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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 NBA Draft Busts of All Time

Top 10 NBA Draft Busts of All Time

Publish Date: 12/07/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Biggest NBA Draft Busts

The great thing about discussing a bust in any sport is all the what-ifs accompanying it. What if the Trail Blazers got Jordan? We will never know, but we know that taking Sam Bowie was not ideal. They say hindsight is 20/20, but that mistake was obvious during the selection. Others were surprised that they didn’t work out; today, we will look at the worst of the worst all-time NBA draft picks.

10) Dennis Hopson(New Jersey Nets 1987, pick 3)

Miniature Muggsy Bogues would have made for a better selection here — along with Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller, Kenny Smith, Horace Grant and Kevin Johnson, they were all still available after Dennis Hopson was selected at No. 3.

If you don’t recall him, here is why: He played just five seasons in the NBA. Hopson was an excellent player at Ohio State, but Miller and Pippen were picks that you can’t pass up.

Over that span, he averaged 10.9 points and 2.8 rebounds while failing to become one of the all-time great defenders or clutch shooters like Pippen or Miller had.

Once his NBA playing days were over, Hopson made an impactful transition into European basketball before beginning his coaching career.

9) Michael Olowokandi( Los Angeles Clippers 1998, Pick 1)

Los Angeles Clippers could’ve picked any of three Hall-of-Famers, with Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce all eligible candidates for the number one pick in 1998..

Instead, they blew the top draft selection on Michael Olowokandi.

“Kandi Man” only ever eclipsed 10 points per game twice during his career with the bottom-dwelling Clippers as their center.

8) Pervis Ellison(Sacramento Kings 1989, Pick 1)

Ellison averaged 9.5 points over his NBA career and was traded to various teams after his rookie season with the Sacramento Kings. From there on out, he moved freely around the league before retiring. In college, he was known as Never Nervous Pervis, to the NBA, where he was better known as out-of-service Pervis! Injuries destroyed his chances to get better.

His career came to a heartbreaking halt as part of the Celtics, where he only saw action in 69 out of 246 games.

7) Adam Morrison(Charlotte Bobcats, 2006, Pick 3)

The 2006 NBA Draft wasn’t particularly stellar, yet Michael Jordan — thenthe GM with the Bobcats — could’ve taken Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay over Adam Morrison as one of his picks.

Morrison gained considerable attention following an exceptional college career at Gonzaga but left after one season to go to the Lakers without exceeding 15 minutes per game.

However, his three-point shooting percentage dropped below 30% during his final two seasons despite being known as an offensive-oriented player during college.

6) Kwame Brown(Washington Wizards 2001, Pick 1)

Kwame Brown was an early indicator that Michael Jordan, as an executive, wasn’t anywhere as good as Jordan the player.

Brown became a source of frequent jokes since being chosen No.1 overall in a draft where Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol were selected second and third overall respectively.

The Glynn Academy graduate Kwame Brown famously told then-Wizards coach Doug Collins: “Draft me, and you won’t ever regret it!”

The Wizards still regret this decision.

Brown struggled to stay in shape, leaving Washington after only four seasons and never realizing his full potential.

5) Dragan Bender(Phoenix Suns 2016, Pick 4)

Dragan Bender entered the 2016 NBA Draft as one of the more unpredictable prospects, given his lack of athleticism at his size.

Phoenix did not hesitate to take advantage of their fourth overall pick and add the “Croatian Sensation”, with Devin Booker drafted that year as part of their young talent pool.

Unfortunately, his NBA career wasn’t exceptional.

4) Darko Milicic(Detroit Pistons 2003, Pick 2)

The Pistons made Milicic their second selection in the famous 2003 draft, just behind LeBron James. This move was intended to secure the future success of their team, which would go on to win it all that following season.

Missing out on Anthony and Wade will be heartbreaking as they will become first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Milicic only averaged six points per game during his entire career.

3) Anthony Bennett(Cleveland Cavaliers, 2013, Pick 1)

Not only did the Cavs send Bennett to Minnesota after just one season, but they did it as part of a deal that brought Kevin Love back home. That is the only positive thing that happened with this pick.

Bennett had left the NBA at just 23 years old.

2) Greg Oden(Portland Trail Blazers, 2007, Pick 1)

Greg Oden felt betrayed by his own body, and Kevin Durant being selected directly after him in the draft does not help his situation when ranking draft busts..

After an All-American season at Ohio State, Oden was chosen by the Blazers at No. 1, yet failed to flourish in the NBA.

Durant became one of the best players ever during his three seasons as Oden struggled through injuries before trying and failing to return with Miami Heat in 2014. While Oden made comeback attempts with no luck before calling it quits in 2014, Durant became an All-Time great player.

1) Sam Bowie(Portland 1984, Pick 2)

You get to be number one on this list when the team that picks you passes on Michael Jordan to do so. Bowie had injury issues at the University of Kentucky, which should have been enough to make any team question picking him this high. His time in Portland is forgettable, as he spent five years in Portland. You can pass on Michael Jordan if you are Picking Olajuwon as the Rockets did, but not Bowie.

Video: Meet Sam Bowie: The Guy Drafted Between Jordan and Olajuwon

Meet Sam Bowie: The Guy Drafted Between Jordan and Olajuwon

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