NBA, *Draft

10 Worst NBA Draft Picks of the Last 10 Years

6/19/07 in NBA   |   CriticalFanatic   |   respect

The NBA Draft is far more critical than the NFL. One colossal lottery botch and an General Manager will be hung out to dry. In the NFL you're not so dependent upon the top pick to produce right away. JaMarcus Russell won't be judged for at least 3 years, and Russell isn't expected to single-handedly turn the Raiders into champions. Such is the nature of football. A great deal of luck is involved in both sports, but making sure you draft Tim Duncan over Keith Van Horn is the difference between 0 titles and 4.

So what better way to dive into draft coverage, than being overly critical and compiling the 10 worst selections of the last 10 years. Don't confuse this with the usual assortment of biggest draft busts lists. I've compiled this with a few special considerations:
1. Freak injuries are factored in thus Jason Williams is removed from consideration. All 32 teams would have selected Jason, and not a soul could have predicted he would use such poor judgment off the court. Dajuan Wagner is also exempt for his serious illness.
2. Depth of disappointment to the Franchise. How severely did/has the failure impacted the team.
3. How quickly it was obvious to those of us outside the game that he sucked. The type of pick that give us armchair GM's a an impression we could do a better job.
4. Most importantly, who was passed over. Did the team miss on a clear-cut star? Relative to the rest of the top picks, was he still a big disappointment. In some of these instances, drafting the alternatives would have been equally inopportune.
As the saying goes, if you don't learn from history you're doomed to repeat it. Thus I've added what should have been learned from each of these selections. My Top 10 Worst Draft of the Last 10 Years:

1. 2002 - Nuggets selected Nikoloz Tskitishvili 5th (Rep of Georgia)
Yao Ming's draft class wasn't overly stacked, but the Nuggets could have drafted just about anybody and had a better ROI. This pick ultimately forced GM Kiki Vanderweghe to lose his job, but saved many more GM's. Tskitishvili raised a bright red flag on European players. You can't just locate the athletic 7-footer with the classic Euro ball skills around the perimeter and expect success. Tskitishvili was so out of his league in all facets from the beginning. Amare Stoudemire had his own issues that scared teams away, but his instantaneous success and impact should have made him far less a risk than a skinny kid from across the ocean. On the meter of [how quickly it was obvious he sucked] scale this scored a 10. I remain convinced Kiki never worked Nikoloz out against any collegiate stars entering the draft.
What we learned: A 7-footer from Europe who can stroke a three with no one guarding him doesn't translate to the NBA.

2. 2005- Magic selected Fran Vazquez 11th (Spain)
Hey, at least Tskitishvili suited up for the Nuggets and gave it a go. Vazquez might not ever see an NBA court, and if he does it's very much in doubt if it even be with the Magic. The real knee-to-groin moment was that Vazquez announced his return to Spain shortly after the draft. Perhaps you think this is a bit high, but the not doing their homework factor is so obvious the Magic deserve a place among the top of this list.
What we leaned: Try and draft a guy who you have 100% certainty that he'll at least attempt to play in the NBA that season.

3. 1998 - Clippers selected Michael Olowokandi 1st overall (Pacific)
A 7'0 260 lb center with above average agility for his size, what could wrong? Not a whole lot went right, that's for sure. 8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg career average is not the type of return you'd like to get from the 1st pick overall, let alone the 10th. Do the Clippers look back and wish they'd drafted Mike Bibby or Raef Lafrentz? Vince Carter or Antawn Jamison? Maybe they do. We would have all been shocked back in '98 if they went that route. And we couldn't have expected them to take a risk and draft Dirk Nowitzki (who would go 9th), could we? Despite Olowokandi actually putting up some numbers, compared to a few of these duds the fact remains that somehow the Clippers managed to spend their 1st overall on pick on an unproven Center and missed on not 1, but 4 All-Stars. It's my interpretation Kandi enjoyed his paychecks and didn't put much effort into his game until another contract was on the line, having his best year in '02-'03 before he became an unrestriced free agent. With the Twolves he resumed his original disappointment.
What we learned: Going with the biggest man available doesn't equate to biggest contribution. Also helps if he had some resistance in college.

4. 2003 - Pistons selected Darko Milicic 2nd (Yugoslavia)
Thought long and hard about this one. It's easy to say this was a disaster because Carmelo was so obviously going to be a superstar. But I don't know if it's that simple. I have no access to the Nuggets clubhouse, and this is all hearsay, but I remain firm in my belief that the Pistons would have not one the NBA Title with the 'Melo distraction on the bench and in the locker room. Whereas, Darko remained out of everyone's way. I also credit Milicic disappointment to Larry Brown who notoriously doesn't care for rookies, and ultimately ruined Darko's confidence as a basketball player. I'm giving this pick a bit of a pass for these reasons above and for the possibility that he continue to improve into an effective NBA player even though it won't be in Detroit.
What we learned: Incomplete

5. 2000 - Bulls selected Marcus Fizer 4th
(Iowa State)
This epitomized the Bulls futility in the post Jordan years. Not only did Fizer prove to be a complete dud, Chicago already possessed Elton Brand when they made the selection. To the Bulls credit, the list of players that followed Marcus is not a who's who of NBA all-stars. Fizer was a dominant PF in college basketball, and it still befuddles many why he failed so miserable.
What we learned: Don't let Tim Floyd back in the NBA. When you have Elton Brand, for the love don't trade him because you have Marcus Fizer.

6. 2001 - Wizards selected Kwame Brown 1st overall (high school)
Why isn't this higher? You see Kwame topping a lot of these lists for sure. If you're comparing him to other #1 picks in different years, then he's certainly a major disappointment. But let's look at the situation for the Wizards. Who else were they going to draft? Had Eddy Curry or Tyson Chandler gone in this spot we'd be discussing how dreadful this 1st pick was as well. Pau Gasol remains the best player from the '01 draft. All that said, Kwame remains one of the worst draft picks and his failure continues to leave its mark on the franchise. Kwame has averaged 7.7 points and 5.7 boards thus far in his career. The book isn't closed on Brown, but he's shown very little desire to be a serviceable basketball player.
What we learned: Perhaps we should thank Kwame Brown for the current Age Limit. David Stern learned that teams getting nothing in return for 'top' high school talent was hurting the league.

7. 1998 - Mavericks selected Robert 'Tractor' Traylor 6th (Michigan)
Only two of the top 11 players selected in '98 had/have career scoring averages below 10 ppg. The Kandi Man, the guy who ate a lot of candy. Traylor had many issues, mostly that he didn't care enough about the game and cared too much about what was for dinner. The Traylor also fit the mold for a perfect Isiah Thomas PF, a little too short and a little fit to bang with the top guys in the league.
What we learned: Invest some more resources in background checks. Does the player have a true drive to be great, or want a great ride to the drive-thru.

8. 2002 - Warriors selected Mike Dunleavy 3rd (Duke)
'02 Draft is not one to remember ... unless you're making one of these lists. Compared to the rest of his class, the pick isn't so miserable. An 11 point per game average during 4 1/2 years isn't something to be ashamed of, but you'd like more in exchange for the 3rd pick. You don't aim to draft role players in the lottery. It also should be noted that shipping Dunleavy out of Golden State marked a significant turnaround in the Warriors run this season.
What we learned: Draft Duke players with caution, especially if they are particularly douchey.

9. 2005 - Hawks selected Marvin Williams 2nd (North Carolina)
I cheated. Couldn't decide between these two, and felt the Atlanta Hawks deserved a place here for passing on Deron Williams and Chris Paul. In 10 years, this pick will compete with several above after the two above split All-NBA First Team PG awards after Steve Nash retires. Marvin Williams may wind up an above average NBA player, but missing on not one, but two stars at an obvious position of need is inexcusable.
What we learned: 1) PG is important 2) Proven PG's in college are a safe bet

10. 2004 - Sonics selected Robert Swift 12th
(high school)
This sealed the deal on the NBA Age Limit. Swift was maybe the 15th best player in the McDonald's High School All-American Game, arguably not even one of the best 25 prepsters, but because of his height was able to someone convince the Sonics to use a lottery pick. I understand Swift has an injury that has limited his development, but I have friends who've never played basketball that are supremely confident he'll amount to little more Tskitishvili.
What we learned: Why the Sonics have been stuck in reverse and are now desperately hanging on to their home.

Dishonorable Mention:
2006 - Warriors selected Patrick O'Bryant 9th
1997 - Grizzlies select Antonio Daniels 4th (Bowling Green)
2004 - Raptors selected Rafael Araujo 8th (BYU)
1999 - Pacers select Jonathan Bender 5th* (high school)
*could factor in injury

It's unavoidable that a player among the 2007 Draft Class will compete for his place among this list in the future. Not every lottery pick will become an overnight success. Not even the most diligent research can unearth a sudden shift in desire when the NBA lifestyle presents itself.

Now it's your turn. Who's makes up your list of worst draft picks?

Tomorrow: Top 10 Draft Picks of the Last 10 Years.
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