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Top 5 Biggest NBA Draft Busts Of All Time

By Matthew Citak

Come draft day every owner, general manager and coach is hoping that their team will draft the next LeBron James, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately more often than not players don't pan out how teams hoped that they would. Has your team ever had a high draft pick and wound up picking someone that turned out to be a complete bust? Here is our list of the Top 5 biggest NBA Draft busts of all time.

Honorable Mention: Greg Oden (1st Overall, 2007 Draft), Portland Trail Blazers

Oden would be higher on this list if he weren’t only 25 years old and soon to make a comeback in the NBA. Drafted 1st overall in the 2007 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, the young center from Ohio State has seen his career completely derailed by injuries. Since being drafted, Oden has had three microfracture surgeries on his knees. He has played in 82 games throughout his career, essentially one season worth of basketball over a span of 5 years (2007-2012). At one time seen as a once-in-a-generation-type player, now Oden cannot be seen as anything short of a major draft bust. However, with talks of mutual interest between the center and the Miami Heat, and the reports that he is looking stronger and healthier than he has in years, Oden has a chance to remove himself from this list entirely in the 2013-2014 season.

Drafted before: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Mike Conley Jr.

5. LaRue Martin (1st Overall, 1972 Draft), Portland Trail Blazers

Of all the 1st overall picks in NBA Draft history, it can easily be argued that Martin had the least productive career of all of them. Martin, a 6’11”, 208 lbs. center out of Loyola University of Chicago, played a mere 4 seasons in the NBA, averaging just 5.3 points per game. When it comes to 7-foot centers, teams expect them to have a high shooting percentage but in his four seasons in the league, Martin shot a measly 41.6% overall. The only reason Martin does not find himself higher on the list? The year that he was selected produced a rather weak draft class overall. Still, there were better options for the Portland Trail Blazers than the skinny, 7-foot center.

Drafted before: Bob McAdoo, Paul Westphal, Julius Erving

4. Michael Olowokandi (1st Overall, 1998 Draft), Los Angeles Clippers

It’s a bold move for an NBA team to draft a player who began playing organized basketball at the age of 18. To draft him first overall? Now that’s just not smart. Olowokandi, a 7-foot center coming out of the University of Pacific, was taken by the Los Angeles Clippers first overall in the 1998 draft. He played nine seasons in the NBA for the Clippers, Timberwolves, and Celtics, and finished with career averages of 8.3 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. Similar to other players on this list, Olowokandi saw many of his seasons end early because of injuries. Over the last few years of his career, the center could not seem to stay healthy for more than a few games at a time. With two players drafted after him winning NBA Finals MVPs after he had already retired, Olowokandi was an obvious choice to make this list of the NBA’s biggest draft busts.

Drafted before: Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce

3. Kwame Brown (1st Overall, 2001 Draft), Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizard’s number one overall pick in the 2001 draft has somehow survived 12 years in the NBA, even though his play can barely be considered mediocre. In those 12 seasons, Brown has averaged 6.6 points per game and only 5.5 rebounds per game. As a center selected number one overall, a lot more is expected from you than those below-average numbers. Injuries and subpar talent are not the only factors that have kept Brown from reaching the potential that Michael Jordan saw when he made Brown his first career draft pick. Off the court problems, such as a 2007 arrest, a rape accusation, and an incident involving Brown throwing a cake at a fan, have also helped to hamper the center’s career. After being a member of 8 different teams in 12 seasons, Brown must be considered one of the biggest busts of NBA Draft history.

Drafted before: Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker

2. Darko Milicic (2nd Overall, 2003 Draft), Detroit Pistons

The 2003 NBA Draft is often considered to be one of the strongest, if not the strongest, draft in recent memory. Yet, there is one major outlier at the top of this draft. This outlier’s name is Darko Milicic. The Detroit Pistons made Milicic the 2nd overall pick in this stacked draft. Coming off a season where they finished as the number one seed in the East, the Pistons received this pick from a 1996 trade with Vancouver. Detroit had a chance to add to their already strong lineup, but struck out in the biggest way possible by drafting Milicic. In a span of 10 seasons, playing for 6 different teams, Milicic has a career average of 6.0 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game which are abysmal numbers for a 7-footer selected 2nd overall. At this point, everyone remembers who else was selected in the first five picks of this draft. One thing is for sure: the city of Detroit is certainly trying to forget the 2003 NBA Draft and the enormous blunder its front office made.

Drafted before: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, David West

1. Sam Bowie (2nd Overall, 1984), Portland Trail Blazers

When looking at his career averages, one might be confused as to why Bowie has won the honor of being considered the biggest draft bust in NBA history. 10.9 points per game, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks aren’t THAT bad of numbers, especially compared to some of the other guys on this list. However in Bowie’s case, it’s more about the careers of who the Portland Trail Blazers passed on to select him second overall than his career itself. After a great rookie season, being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, Bowie broke his left leg in 1985, and then his right leg in 1986. He followed that up by fracturing his right tibia during the next preseason, forcing Bowie to miss the entire 1987-1988 season. In his last three seasons in Portland, Bowie only played in 63 out of a possible 328 games. During the time that Bowie was sitting out, the players selected after him were becoming All-Stars and were on their way to becoming some of the best players to ever play the sport of basketball.

Drafted before: Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton

If this list has shown us anything, it’s that drafting 7-footers at the very top of the draft is a pretty big risk … especially if you are the Portland Trail Blazers.

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