The NBA has seen a lot of outstanding youngsters go through their ranks, either becoming stars right out of high school or college, or developing into stars after a couple of years of development thanks to their talent and of course, a lot of hard work.
Nonetheless, it takes way more than just a great rookie season to become a steady, reliable and consistent player, as defenses learn how to read your game and make adjustments accordingly, taking away the element of surprise and the best features of their repertoire unless they keep working to improve.
Of course, making that transition to the NBA isn’t nearly as easy as most people would expect, and those kinds of adjustments sometimes never come due to frustration, lack of talent or a change in the system that make youngsters lose their roles.
So today, we’re going to take a look at 5 prospects that seemed poised for stardom and then became flat out average (or below-average) players.
5. Michael Carter-Williams
When the 11th overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft made his pro debut with the Sixers recording 22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals and 7 boards (just one steal away from tying Oscar Robertson as the only guy in history to record a triple-double in his first NBA game), everybody thought the new big thing in the league had just arrived, winning the ROY during that season.
Sadly, even with his great wingspan and high ceiling, the injury prone point guard never flourished into the two-way star everybody expected, being a terrible shooter and losing his minutes after playing for 3 teams in the very same number of seasons, sometimes earning DNP-CD’s on the horrid Bulls squad.
4. Richard Dumas
The 46th overall pick of the 1991 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns seemed like a huge steal as a small forward, leading the way with 15.8 points and 4.6 boards per game in his first 19 overall appearances for the Suns, helping the team on their way to a 62 win season and a shot at the ring.
Nevertheless, known as a huge troublemaker and having a lot of substance abuses issues, Dumas was suspended from the NBA, being forced to play overseas just to make a couple of failed comebacks to the Association, totally wasting his talent due to his misconduct.
3. Ernie DiGregorio
Ernest DiGregorio was the 3rd overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers (then-Buffalo Braves) way back in the day in 1971, as an extremely talented point guard out of Providence, winning the Rookie of the Year distinction after an amazing first season with averages of 15.8 points and 8.2 dimes per game.
Sadly, injuries stalled his development and forced him to miss his entire sophomore season, just to watch other guys take the starting gig and never being able to go back to his rookie season form, lasting for just 5 seasons in the Association before retiring early due to setbacks and lack of consistent playing time.
2. Phil Ford
Ford was supposed to be a superstar after being chosen 2nd overall in the 1978 NBA Draft by the Kansas City Kings out of North Carolina, but the Tar Heel was yet another one-hit wonder in the league with great averages of 15.9 points and 8.6 helpers per game during his rookie season, winning the 1979 ROY.
Nevertheless, Ford wouldn’t get much better than that, finally seeing his numbers take a major dip during his fourth campaign, being traded to the Nets and losing every single bit of a starring role and flushing a very promising career down the toilet, lasting just 7 seasons in the Association.
1. O.J. Mayo
Mayo was the highest ranked prospect in the United States during his high school years, and the prolific scorer seemed to be the second coming of MJ or something, being drafted 3rd overall in the 2008 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of other guys like Westbrook, Love, Gallinari, Brook Lopez, Ibaka, Batum, George Hill, DeAndre Jordan, and Dragic.
Sadly, he was never able to find much consistency and improve his defense despite a lot of playing time and being the clear go-to-guy on offense for the Memphis Grizzlies. He then tried his luck with the Mavs but things didn’t get any better, leaving for the Bucks just to be banned for violating the league’s drug policy, being probably the ultimate rookie that was supposed to be great and winding up being a huge disappointment.