We’ve already gone over the 10 Best NBA Draft Classes in the modern era. But for every group that’s wowed us, there is an NBA Draft class that make us ask “What was in the water that year?” Here are the Top 10 Worst NBA Draft Classes in the modern era (1980-present).
Starring: Michael Olowokandi (No. 1), Raef LaFrentz (No. 3), Robert Traylor (No. 6), Jason Williams (No. 7) and Larry Hughes (No. 8 )
The top 10 picks of this draft produced four All-Stars and a solid point man in Mike Bibby. But the misses from ’98 are pretty awful. Combine these bad picks with the fact that any of these teams could’ve had Paul Pierce and you have a pretty bad draft class despite the great talent within it, including Dirk Nowitzki. Olowokandi is considered one of the worst draft picks ever and LaFrentz at No. 3 isn’t too far behind. Traylor and Hughes were both colossal failures – Traylor was also just colossal. Williams – a.k.a. “White Chocolate” – provided a lot of flash and even played well for a couple of years but overall he’s been an overrated guard who can just as easily hit the popcorn vender in the fifth row as he can a picture perfect pass through traffic.
Starring: Michael Beasley (No. 2), Joe Alexander (No. 8 ) and D.J. Augustin (No. 9)
It seems harsh to put a draft class just two seasons old among the ten worst, but three top ten players can already be considered busts. Beasley is the highest-profile bust so far and yes, we’re already calling him a bust. Being accused of smoking marijuana during the rookie camp isn’t the way to get your career started and a stint in rehab before your third season is never a good thing, either. Augustin and Alexander have done nothing for their respective teams with Alexander already being traded by the team who drafted him No. 8 (Milwaukee). Plenty of others have displayed great promise, including the No. 1 pick Derrick Rose, but in its infancy this class has been more of a disappointment than not. Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan and Brandon Jennings would’ve been in this class had it not been for the NBA’s minimum age requirements.
Starring: Chris Washburn (No. 3), Kenny Walker (No.5), William Bedford (No. 6), Roy Tarpley (No. 7) and Brad Sellers (No. 9)
Len Bias, selected No. 2 overall, tragically died of a drug overdose just two days after the draft. Little did people realize at the time that he’d eventually become the poster child for the rampant drug problem in professional basketball and all of sports in the ‘80s. Drugs eventually cut short the careers of Washburn, Bedford and Tarpley. Sellers never broke through as a starter and his playing time dwindled with the emergence of Scottie Pippen in Chicago. As for Walker, he was hampered by knee injuries that prevented him from reaching his full potential. Without the presence of drugs, who knows how successful this class might have been.
Starring: Derrick Coleman (No. 1), Chris Jackson (No. 3), Felton Spencer (No. 6), Lionel Simmons (No. 7), Bo Kimble (No. 8 ) and Rumeal Robinson (No. 10)
Despite a promising start to his NBA career, Coleman’s performance began to drop while his weight and waistline started to grow. And he was the No. 1 overall pick. While Gary Payton turned out to be a super star, the rest of the lottery picks proved to be just as unfruitful as Coleman. Picks 3-10 are virtual nobodies in NBA history. Jackson’s biggest claim to fame was his name change to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and his refusal to stand for the national anthem. Kimble is more known for what he did in college – the leader of Loyola Marymount following the death of Hank Gathers – than for anything he did in the NBA.
Starring: Jay Williams (No. 2), Nikoloz Tskitishvili (No. 5), DaJuan Wagner (No. 6) and Chris Wilcox (No. 8 )
The league still hadn’t recovered from the dearth of talent the two previous years. Only two real must-have stars came from this draft: Yao Ming (No. 1) and Carlos Boozer (No. 35). But Boozer may be the only consistent super star from this group. Ming has been a great player when he’s healthy but injuries have been a constant problem for him. Most of the rest of the lottery picks weren’t even close to successes in the same league as Ming or Boozer. They’re either average (Mike Dunleavy, Jr., No. 3), bad (Tskitishvili, Wagner and Wilcox) or out of the league because of poor decision making (Williams). This was the draft with the most international draftees (17), with six of them coming in the first round. It was a sign of how weak the domestic players coming into this class were. Not having Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom spent just one season in the NCAA, also hurt the class.
Starring: Kwame Brown (No. 1), Tyson Chandler (No. 2), Eddy Curry (No. 4), Eddie Griffin (No. 7), DeSagana Diop (No. 8 ) and Rodney White (No. 9)
The new millennium began with a thud as NBA GMs went crazy on high school talent. Ignoring the fact that high school players or big men are rarely a guarantee in the draft, Michael Jordan went ahead and drafted a player that was both in Brown. By doing that he took the first step toward ruining his legacy. But in his defense, he didn’t have much to choose from. Outside of Pau Gasol and Joe Johnson, it was slim pickings for “His Airness.” Chandler has been a disappointment, Curry is a bust even by New York Knicks standards and White is currently plying his trade in China.
Starring: Ralph Sampson (No. 1), Steve Stipanovich (No. 2), and Russell Cross (No. 6)
The two big men at the top of this draft class were two big disappointments by the end of their careers. Sampson was all-world at Virginia and is considered by some to be one of the greatest college basketball players ever. He even averaged over 20 points and 11 rebounds a game in his first three seasons in the NBA. But injuries prevented him from reaching the status of elite NBA player. The same is true of Stipanovich, who defeated Sampson and Virginia on national television while at Mizzou. His career was also marred by injuries. Cross can’t say the same. He played just one season in the NBA and averaged just 3.7 points in 45 games.
Starring: Pervis Ellison (No. 1), Danny Ferry (No. 2), J.R. Reid (No. 5), George McCloud (No. 7), Randy White (No. 8 ), Tom Hammonds (No. 9) and Pooh Richardson (No. 10)
It’s fitting that this draft had a player with the nickname “Pooh” because most of these lottery picks flat-out stunk. The best talent of this draft came after the No. 10 pick, with the exception of Sean Elliott (borderline great player) and Glen Rice. The top two picks of this draft were complete misses. Ellison was dogged by injuries his entire career, so much so his teammate Danny Ainge gave him the nickname “Out of Service Pervis.” Ferry had a long and average career but fell well short of expectations for a player who was a two-time ACC Athlete of the Year at Duke. Not to be outdone by a rival, North Carolina’s J.R. Reid also had just as disappointing a career considering what he did at North Carolina. Throw in George McCloud, who played at Florida State before it became an ACC school, and you have an ACC trifecta of mediocrity.
Starring: Adam Morrison (No. 3), Tyrus Thomas (No. 4), Patrick O’Bryant (No. 9) and Mouhamed Sene (No. 10)
The talent pool of 2006 was emptier than a John Calipari promise to stay put as this was the first year high school players weren’t allowed to jump to the pros. Otherwise, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant would have been available. Outside of the 2006-07 Rookie of the Year (Brandon Roy) and Rajon Rondo (No. 18), this draft was almost a complete wash. Adam Morrison is now glued to the end of the bench for the Lakers, Tyrus Thomas drove Bulls fans crazy with potential that never materialized before he was moved to Charlotte, Patrick O’Bryant became the first NBA lottery pick to be sent down to the D-League and you’ve probably never heard of Mouhamed Sene. That’s because he played in just 47 games over four seasons and is now playing in France despite being the No. 10 pick.
Starring: Stromile Swift (No. 2), Darius Miles (No. 3), Marcus Fizer (No. 4) and DerMarr Johnson (No. 6)
The Y2K Draft Glitch is universally panned as the worst draft in modern NBA history. Combined, the 2000 class has totaled just three All-Star games. The best player from this entire group? Ohio State’s Michael Redd, selected No. 43 overall. The top pick, Kenyon Martin, has been a role player most of his career and the top five picks included colossal busts Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and Marcus Fizer.
The question is always asked: How in the world did this debacle happen? In a hypothetical world, this was supposed to be the draft class of Kobe Bryant, Mike Bibby, Jermaine O’Neal, Stephen Jackson, Shawn Marion and Richard Hamilton. But what really did the 2000 class in was last-minute decisions by players prior to the ’99 draft. Steve Francis bolted Maryland after saying he was “99-percent sure” he would return, there was a mass exodus from Duke’s national runner-up team that included Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and William Avery – the first three players ever to leave the program early – and Baron Davis had a miraculous recovery from a torn ACL that prompted him to bolt Westwood. Instead of becoming the first three picks in the 2000 draft, Brand, Francis and Davis went 1-2-3 in ’99 and left table scraps for 2000.