The 10 Worst NBA Drafts Picks of the Century
The worst of the best.
Making the NBA is no mean feat. We get that. You gotta be able to hoop to even make it that far. But not all NBA players are created equally.
For the past couple of years, the NBA and it’s fans have been blessed with some incredible draft talent. Just look at last year’s race for Rookie of the Year — Simmons, Tatum and Mitchell — and you know that the future of the NBA is in good hands.
Hell, even this year’s rookies in Trae Young and Luka Dončić are turning it up, looking like 6 or 7th year pros. But as history shows, not every year is going to be packed full of talent. In fact, it can be quite the opposite.
And while this century has seen it’s fair share of superstar draftees — LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, just to name a few — there’s an equal amount of busts that come and go from the league quicker than a six pack of Coors at my uncle’s cook outs.
And more often than not, these guys wer picked ahead of the aforementioned superstars.
While their time in the NBA may have been short, they left a lasting impression on the franchises that drafted them. And we don’t mean that in a good way.
So here it is, our Top 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks from the 21st Century.
10. Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers // Pick #1, 2007
Picked before: Kevin Durant (2), Al Horford (3)
This one hurts, because I’m 110% certain that big Greg would have been a monster and furture All-Star (if not Hall of Famer) had he not succumbed to injuries early on in his career.
His knee injury derailed his career before it even got started. He only played one out of every five games during his time at Portland. It’s sad.
After a stellar freshman season with Ohio State, and before that three state championships in high school, Oden was selected with the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft — and pretty much everyone agreed with the selection, even if it was one pick ahead of Kevin Durant.
It’s true that the 2007 draft was mostly garbage, but the Portland Trail Blazers did pass on Kevin Durant to take Oden. And Durant will go down as one of the top 10 players of all time.
Even on his best trajectory, Oden wouldn’t have been better than Durant. That’s why this pick was so awful.
But we all have PhDs in hindsight.
9. Dajuan Wagner, Cleveland Cavaliers // Pick #6, 2002
Picked before: Amar’e Stoudemire (9)
DaJuan Wagner was touted as one of the best high school basketball players of his era. And after his freshman year at Memphis, looked poised to be a star.
Wagner averaged a crazy 42.5 points per game in high school, then a solid averaged 21.2 points per game as a freshman for the Tigers.
So it was no surprise that the Cleveland Cavaliers made him their first pick, the sixth selection of the 2002 NBA Draft — yet another horrible draft class.
But, at the time, no one would argue with the Cavs on this pick, especially after a solid rookie season averaging 13.4 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists at just 19 years old. The future was bright for DaJuan: people saw him as a young Stephon Marbury-type scorer, but his career just didn’t take off. Wagner never played more than 47 games in a season, and after two awful years in Cleveland, he sat out the 2005-06 campaign due to colitis.
He returned with the Golden State Warriors for the 2006-07 season, but only played one game. He then played just six games in the Polish league in 2007 and one comeback attempt was halted in 2015, after the league he signed up with folded. It’s clear that things just weren’t ever going to be in Wagner’s favor.
In an NBA career spanning just 103 games, he averaged 9.4 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. For his career he finished with exactly 0.0 win shares in four years.
8. Jan Veselý, Washington Wizards // Pick #6, 2011
Picked before: Kemba Walker (9), Klay Thompson (11), Kawhi Leonard (15), Jimmy Butler (30)
Entering the 2011 NBA Draft, Jan Veselý’s had a lot of clout.
He was an athletic, versatile 7-foot forward who was the 2010 FIBA Young Men’s Player of the Year and helped lead his Serbian club Partizan to nine club trophies in three seasons.
Veselý also had a ton of swagger. After he was told that some US reporters were labelling him the ‘European Blake Griffin’, he actually said that Griffin was the American Jan Veselý.
Talk about confidence.
But Veselý’s walk didn’t match the talk.
In his extremely short NBA career, Veselý averaged a measley 3.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 15.2 minutes per game. He played just 162 games, starting just 25 of them. That’s it.
After less than three seasons with the Wizards, he was shifted to the Denver Nuggets, where things din’t improve. After his third NBA season he headed back to Europe and was done with the NBA before his 24th birthday.
What made this pick even worse? The stock that was still available. Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard were all still up for grabs.
7. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies // Pick #2, 2009
Picked before: James Harden (3), Steph Curry (7), DeMar DeRozan (9)
Drafting a 7’3″ Big East Player of the Year and dominant defender with zero offensive ability? What could possibly go wrong?
Hasheem Thabeet truly dominated at UConn from 2006-09, helping the Huskies reach the Final Four in 2009, collecting the National Defensive Player of the Year and a second team All-American awards along the way, despite not actually having any offensive game.
And once he hit the NBA, it became glaringly obvious that the Grizzlies made a terrible, terrible mistake.
Hasheem was selected second in the 2009 NBA draft behind Blake Griffin and things went downhill pretty much straight away. In the middle of just his second season, Memphis had enough, dishing him and a future first-rounder to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier and Ish Smith.
And the Rockets didn’t take to him too well, either, with a quick fire sendoff to the D-League.
After Houston, Thabeet bounced around from franchise to franchise, spending time in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Detroit (though he never actually played a game for Sixers or Pistons) before eventually winding up in the Japanese B. League.
His enormous size were the reason he was continually given chances, but it never worked out. Anywhere. He was out of the NBA by the time he was 27.
In his five-years in the league, Thabeet averaged 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 10.5 minutes in 224 games.
With Harden, Curry and DeRozan still available for selection after Griffin, we’re still asking the question of how the Grizzlies scouts could perform so badly.
I suppose it’s indicative of their franchise in general.
6. Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Denver Nuggets // Pick #5, 2002
Picked before: Amar’e Stoudemire (9)
The Denver Nuggets had the fifth pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and thought they were getting a franchise-changing talent in Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Unfortunately for Denver, the 2002 draft class was one of the worst in the NBA’s history.
The 7-foot forward/center was reported to be versatile, with a great jump shot and enough ball skills to score at will in the paint.
Perhaps a bit of an embellishment by the scouts on the Georgian’s skillset, but we suppose there wasn’t much else out there to compare against that year. Hell, he doesn’t even look like a basketball player
Tskitishvili was drafted at just 20 years of age, after helping Benetton Treviso win the Italian League title under then-head coach Mike D’Antoni.
His talent was so oversold, it took no time at all to expose his game. In only four NBA seasons (with four different teams, mind you), Tskitishvili averaged a weak 2.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 11.3 minutes over 172 games. He shot 30.4 percent from the field for his career and 23.5 percent from 3-point range. Yuck.
The Nugs didn’t have to wait too long for a successful, franchise-changing talent though, scooping up Carmelo Anthony the following year at #3.
5. Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats // Pick #3, 2006
Picked before: Brandon Roy (6), Rajon Rondo (21), Kyle Lowry (24), Paul Millsap (47)
Some scouts saw Larry Bird in Adam Morrison. Boy were they wrong.
The long-haired, whispy mustached Morrison was a prolific scorer at Gonzaga, But he was definatley not in the same league as Bird. Aside from being known as one of the biggest busts in NBa Draft history, he was not destined for NBA immortality.
The serial-killer looking Morrison finished his final season in college as the nation’s leading scorer, pouring in 28.1 points per game. But despite his size (6’8″ and 205 pounds), the Montana native had issues creating his own shot and matching up against players with superior athleticism.
That haunted him in the NBA.
The first season would be his best, averaging 11.8 points and 2.9 rebounds, but he shot just 37.6 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from 3-point range — well below the expectations he created from such an outstanding final year at Gonzaga.
In the middle of his second season (after missing a year with a knee injury), the Bobcats traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers in a move to dump salary. But the Lakers really only wanted Shannon Brown, who was part of the deal.
Morrison is the most successful — in terms of championships won — on this list of busts, winning two NBA titles as a rarely-used pinch hitter for the Lakers. But despite all of that, he was out of the league after the 2010 season at just 25 years old.
He wildly attempted a comeback in 2012, but was waived before the season started, and he officially retired before he was 30.
4. Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards // Pick #1, 2001
Picked before: Tyson Chandler (2), Pau Gasol (3), Joe Johnson (10), Zach Randolph (19), Tony Parker (28), Gilbert Arenas (31)
Kwame Brown is the butt of a lot of bad jokes, memes and stories. We kind of feel sorry for the kid. After all, the entire world looked on as Michael Jordan’s first-ever #1 pick as a President of a Basketball franchise took the court.
Not only that, Mike himself came out of retirement to take the court with him.
The pressure was huge for the straight out of high school Brown.
Kwame was taken at No. 1 in the 2001 NBA Draft over the likes of Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson and many more were all at Mike’s disposal. The choice definately had it’s merits, but as it turns out, Kwame was just not cut out for the mental aspect of the NBA. It lead to one of the most disappointing careers in NBA history.
Brown had the raw talent of a star — which is why he stuck around for 12 seasons — but he didn’t have the head, heart, focus or drive to become an elite basketball player. All of that was exposed early on, when, in true Jordan fashion, got torn to shreds in a vocal encounter with Michael during his first season.
After that, Kwame was never the same.
The 6’11” forward/center spent four years with the Wizards. In that time he played in 97 games and averaged just 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game. He was traded to the Lakers in 2005 and bounced around from franchise to franchise after that. Interestingly, Brown ended up back under Mike’s controll at the Bobcats in 2010 — maybe Mike still believed he could make a player out of him. But even that only lasted one season.
He retired in 2013, then attempted a comeback in 2016 and played in the BIG3 in 2017.
In 607 career games, Brown averaged a woeful 6.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 22.1 minutes per game. He shot 49.2 percent from the field (mostly from the post) in his career and posted a horrid 1.2 turnovers per game. That’s incredibly bad for a post guy who was not once considered the focal point of any offense he played in.
3. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves // Pick #6, 2009
Picked before: Steph Curry (7), DeMar DeRozan (9)
The Minnesota Timberwolves had the fifth and sixth picks in the 2009 NBA Draft and a ton of holes to fill. They clearly needed a point guard, which they filled at their #5 pick by selecting Ricky Rubio (hell, theat’s considered a bad pick now that Steph Curry was still available) and then with pick six, they selected . . . another point guard?
What the hell?
That sixth pick was Syracuse sophomore Jonny Flynn, who will forever be remembered as the guy taken one spot before Stephen Curry. Yeah, that’s right, the Timberwolves wnet after a franchise-changing point guard, took two of them, and still didn’t get the right guy.
Flynn fell out of the NBA system so quickly, we’re beginning to wonder if David Kahn was compos mentis, selecting him (and Rubio) over Curry.
Flynn’s rookie season turned out to be his best, averaging 13.2 points and 4.4 assists in 28.9 minutes per game over 81 starts. But his sophomore season was a shambles, averaging just 5.3 points, 3.4 assists and 2.1 turnovers in 18.5 minutes per game.
Flynn was shipped off to Houston the next year, which ended up being his last in the NBA. He was out of the league by the time he was 22.
Flynn bounced around other professional leagues, including to my local NBL (Australia) where he failed to even make the all-NBL team. 2014 is when he finally called it quits.
2. Darko Milicic, Detroit Pistons // Pick #2, 2003
Picked before: Carmelo Anthony (3), Chris Bosh (4), Dwayne Wade (5)
Four of the first five picks from the 2003 NBA Draft are no-doubt Hall of Famers. The other is now a farmer out in Serbia.
That man is Darko Milicic.
Oh, how the course of a career can differ — but it didn’t appear to be that dire for the Euro prospect back in 2003. Milicic was an athletic, legit 7-footer (with an even larger ego) out of Serbia who had been playing professional basketball since he was 16.
The international scouts couldn’t contain themselves, touting him to be a highly-skilled force on the interior and a game-changing talent who could stretch the floor and dominate on both ends.
He was none of those things. And the successes of his surrounding picks highlighted this even more.
It’s not his fault the Detroit Pistons selected him ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. It wasn;t his fault that the Pistons were chasing titles — and they had little room to let an unpolished rookie such as Darko grow into his role. But he does admit that his success, or lack of it, was his own fault, admitting to showing up to training drunk and not giving a shit about the game.
“My approach was completely different. As a No. 2 pick coming from Europe, I thought I was sent by God, so I got into fights, got drunk before practices, spiting everyone, but I was spiting myself.”
Milicic may have sat on the bench for most of his first two years with Detroit, but he still managed to squeeze out a 10-year NBA career, bouncing around several teams after his 2006 departure.
Over those 10 years, he averaged a measly 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 18.5 minutes over 468 games.
It wasn’t all bad, though, because Milicic did win an NBA title in 2004 — and he can always lay claim to be the guy drafted after LeBron James. So … there’s that.
1. Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1, 2013)
Picked before: Victor Oladipo (2), C.J. McCollum (10), Steven Adams (12), Kelly Olynyk (13),Giannis Antetokounmpo (15), Rudy Gobert (27)
This has to be no surprise to anyone.
Sometimes you take a gamble and win big. But five years ago, the Cavs went big and lost big.
The Cavs opted to select developmental prospect Anthony Bennett at number 1 over the far more accomplished Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter Jr.
Sure, the 2013 draft is probably the second worst of the 21st century (behind 2002), but still, Bennett only averaged 16.1 points per game as a freshman at UNLV. Nothing to rave about. So why on earth did the Cavs take him?
Bennett wound up spending four seasons in the NBA with four different teams. The Cavs traded him to the Timberwolves as part of the deal that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland, then he wound up back home in Canada with Toronto and then Brooklyn before being tossed out of the NBA at just 23 years old.
Over his four-year career, played only 151 games for four stars — that’s an average of one per season. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12.6 minutes. He shot a aweful 39.2 percent from the field.
Bennett was worth minus-1.7 net points per 100 possessions.
Bennett spent the 2017 season in the Turkish league with Fenerbahçe, in where he averaged a robust 1.2 points per game. Yeah — 1.2, not 12.
To noone’s surprise, he was released from the Turkish club and has now found himself in the G-League where he remains a member of the Maine Red Claws.
And while he’s still just 25, we’re not ever expecting an NBA resurgence.