A label brought by a mix of expectations created and quickly canceled, typically a high-level investment gone horribly awry.
NBA lottery picks often considered saviors on draft day are prone to vicious reversals of fortune by their second season in the league.
Not counting those impacted by injury – hello, 2002 No. 2 overall pick Jay Williams – or incident, Field Level Media defines the top 10 NBA draft busts of all-time.
10. Jon Koncak, Atlanta Hawks, 5th overall, 1985
Koncak went ahead of Karl Malone and Charles Oakley, bona fide NBA power forwards who seemingly played forever at a high level. Koncak could’ve been marked return to sender early in his career while the Mailman was ascending to All-Star and then MVP levels in Utah. While Koncak was able to hang on for 11 seasons (10 with the Hawks), the Southern Methodist product averaged a meager 4.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his career.
9. Michael Olowokandi, Los Angeles Clippers, 1st overall, 1998
The Kandi Man was a replacement-level center for most of his career, but with the No. 1 pick comes astronomical expectations. And relative to his draft class peers – Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce to name two – Olowakandi’s career can be tossed in the bust bin. Olowokandi never averaged as many as 13 points.
8. Dajuan Wagner, Cleveland Cavaliers, 6th overall, 2002
A high school legend who put up 100 points in a prep game, Wagner was selected four picks after Williams in a draft that failed to produce great star power. Yao Ming was the No. 1 pick and beyond the Rockets’ star, Carlos Boozer was a second-round pick and is recognized as one of the best players turned out by the ’02 draft. The Cavs were one of the eight teams who passed on Amar’e Stoudemire (ninth, Suns) while Wagner averaged 13.4 points as a rookie before fading into Polish pro basketball anonymity.
7. Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats, 3rd overall, 2006
Appreciate the mop and the minor-league stache appropriately, but Morrison never made a major dent in the NBA on the heels of a hysteria-driven placement in the draft on the heels of a heroic run at Gonzaga. Morrison did suffer a knee injury after a decent rookie season but never found his footing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
6. Danny Ferry, Los Angeles Clippers, 2nd overall, 1989
Maybe you remember the light-maned Ferry leading Duke to three Final Four appearances, or can picture him canning corner 3-pointers late in his NBA playing life with the San Antonio Spurs. What you probably chose to forget – if you’re old enough – is the Clippers passed on Tim Hardaway (among others, including Shawn Kemp) to pick Ferry, who refused to go to L.A., went overseas, and returned only to be traded to the Cavs. He averaged 7.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in his career.
5. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies, 2nd overall, 2009
Thabeet learned quickly that he wasn’t in UConn anymore, and bounced to three teams in his first five seasons while failing to establish a consistent niche in the NBA. Thabeet was not to be entirely dismissed as a defensive presence in the lane, but the pro game moved too quickly and he was a detriment in almost every other way.
4. Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers, 1st overall, 2007
Yes, before Kevin Durant. And, yes, he last only 105 games as a pro. Thing is, Oden could play, and he contributed when healthy. We won’t entirely dismiss him as a bust considering the opportunity loss not drafting KD, but the Blazers don’t get a complete F here, either.
3. Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1st overall, 2013
Oh, Canada. Bennett was heralded as a potential two-way star but the shock of the draft night stunner that led Cleveland to opt for Bennett at No. 1 never quite wore off. The Cavs weren’t the only team duped in the top nine – Victor Oladipo went No. 2, but otherwise this is a No Man’s Land – before a few names you might recognize went off the board: CJ McCollum (10th, Blazers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th, Bucks) and Rudy Gobert (27th, Jazz).
2. Darko Milicic, Detroit Pistons, 2nd overall, 2003
One out-of-work draft analyst infamously pegged Milicic as a comparable player to … Wilt Chamberlain.
That’s the kind of hype that helps doom a decent prospect to the bust category. It also didn’t help that the Pistons selected Darko ahead of the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Over 10 seasons, Milicic played for six different teams as mostly long-legged roster fill.
1. Kwame Brown, Washington Wizards, 1st overall, 2001
Anyone who believed the greatest basketball player of all-time, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, would also be a great general manager in the NBA was served up a heaping helping of crow in 2001. MJ hand-picked Brown as the top pick, and it was a train wreck from the jump. With his own rep on the line, Jordan tried to heckle and hound Brown into the next great one, but he never found his footing. Being an athletic big, Brown did hang on for 12 NBA seasons without doing anything remarkable.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)