Cities Journal

21 Worst NBA Draft Picks Of All-Time


For every “can’t miss” draft pick that dominates the league, there seems to be 5 that end up in the D-League, playing ball in Europe, or greeting customers at Wal-Mart.

The following is a list of 21 NBA Draft Picks that nearly every scout was certain would become a superstar, but never amounted to much, if anything.

1. Greg Oden (Portland, 2007 #1 overall)

23 years after Bowie was drafted by Portland, the Blazers made another franchise-killing mistake. Kevin Durant became one of the premier players in the league while Oden has spent most of his career injured.

He attended Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, Indiana which he led to three consecutive Indiana Class 4A basketball championships before graduating in 2006. Oden also played college basketball at Ohio State University for one season, during which the team was the Big Ten Champion and the tournament runner-up in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship.

In 2007, he was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the #1 overall pick but on September 14, Oden had microfracture surgery on his ailing right knee and because of this injury he missed the entire season. He stayed with the Trail Blazers for five years, but injuries (had arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees) pushed him elsewhere.

In May 2012, Oden announced his intention to sit out the 2012–13 season to focus on rehabbing his injuries. One year later, Greg Oden signed a one-year deal with the Miami Heat for which he currently plays.

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  • bigshott

    Dario Milachec….

  • Mudflapman

    What about Darko Milicic? Marvin Williams? And it looks like Anthony Bennett will be on the list someday. I don’t know about all-time but perhaps the biggest draft busts of the last two decades. You have to take into account the draft talent of the year they were drafted.

    • John Donovan

      That’s true, otherwise you could put the ENTIRE 2000 draft class on a biggest bust ever list.

    • AK

      the Darko pick was made even worse by all the talent from that draft. Could you imagine the Pistons at that time with Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade?! Chauncey, Wade, Wallace, Wallace and Prince with Rip Hamilton coming off the bench. That teams wins at least 3 or 4 rings instead of just the 1

      • CharlesS702

        I doubt it. I think the only guy they past on that would have given them a chance at 2 or more would have been Bosh. I think RIP (in the first few years) was better than Wade and Melo. Big Ben was always the weak link for the Pistons. Yeah he was a great defender but he struggled at everything else. He couldn’t make layups consistently.

        However, whoever they would have picked, I still doubt the Pistons would have beat the Spurs, Celtics, Lakers, Heat (or whatever team Shaq would have went to if the Pistons would have picked Wade.)

    • CharlesS702

      IDK, I think everyone knew Anthony Bennett wasn’t NBA ready when he got drafted. I don’t watch too much college ball but since I’ve lived in Las Vegas for the past +20 years I took an interest in him. He was a good player at UNLV but just by looking at him he was a little over weight and he was a little short to play the 4 spot. Give him a full year to get in shape, learn the NBA and actually go through off season practice with his team and I think he’ll be a solid player. I very seriously doubt he’ll ever be a superstar but I think he has the potential to have a few all-star caliber seasons.

    • cj

      Um has anyone ever heard of Sean May from North Carolina? I had high hopes for him and was let down tremendously! Also you can throw in Sean Rooks, Darius Miles, Harold Minor, Richard Dumas, Rashard Mccants and Rashard Griffith just to name a few. Oh and don’t forget Cherrokee Parks and Tyler Hansborroh.

  • John Donovan

    Sam Bowie had a 10 year NBA career. He was not a bad player. He was just unlucky enough to be picked ahead of Jordan.

    • Justin Jay

      Most of these players had careers. Bowie was 9 yrs. He missed 1 due to a leg injury. His best year was 89-90 season in which he was a nightly double-double guy. Other than that, he was relatively ineffective during the minutes he was on the floor. Portland improved AFTER they got rid of him, which was only 5 yrs after drafting him.

      • John Donovan

        Fair enough, he wasn’t a great player but he was far from the worst. In the 1984 Draft if you go by Win Shares he was the 13th most productive player in the draft, even with his injuries. Sure he was overdrafted, but he is far from one of the worst ever. If Jordan wasn’t drafted #3 in 1984, then Bowie would be on par with Shawn Bradley, a bust but not near the worst of all time. Actually he was arguably better than the #1 pick in 1983…Ralph Sampson.

        • Justin Jay

          I don’t go by win shares. I feel that’s not exactly a proven method yet. It’s not that individualized of a sport like baseball is.

          By the way, I agree that Bowie wasn’t the worst. I just thought he was more deserving than at least 2 of the 4 names on this list. Apparently whomever wrote this article is sensitive because they deleted my comment. I write too. Feel free to bash me at I had at least 1 stinker of an article in there, but I’m pretty solid. If I created a list like this, I would be sure to have solid reasoning behind it. This is just poor quality and needs to be better. Like you said John… a teenager’s list. But why come up with 4? And if it is THESE 4, the argument needs to be better. Kandi Man and Morrison were BOTH drafted by MISERABLE franchises that were warned not to draft both players. That’s why J.J. Redick dropped in the same draft as Morrison.

          • John Donovan

            I am an old school Kentucky fan, so I have a bit of a sore spot when it comes to Bowie. It was nothing personal against you. It was just 25 years worth of the same argument coming out.

            Yes Jordan was great, but he was also lucky to get drafted by the Bulls. It was the perfect team for him because they had nothing close to a go-to guy and he was able to score at will right from the start. If Portland had drafted him, he would have been on the bench behind Drexler and may never have gotten a legit chance to become a superstar.

            As you mentioned with Morrison and Kandi, it’s all a matter of getting lucky and landing with the right franchise for your skill set.

          • Justin Jay

            I know because hindsight is what it is, it’s tough for me to say Jordan would be stuck behind Drexler in Portland. But who knows. It makes sense that Drexler is THE reason why they drafted Bowie ahead of Jordan. Team need. Still, for being drafted #1, he would still be considered a bust. Jordan being drafted after him only makes it appear worse.

          • John Donovan

            I agree completely that he was a bust. My only argument was that he was not as big of a bust as it many people have made him out to be. There are several #2 picks overall that had worse careers than Bowie. Danny Ferry, Stromile Swift, Jay Williams, and Darko Milicic come to mind. Marvin Williams and Michael Beasley might be on that list one day as well. We also can’t forget Len Bias. Of course it was a tragedy, but to look at it strictly from a basketball point of view, that was a wasted #2 overall pick.

          • Justin Jay

            Guy dies from cocaine. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a tragedy and I’m a Celts fan. It was a dumb decision which had an unfortunate outcome that set the franchise back. I completely agree with the your list above. I had most of those names in my earlier comment before the moderator deleted it haha. I reserve judgement on calling certain players busts before the end of their playing careers. Don’t forget Marcus Banks, SI Cover boy Sebastian Telfair, Jay Williams and his motorcycle accident. There are many. Bowie’s up there and I believe he’s still ahead of Oden only because Oden is still playing.

          • John Donovan

            It is tragic anytime any 21 year old dies, let alone an athlete in otherwise good health. From all of the reports, it was the first time he had ever done coke and there was a lot less information on the dangers of the drug at the time. I was 10 in 1986 and I still remember where I was when I heard the news. It really a lot of people’s eyes to the drug problem in the country and probably had a big effect on Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs. Just because it was a dumb decision doesn’t mean it wasn’t a tragedy for his family and sports fans in general and even the nation. His death was more than just a young black kid overdosing. It shaped public perception for several years to come.

            Sorry to drone on, but Len Bias’ death had a big impact on me and I don’t even like the Celtics or Maryland.

          • Barry Benedict

            Guy was a better talent than people realize but I think the bit about first time use might have been damage control by those who cared about him.

          • Barry Benedict

            OK. Here’s one draft that ticked me off from the start and I’m STILL pissed. When the ABA was assimilated by the NBA, the Pistons had one of the first picks. They decided to take (buy) Bad news Barnes for $500 thousand instead of arguably one of the greatest offensive rebounders of all time Moses Malone for $250 thousand.
            I played basketball for over 30 years and I knew enough even then that you ALWAYS take an offensive rebounder over nearly any other player. You have to be an intense worker to get an offensive rebound and show offs are a dime a dozen. Look at Kevin Love now or Joakim Noah.

          • Justin Jay


          • jhp151

            Bowie was drafted #2. The Dream was drafted #1.

          • Justin Jay


          • mike griffin

            Ralph Sampson was NOT a bust. He had some great years with Houston before knee injuries ended his career.

  • Justin Jay

    Bingo! He was before my time, but I do remember hearing about this flop. Good call

  • Amy Anderson

    Hasheem Thabeet should be on that list and not Kwame Brown!!!! Thabeet’s best season is 3.1 PPG whereas Brown’s best one season was 10 PPG. Thabeet was the #2 overall pick and can’t get over 1 PPG this season! Also don’t remember Kwame ever going to the D League, oh wait Thabeet already has ha-ha!

    • AK

      well Thabeet is still in the league, so he still has a chance. I guess. Can’t tell you how angry I was when the Rockets traded Shane Battier for that dude

  • Ryan Tower

    Adam Morrison was the “RUDY” for the LAKERS…2 years. 2 RINGS! So bust or not…he helped them prepare and his teammates said the PRACTICES were intense! So I at least give him that.

    • retrogeek42

      Let’s not forget Morrison also has Type 1 diabetes. Getting to the NBA is an accomplishment in itself, and the disease severely limits his ability. I am disappointed every time I hear him labeled a bust!

  • John Cate

    Nikoloz Tskitishvili was the worst draft pick of all time. He’s retired the “Worst Draft Pick of All Time” Trophy, in fact. How can you possibly be any worse than 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds a game, on 30 percent shooting, from a 7-footer drafted fifth overall?

  • Malcolm Brooks

    How about Dwayne “Pearl” Washington from Syracuse 1987

  • Pablo Reyna

    If Adam Morrison was drafted #4 and traded to win 2 Rings makes him a bust what does that make Lebron James who was drafteed #1 overall and traded to get 2 rings??

  • aj1111

    Eddy Curry was never the Mvp of anything. Glen Robinson doesn’t belong on this list. He averaged over 20 pts per game. He may not have lived up to expectations but he was not a bust.

    • ahkang

      Right and right.

  • Ralph Sampson.

  • ConservaDave2

    Probably those who weren’t lottery picks should have been excluded. Missing? How about Hasheem Thabeet (#2-2009), unless you believe he might have a chance at redeeming himself. Like Yinka Dare, he came out early when he needed more seasoning in the college game. Very worst pick? Lenny Bias who killed himself overdosing before ever playing a single pro game.

  • r3z0nate

    How is Glenn Robinson a bust?? The guy was a phenominal shooter and helped lead the Bucks to the Eastern Finals, and only lost because the refs had money on the games. Yes Kidd would have been a better pick but Grant Hill was injured for how many years?

    • ahkang


    • Herman Christ

      I also like how he complains about a team not taking Stockton in the draft. No one outside of Spokane knew who John Stockton was. This writer is a hack and a half.

    • Aficionado

      Glenn Robinson’s name surprised me. He was a big-time scorer and rebounder who had 5-6 good NBA seasons. No one who scored over 10,000 points and averaged over 20 ppg should be near this list. Who’s done anything in Milwaukee of his calibre since?

  • ryan schism

    DARKO MILICIC should be number 1-5…. the pistons missed on dwayne wade, carmello anthony, chris bosh, and so many more good players for that dink.

    • Shane Heathers

      Passing up on Melo was soooooo stupid. The talk back then was that they already had Tayshaun Prince. That team should have taken MELO or WADE I guess. I just think Anthony would have fit in with Billups, Hamilton etc. Darko MillIcic was THE DUMBEST DRAFT PICK………Period

      • rilian

        and yet they won a couple titles anyway. Interesting…

        • Spit Ball

          You are correct sir they did win one Darko……….sitting their way at the end of the bench. They won his their only title with that group in Darko’s rookie system. They went to the conference finals the first five years of Darko’s career. I just have to think that they could have won more with Wade or Melo, even Bosh.

  • AJP

    and to think Greg Oden has a shot at an NBA title.
    I am rooting for him,

  • Danny Tam

    greg oden isn’t #1. sam bowie has to be #1, you could have had Jordan.

    • jhp151

      More importantly to the Blazers – you could have had Barkley. Jordan was better than Drexler but the upgrade was slight compared to the upgrade of Kenny Carr and HOF Charles Barkley.

  • John Cuevas

    Disagree anytime you put a guy who was injured on the list of “Worst Draft Picks of All-time” as if at the time anyone knew Oden’s entire career would be spent dealing with injuries. Worst draft pick is passing up on Wade, Bosh & Anthony, all guys who had proven in college they could play to take an 18 year old out of Europe…

    • CharlesS702

      I agree with you on Oden. Darko was a bad player especially when you list the people taken after him, however as an actual basketball fan it wasn’t a bad pick. You guys list off horrible picks like they’re black and white. Fact is Detroit had a legit all-star at SG and probably the 2nd best perimeter defender at SF. They were looking for a big man to replace Ben Wallace at center (who was a great defender but easily the weakest of their starting 5 as he couldn’t make a layup or a free throw to save his life.) There choice was basically between Bosh and Darko and their 50-50 wasn’t the right choice.

      However Darko wasn’t that horrible of a basketball player. He actually averaged some decent numbers when you consider his limited playing time (6 PPG in 18.5 MPG)

    • Brandon Alexander

      I agree with Oden being a bust. Saying he was good when he played doesn’t make sense when he has been unable to play almost his entire career due to injuries. Paying someone who can’t play and sits on your bench is a gigantic bust.

  • Campo

    Big Country Reeves aka sleep country should be on the list. That pick doomed the new Vancouver franchise and ended when the team got sold to WallMart and was promptly moved to Memphis.

  • Godfrey de Solomonici

    Completely missed Dwayne Schintzius by the Spurs 1990 1st Round pick/24th overall. Total bust. So sad he passed away from Respiratory failure at age 43 in 2012. Complications of Leukemia. He was so wonderful as New York Knicks Ivan Radovadovitch in the 1996 Whoopi Goldberg film Eddie. “Ivan make basket!”

  • disqus_w15DEuj5Ha

    Glenn Robinson and Olden Polynice were great players if they didn’t make it with the team that drafted them, that’s on the coach.

  • Jeremey Potter

    I’m a Celtic’s fan so I would have to say worst pick of all time was Len Bias

  • Elizardo Flores

    Gary Payton

  • Scot McKay

    Citing that a player was picked ahead of Manu Ginobili is kind of silly, considering Manu was chosen late in the 2nd round and has got to be considered one of the best draft steals ever. EVERY team passed on him, *including the Spurs*.

  • Brandon Alexander

    AI won MVP in 2001

  • Geo McDowell

    Oden played well when he played. No way he’s a worse pick that LaRue Martin.

  • Mike Hoffman

    Joe Smith may have been somewhat of a disappointment, but he wan’t a total bust. And where is Randy White, who even looked like a bust when the Dallas Mavericks selected him.

  • ahkang

    Some of these stories are more attributable to injuries than anything else, and the casual fan will never know about that. But for the true ‘busts’, I think it is misplaced to focus on the athlete. Athletes have no control over where and when they are drafted. The photo and name in the article should be that of the team GM who made the draft selection.

  • Matt

    Darko below Big Dog (who belongs nowhere near this list)? Please…

  • Dean Martin

    How’s Len Bias not on this list?

  • Steve McStevens

    How on earth did Dennis Hophan, who played longer, was drafted lower, and averaged more in just about every stat a worse pick than LaRue Martin? Similarly, how is Kwame Brown being held as less of a bust than Eddy Curry when he was drafted #1 in the same year and, while lasting more in the league, has never had stats that match Curry in his ‘best’ years?

  • bobby bobby

    don’t draft big men I guess!

  • YouKnowItsTrue

    Len Bias? By far the worst pick of all time. NO production.

  • Rez

    Eddy curry was MVP in 2001…his rookie year. Who allowed this jackass to write this nonsense. And how is Glenn Robinson a bust averaging 21 pts and 7 boards? Please explain

  • Brandon Cooke

    I really don’t understand the logic behind Glenn Robinson being a bust. Overpaid, maybe, but he was far from a bust. He actually had a career that statistically is better than the majority of people that make the NBA. And it’s tough to say a man like Oden is a bust because he has been plagued with injuries. He really never has gotten a chance to perform either good or bad.

  • Brent Jatko

    No mention of Len Bias here? That counts as a waste to me, since he OD’d two days after being the #2 pick.

  • Al

    What no Len Bias? The guy that ODed right after he was drafted?

    • jtrain23

      Does that count as a “bust” though? He never got a chance to prove himself or that he wasn’t worthy of the pick. It is a tragedy, but I wouldn’t categorize it as a bust.

  • jmsilk

    What about Todd Fuller ahead of Kobe? Patrick O’Bryant?

  • E S

    It is really amusing to look through this list of the “21 Worst NBA Draft Picks of ALL TIME!”… and then scan through the comments. Two comments of my own: 1. There are LOTS of world, national, state, and city-town issues that are more important than the topic of this article; 2. Yes… in that proverbial “hind-sight” those 21 – at the time of their respective draft were POTENTIALLY very good to great NBA players – turned out to be “not so good”. With hind-sight “Monday morning QBs” are always – 20/20 – better than they were on Saturday or Sunday. All who look back and condemn those picks made years or decades ago… at that time, based on the “evidence” available at the time – the observations of those players and their college “numbers” – would you have agreed with the draft order in which they were chosen… and at least plus or minus a couple of positions?

  • Mike L

    seems like these were all from the same few teams

  • Joe Murphey

    What about the guy the Mavricks drafted out of Wyoming in the late 80’s? I can’t even remember his name. But he was a first round pick and just dissappeared.

  • Jsim

    Glenn Robinson????

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