Worst Picks From Each Decade

Breaking down the worst picks from the 80’s to the 2000’s

One of the main reasons that people love consuming mock drafts and other draft related information, is that you can always go back in time and see how analysts and executives did, in both projecting the actual draft and drafting alike. Sometimes a surefire prospect can’t stay healthy, other times its a motorcycle accident, and then there are those that just simply cannot play at the level expected of a top draft pick. Whatever the case may be, it is always interesting to take a look at some of the biggest blunders in draft history. To keep it simple, the criteria was the player had to be a top 5 pick in a given year, and also never been selected to an all-star team. We did the research and picked the worst draft selections from each decade, starting in the 1980’s so you don’t have to.

1980’s

Sam Bowie (Kentucky): 1984 #2 Overall Pick (Trailblazers)

Career Stats: 9.5 Points/6.7 Rebounds/1.5 Assists/1.5 Block

When Bowie was healthy, he was a solid player. Not worth the #2 pick in any draft given his injury problems, but Bowie has to be included on this list simply due to the fact that he was chosen one spot before Michael Jordan. As of now, this is the worst pick in basketball history but that has more to do with Jordan and less to do with Bowie. Bowie’s best season where he played more than 60 games, he averaged 15 and 8 while Jordan was the best player on a team that won 6 championships.

Pervis Ellison (Louisville): 1989 #1 Overall Pick (Kings)

Career Stats: 10.9 Points/7.5 Rebounds/2.1 Assists/1.8 Blocks

After only playing one season with the Kings, Ellison had a couple of good seasons with the Bullets. Injuries were the story in his career, but he definitely did not live up to the expectations of a #1 overall pick. Ellison went from his college nickname “Never nervous Pervis”, to his NBA nickname given by a teammate, “Out of service Pervis.”

James Ray (Jacksonville): 1980 #5 Overall Pick (Nuggets)

Career Stats: 3.2 Points/2.2 Rebounds/0.7 Assists

To say that Ray never lived up to the hype is an understatement, playing only 3 seasons in the NBA. He continued to play professionally in Italy, Spain and Turkey after the NBA, but this pick was terrible.

Chris Washburn (N.C. State): 1986 #3 Overall Pick (Warriors)

Career Stats: 3.1 Points/2.4 Rebounds/0.2 Blocks

Washburn received a lifetime ban in 1989 after failing his third drug test ending a short career that went much more poorly than anyone could have imagined. He did manage a career playing oversees professionally after his problems with substance abuse in the states.

Bill Garnett (Wyoming): 1982 #4 Overall Pick (Mavericks)

Career Stats: 5.5 Points/4.3 Rebounds/1.2 Assists

Although Wyoming doesn’t usually play the best of schedules, Garnett averaged 18.1 Points and 8.1 Rebounds his senior year, which made him the 4th overall pick in 82′. This turned out to be a disaster with Garnett out of the league by 1983, and never averaging more than 6.4 ppg.

1990’s

Michael Olowokandi (Pacific): 1998 #1 Overall Pick (Clippers)

Career Stats: 8.3 Points/6.8 Rebounds/1.4 Blocks

Whenever a player is taken with the #1 Overall Pick, you can expect some big expectations, and reaching non-bust status from this position is no small task. Multiple all star games, a ring or two, and 20 ppg are expected by a player and a franchise when they begin their career and why not, they have dominated every other level of basketball to get to that point. Olowokandi could not live up to these standards, and just flat out should not of been taken over the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, and Vince Carter.

Jonathan Bender (Picayne High School): 1999 #5 Overall Pick (Raptors)

Career Stats: 5.5 Rebounds/2.2 Assists/0.6 Assists/0.7 Blocks

You would think the worst part about the Indiana Pacers trading for Jonathan Bender on draft day would be that they had Bender under contract for his rookie deal, but it was not. The worst part is that after being a complete miss as far as talent evaluation goes, Indiana decided to give a 4 year $28.5 million dollar contract following his third season. He had everything scouts look for coming out of college: athleticism, size, and his skill set looked to project well, he was just unable to put it together. The Knicks would be the only other team to give Bender a chance for a season, which did not work out as well.

Tony Battie (Texas Tech): 1998 #5 Overall Pick (Nuggets)

Career Stats: 6.1 Points/5.1 Rebounds/0.9 Blocks

It is usually not a good sign when a player drafted with the number 5 overall pick is traded twice in his second season. This was the case with Battie, and would set the tone for his career going forward, Battie would play for 6 teams. Just looking at his statistics you would wonder how he stayed in the league as long as did. Battie ended up being a valuable role player and finding his niche in that role, but he did not come close to living up to the hype a draft pick that high receives.

Antonio Daniels (Bowling Green): 1997 #4 Overall Pick (Grizzlies)

Career Stats: 7.6 Points/1.8 Rebounds/3.4 Assists/0.6 Steals

Much like Battie, Daniels endured a trade after his first season with the Grizzlies. Luckily for the former Bowling Green star he ended up being traded to the Spurs and played was a solid role player for the 1999 championship team. That would be the highlight of his career, although he did average double digit points (11.2) for Seattle in 04′-05′.

Shawn Bradley (BYU): 1993 #2 Overall Pick (76ers)

Career Stats: 8.1 Points/6.3 Rebounds/2.5 Blocks

Bradley had so much hype in 1993 in that he left BYU after his freshman year, well before it was the cool thing to do. While he did carve out a respectable 12 year career in the league, he did not come close to living up to what many experts thought would be his ceiling as a 7’6″ center. Bradley along with other players in his height range have proven that there is a line where size can prevent mobility and ultimately limit a players ceiling. Bradley was over that line, and could just need keep up in an NBA that was beginning its move towards becoming guard dominate.

2000-2009

Kwame Brown (Glynn Academy): 2001 #1 Overall Pick (Wizards)

Career Stats: 6.6 Points/5.5 Rebounds/0.6 Blocks

After finishing up high school, Brown elected to head to the NBA instead of playing for the University of Florida that he committed to. It turned out to the be one the worst #1 overall picks in the history of the draft. Drafted by Michael Jordan the executive, he simply was just not what scouts and experts had predicted. Brown played for 7 teams over 13 seasons, never averaging more than 10.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. Some would say he was not Kobe Bryant’s favorite teammate as well.

Nikoloz Tskitishvili (Georgia): 2002 #5 Overall Pick (Nuggets)

Career Stats: 2.9 Points/1.8 Rebounds/0.7 Assists/0.3 Blocks

The Nuggets drafted the player out of Georgia the country, not the college, in 2002, in what could be lightly described as a train wreck. He played under Mike D’Antoni in Italy, but that didn’t seem to matter much, as he only played more than 40 games in 1 season (81 games). Oddly enough, after being out of the league for 9 years starting in 2006, Tskitishvili was signed by the Clippers in 2015 but released a month later.

Hasheem Thabeet (UCONN): 2009 #2 Overall Pick (Grizzlies)

Career Stats: 2.2 Points/2.7 Rebounds/0.8 Blocks

Being 7’3″ and averaging 13.6 Points, 10.8 Rebounds, and 4.2 Blocks per game in college will get the attention of scouts. Everyone knew that Thabeet’s offensive game would take time, but the idea was that in the meantime you would have an elite rim protector. The actuality was he never averaged more than 1.3 blocks per game and or over 13 minutes a game, both coming in his rookie year. This goes down as one of the all time bad picks, which is made especially bad for the Grizzlies since James Harden was taken at #3 behind Thabeet, and Stephen Curry at #7.

Darko Milicic (Serbia): 2003 #2 Overall Pick (Pistons)

Career Stats: 6 Points/4.2 Rebounds/0.9 Assists/1.3 Blocks

Milicic did end playing sporadically for 6 different teams over 10 seasons, but when Detroit selected him at #2 Overall in 2003, they could not have imagined what a mistake they were making. The pistons made the mistake of overthinking your pick. Detroit was coming off an eastern conference finals appearance, and had a solid core Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamiliton, Tayshaun Prince, and Ben Wallace. The thinking in Detroit was they would draft off of need and plug a stretch 4/5 into the lineup with their already established core. That did not go well, the 3 picks behind Milicic became Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade with a combined 33 All Star selections, and 5 championships. The Pistons did go to back to back NBA finals and won the championship the following year, so you can’t be too mad.

Adam Morrison (Gonzaga): 2006 #3 Overall Pick (Bobcats)

Career Stats: 7.5 Points/2.1 Rebounds/1.4 Assists

It is easy to see why Morrison was so highly thought of out of Gonzaga when you look at the statistics. His senior year he averaged 28.1 points while shooting 42.8% from 3 and standing at 6’8″. There was not a question as to whether or not Morrison could defend on the NBA level, there was only a question of how bad it would be. If he could just be an average defender, then his offense could keep him on the floor. Neither happened, and he was out of the league in 4 seasons.

Shelden Williams (Duke): 2006 #5 Overall Pick (Hawks)

Career Stats: 4.5 Points/4.3 Rebounds/0.5 Assists/0.5 Blocks

He might be more well known for being married to Candace Parker at this point, but coming out of Duke, Williams everything a classic big men possesses. He was a double double machine and left Duke the all time leader in blocks. That success did not translate to the NBA as he played 6 seasons for 7 different teams never averaging above 5.5 points while averaging less than a block a game for his career. His last season at Duke, Williams averaged 18.8 Points/10.7 Rebounds/3.8 blocks per game.

Greg Oden (Ohio State): 2007 #1 Overall Pick (Trailblazers)

Career Stats: 8 Points/6.2 Rebounds/1.2 Blocks

There was never a doubt that Oden could play. In his one season at Ohio State he averaged 15.7 Points, 9.6 Rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game, while he was leading the Buckeyes to the NCAA title game with fellow freshman Mike Conley Jr. It is still insane that he was taken one spot in front of generational talent Kevin Durant who was selected by Seattle (Now Oklahoma City), but injuries are the main reason why Oden did not carve out a decent NBA career. Nonetheless he only played 3 seasons in the league and that includes a short comeback attempt with Miami.

2010-2017

Thomas Robinson (Kansas): 2012 #5 Overall Pick (Kings)

Career Stats: 4.9 Points/4.8 Rebounds/0.4 Blocks

The 2012 draft had some good players like Anthony Davis at 1, and Bradley Beal at 3, Damian Lillard at #6, and Andre Drummond at #9. Thomas Robinson would not be in that group, only playing 5 seasons in the NBA. A highly rated recruit out of high school who took a couple of years to show his potential in college, Robinson just couldn’t cut it on NBA level. His best season his stat line was 5.7 points and 5.6 Rebounds in 14.8 minutes. Definitely not what is expected of a player drafted #5 overall.

Anthony Bennett (UNLV): 2013 #1 Overall Pick (Cavaliers)

Career Stats: 4.4 Points/3.4 Rebounds/0.5 Assists

While it was a strange pick to take Bennett at #1 overall, he was a top ten recruit out of high school, and he averaged 16.1 Points and 8.1 rebounds in his only season at UNLV. Basically the Cavs were taking a player they valued more than the other teams, who they probably could have gotten trading down to the #5-#10 range. The Cavs opted to just simply draft their guy and it ended up allowing them to trade Bennett and Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love. Bennett played for 4 teams in 4 seasons and then bowed out of the league, going down as one of, if not the worst #1 overall pick in history.

Alex Len (Maryland): 2013 #5 Overall Pick (Suns)

Career Stats: 7.5 Points/6.4 Rebounds/1 Block

Len had an average two years at Maryland, but definitely not the statistics of a usual top five pick. He averaged 11.9 Points and 7.8 rebounds his Soph. season at Maryland, so it was a surprise when he was taken #5 overall. It did not work for Len in Phoenix as he never averaged more than 23 minutes per game in a season. He has taken a small step in his time with the Hawks this season, so the story is not completely over for Len at this point but as of now it’s safe to say he was not worth the pick.

Dante Exum (Austrailia): 2014 #5 Overall Pick (Jazz)

Career Stats: 6 Points/1.8 Rebounds/2.2 Assists/0.2 Blocks

As with any other international prospect, Exum came in with a lot of question marks. His size and athleticism for a combo guard was the main draw, but he has not adjusted to the American game well at all. To be fair, he has been limited by the team in his role, but you could also argue that is the fault of the player not earning more minutes. Whatever the case may be, he remains in Utah existing in a reserve role.

Jahlil Okafor (Duke): 2015 #3 Overall Pick (76ers)

Career Stats: 11.8 Points/4.9 Rebounds/0.9 Assist/0.9 Blocks

Unfortunately for Okafor he was drafted to Philadelphia the year after Joel Embiid. While Embiid sat out two years, Okafor had a solid rookie year and took a step back in his second season. Once Embiid came back and showed he was one of the best big men in the league, the writing was on the wall for Okafor’s exit. He is now on his third team in 4 seasons, going down as a very odd but bad career arc for a top five pick.

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