1 overall pick, the Brooklyn Nets waived 23-year old Anthony Bennett. And it’s likely that Bennett will never make his way back to the NBA.
Where did it go wrong? How did Bennett become the answer to the trivia question, “Who is the biggest No. 1 overall bust in NBA history?”
Many NBA executives thought that Bennett was a reach with the #1 pick, but most considered him a valuable 5th or 6th man, not an all-time bust. The Cavaliers set Bennett up for failure by placing the expectations of the No. 1 overall pick on his shoulders, something he clearly wasn’t ready to handle.
By drafting Bennett the Cavaliers missed out on a boatload of talented young players; Victor Oladipo, C.J. McCollum, Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, and …. (drum roll) … Giannis Antetokounmpo!
2014: Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings
Prior to the 2014 NBA draft, Vivek Ranadive, the owner of the Sacramento Kings, assembled a massive team of analytics specialists to assess which player the Kings should take in the upcoming draft. There was only one problem — Ranadive completely ignored the advice of everyone on his staff and selected the player he wanted all along, Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas.
But it didn’t take long for Sacramento to figure out that Stauskas was a bust. He was such a mistake that the Kings decided to trade him after only one season.
Stauskas, a player who was labeled as a big-time shooter coming into the league, is shooting a measly 38% from the field. Which is probably the reason he’s already played for three different teams in his four-year career.
Players drafted after Stauskas: Dario Šarić, Jusuf Nurkić, Gary Harris, Clint Capela.
2015: Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers
Is Jahlil Okafor officially a bust?
Before the 2015 NBA draft, Okafor was in serious consideration to be selected with the first overall pick (Minnesota ended up drafting Karl-Anthony Towns). During his one season at Duke, he averaged 17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg and was incredibly efficient from the field (he shot 66%).
Although he finished his rookie season with solid statistics — 17.5 ppg and 7 rpg — his lack of mobility and defensive inefficiencies were routinely exploited by opposing offenses. At the start of the 2017 season, the 76ers decided not to pick up the fourth-year option on Okafor’s rookie deal — making it crystal clear they were no longer interested in his (limited) services. In late 2017, the 76ers traded the once promising big man to the Nets for Trevor Booker.
While the 76ers already have two young superstars in the making, if they could redo the 2015 draft, it’s safe to assume they would have selected Kristaps Porzingis or Devin Booker instead.
2016: Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns
With the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the rebuilding Phoenix Suns selected big man Dragan Bender. He was widely seen as the best international prospect available in the draft. At 7-foot-1, Bender impressed scouts with his quickness, ball handling, and sweet stroke from the outside — incredibly valuable assets in the current “pace and space” NBA.
Unfortunately, Bender has been less than impressive during his first two NBA seasons. Although he’s still just 20-years old, it’s hard to be optimistic about a “shooter” who is shooting 37% from the field. Considering he’s a below average rebounder (3.7 rpg) and shot blocker (0.6 bpg), if Bender isn’t able to improve his jump shot, it’s going to be very hard for the Phoenix coaching staff to justify keeping him in the lineup.
Unfortunately for the Suns, the first three picks in the 2016 draft seem destined to be high level pros for years to come; Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown.
2017: Malik Monk, Charlotte Bobcats
Entering the 2017 NBA Draft, Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk was considered to be a virtual lock to be taken among the top 10 picks, as he was considered to be one of the most dynamic and explosive scorers in the entire draft class. So when he fell to the the Charlotte Hornets, who took him with the 11th overall pick, many observers and fans instantly called him one of the steals of the draft. Yet, it looks like there was a good reason he fell out of the top 10.
After suffering an injury in a summer league game before his rookie season, Monk struggled all season, quickly ending up in head coach Steve Clifford’s doghouse. It got so bad that he was even re-assigned to the G-League briefly, which is unheard of for a lottery pick. He finished his rookie season averaging less than seven points a game, with a field goal percentage of just 36% (though he did finish out the year averaging 20.4 points per game and shooting 48% in the month of April).