With the NBA finals winding down (or, rather, coming to a screeching halt), basketball fans are starting to look ahead to the 2015-2016 season, and none should be more excited than Minnesota. Yes, you read that correctly — the Timberwolves have quite a bit of promising young talent, paired with a promising older mentor to help them along.
To top it all off, the Wolves earned the offseason’s top draft pick, and has the potential to pick up the NCAA’s top talents.
So as we wonder about our potential first pick this year, let’s take a look at some former top picks who didn’t exactly pan out, starting with one that may hit a little close to home.
Position: Power Forward
Draft Spot: First Overall Pick, 2013
Drafting Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
First Season Averages: PPG: 4.2, BLK: 0.2, STL: 0.4, AST: 0.3, REB: 3.0
This one may hurt, Minnesota. Yes, Anthony Bennett was the first overall pick by Cleveland in 2013, and no, things didn’t exactly pan out, and yes, it still may be too early to call Bennett a bust. But after putting up such dismal numbers his first season, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Bennett is not Number 1 Pick material.
Even immediately after the pick was announced, many derided the Cavs for having wasted what could be their only shot at re-establishing their team after the fallout from “The Decision” (even though, for some unexplicable reason, they would go on to win back their fallen hero and get another number one pick).
Bennett did seem to take the rough season to heart, and spent the offseason slimming down and training, though the cavs didn’t seem to care. He was traded in last summer’s infamous Cleveland-Philadelphia-Minnesota trade that gave the wolves Bennett, Thaddeus Young (briefly) and one of the NBA’s top prospects in years, Andrew Wiggins. Bennett’s season with the Wolves showed improvement over his previous season, but not anywhere near the numbers expected of a number one pick.
Draft Spot: First Overall Pick, 2007
Drafting Team: Portland Trailblazers
First Season Averages: PPG: 8.9, BLK: 1.1, STL: 0.4, AST: 0.5, REB: 7.0
Oden, similar to Bennett, has only a few seasons on which to judge his performance, but it’s not really his performance that’s earned him the label of a bust. Oden’s long history of injuries forced the Trailblazers to waive him after only two seasons, although he later made a rather unimpressive return with the Miami Heat years later.
Oden’s numbers may seem impressive at first glance, but compare his averages to the number two draft pick that same year: Kevin Durant. In the same timespan that Oden played 82 games (a full season’s worth), Durant played 461 and helped build his into championship contenders for several seasons.
So after two painful seasons in Portland and a failed last chance to impress with the Heat, it’s not very controversial to say Oden didn’t live up to the hype.
Position: Center/Power Forward
Draft Spot: Second Overall Pick, 2003
Drafting Team: Detroit Pistons
First Season Averages: PPG: 1.4, BLK: 0.4, STL: 0.2, AST: 0.2, REB: 1.3
Yup, you read that right: the second overall pick and a promising young center averaged just over one rebound per game with the Pistons in the 2003-2004 season. Even after that first season, his numbers didn’t improve all that dramatically: He ended up averaging 6 points and just under 3 rebounds per game over the course of his career.
And just to make things even worse, Milicic was part of what could have been the most stacked draft class in NBA history: Lebron James was the first pick that year to the Cavs, but the Pistons passed up Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh for the gangly, dyed-blonde Serbian. Detroit had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals the previous year, and only earned the top pick because of a trade years earlier.
To say that Darko Milicic was a missed opportunity for the Pistons is an understatement. If they had picked one of the other 2003 prospects, Detroit could have earned a multi-year dynasty for a city that sorely needed some uplifted spirits. For that reason, Milicic’s a major bust.
Postion: Small Forward/Power Forward
Draft Spot: Third Overall Pick, 2006
Drafting Team: Charlotte Bobcats
First Season Averages: PPG: 11.8, BLK: 0.1, STL: 0.4, AST: 2.1, REB: 2.9
Sure, you may be thinking, “Hey, those stats aren’t too bad for a first-year player in the NBA! Almost 12 points? C’mon!” And you would probably be right, if it wasn’t for the seasons that followed. Morrison averaged around 10.6 minutes played and 3 points per game until he was waived by the Wizards at the end of training camp (yes, the 2010-2011 Washington Wizards waived this No. 3 draft pick).
What makes Morrison end up on this list isn’t just his poor performance in the NBA, but the pre-draft hype that surrounded his debut. The pick wasn’t universally condemned at the time — Morrison was considered a top prospect in his junior year at Gonzaga in the 2005-2006 season. He was named Co-Player of the Year by the Basketball Writers’ Association along with J.J. Redick.
So Morrison became another blunder on Charlotte’s long history of failed draft prospects. Even worse: he tried to come back to the NBA in 2012 with the Portland Trailblazers, but was waived again at the end of training camp. Ouch.
Position: Center/Power Forward
Draft Spot: First Overall Pick, 2001
Drafting Team: Washington Wizards
First Season Stats: PPG: 4.5, BLK: 0.5, STL: 0.3, AST: 0.8, REB: 3.5
There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about this one: Brown had an agonizingly mediocre 11-year career in the NBA. Every season, many wondered if he would finally break out of his shell, but it just never happened. Worst of all, Michael Jordan — the greatest basketball player of all time — likely had a hand in picking Brown for the spot during Jordan’s stint in the front office with the Wizards.
Brown was the first high-schooler ever to be drafted in the number one spot, and was baffling re-signed to seven teams over the years. While it was never clear what teams thought they could get out of Brown, what’s clear now is Brown’s legacy as a universal draft day punchline in the NBA.