With teams declining the options of such notable first rounders as Jahlil Okafor and Mario Hezonja, it is time to take a look at four players from the past four drafts, which I have lost all hope for as NBA players.
Players like Okafor or Marcus Smart, for example, do not qualify, as although no one would consider them to be future All-Stars, Okafor can be and Marcus Smart is a very productive player in the NBA. This list is for players who have not shown any remnants of future stardom, or even productivity.
Dragan Bender: 4th Pick in 2016
After a good rookie year from Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, it is easy to see why Dragan Bender went so high in the 2016 NBA Draft. There was a sudden craving for floor stretching seven-footers from Europe, and people thought that the next Unicorn could be a Dragan. But boys were they wrong. In Bender’s rookie season, he put up 3.4/2.4/.5 on 35.4% shooting from the field, 27.7% shooting from three and 44% true shooting. Yikes. Head Coach Earl Watson had trouble with Bender, as he seemed too slow to play power forward and too weak to play center.
In 2017-2018, it’s not looking very different, with Bender averaging 5.2/4.6/.9 on 34% from the field, 30.6% from three and 49% true shooting. And looking back, there were a few red flags in the Porzingis comparison from pre-draft.
Physically, Bender has shown to be significantly slower and weaker than Porzingis, while also being shorter, with a smaller wingspan. But he also performed much worse than Porzingis internationally. In Porzingis’s last international season, he put up 11 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, shooting 49.6% from the field, 35.9% from three, and 58.3% true shooting. Meanwhile, in Bender’s last international season, he put up just 4.4 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game on 42.3% shooting from the field, 33.8% shooting from three and 54.1% true shooting.
With no improvement on his poor rookie season, it is fair to say that Bender will never evolve to the level of Porzingis, and his future in the NBA could be questioned.
Emmanuel Mudiay: 7th Pick in 2015
Coming into the 2015 draft, I was a big fan of Emmanuel Mudiay. When he went seventh overall to Denver Nuggets, I thought that they got a steal, and probably the best point guard in the draft. I saw a long and strong point guard, who can outrun and out-dunk most NBA point guards. With that assessment I was right, however, now in his third year in the NBA, it seems like that is all he has been. Despite this year’s great and probably unsustainable three-point shooting, Mudiay has been a terrible shooter from any place on the court, he plays some of the worst perimeter defense in the league, and his basketball acumen has shown to be quite low.
When he is on the court, he does not look like a basketball player, but an athlete. Instead of using his speed to flourish on pick and rolls, he has shown to be a worse than league average pick and roll point guard. Instead of using his strength to finish strongly on drives, he shoots just 39.3% on drives for his career. Instead of using his length on defense, he has trouble staying in front of his man, and his defensive real plus-minus has never been above negative two.
And in his third year in the league, it has not been much different. Sure, his three-point percentage is sitting at an uncharacteristically high 43.5%, but 22 of his 23 three-point attempts have been open, so this percentage will likely not continue. Even if it does, his true shooting percentage is still a below average 51.9% and his offensive box plus-minus is -1.3. At this point unless Mudiay gets a change of scenery, he likely will not become anything more than a backup point guard, as he lost his starting spot to Jamal Murray.
Nik Stauskas: 8th Pick in 2014
Much like a legendary junior basketball coach and Kings owner, Vivek Ranadive, many were very high on Nik Stauskas’s shooting ability pre-2014 draft. According to the Boston Globe, a source close to the league stated “he [was] the best pro shooter in the draft and he [has] the best pro jump shot in the draft.” However, in the NBA, that has not been the case. In four years in the NBA, Stauskas’s highest three-point percentage has been a slightly above league average 36.8% in 2016-2017, and outside of shooting, Stauskas has not proved to positively impact in any other way.
His marksmanship has been extremely disappointing, and with the Philadelphia 76ers having strong shooters like Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington and JJ Redick in front of him, Stauskas has played just 14 minutes in the season so far. It seems like Stauskas will never become that elite shooter, and Stauskas has not done a good job at extending his game out of shooting.
Noah Vonleh: 9th Pick in 2014
Despite starting a majority of his NBA games, and being at the older end of this list, Noah Vonleh simply seems to look lost when on the court. And off the court, he has missed much time with injury.
In 2016-2017, Vonleh averaged just 4.4/5.2/.4 on 52.5% true shooting, with a -2.99 RPM. His Portland Trail Blazers were 2.9 points per 100 possessions better with him off the court, as well.
His inability to produce and injury-riddled past certainly lead one to believe that Vonleh could very well be a bust.