Sometimes, the Draft Lottery winds up being exactly that, a lottery, as sometimes teams tend to choose terrible guys that wind up being the worst picks in the draft, especially if they come 1st overall, as the 1st pick is highly desired by all 30 teams in the Association.
After coming with high praise either from high school, college or overseas, some General Managers tend to go along with the hype that surrounds some intriguing talents, but their games don’t often adjust to the needs of the NBA, or they're just not mature or physically gifted enough to make it in the best league in the world.
Of course, sometimes luck, injuries or a change in the team’s management also takes its toll on the player’s development, while other players drafted far behind them take the next step in their careers and wind up being very successful NBA players.
Now, as the season finale quickly approaches and therefore, the next NBA draft, let’s take a moment to look back and remember the 10 worst 1st picks in NBA Draft History. Hopefully, GMs don’t make the same kind of mistakes in this upcoming lottery.
10. Art Heyman
After being extremely dominant during his time with Duke University, Heyman seemed to be a lock to be the next NBA star, so he went first overall ahead of guys like Eddie Miles or Nate Thurmond, just to play for 3 seasons in the Association before moving to the ABA, where he didn’t find much success either. He wound up averaging just over 10 points, 2.8 boards and 2.4 assists in his 3 seasons as a New York Knick, Cincinnati Royal and Philadelphia 76er.
9. Andrea Bargnani
Not so long ago, it seemed like Bargnani was something like the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki but way more talented, poised to take the league for assault and completely change the center position for the Raptors. Needless to say, Bargnani was a complete bust, as 9 years later he’s not even in the league.
Playing for the Raptors, Knicks and Nets, the Italian Forward/Center averaged 14.3 points with 1.2 assists and just 4.6 rebounds, showing nothing on defense and shooting a horrid 35% from three after his three-pointer was his so called strength. Besides, he went over guys like Lamarcus Aldridge, Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap and J.J. Redick.
8. Kwame Brown
Michael Jordan was always known for his love for gambling, and that’s definitely what he did when he decided to choose Kwame Brown 1st overall in the 2001 draft, as the Center reportedly told him and Doug Collins that they would never regret choosing him, but sadly, that was a huge lie, as his career numbers of 6.6 points, 5.5 boards and 0.9 assists on 49% shooting can tell.
Brown played for the Wizards, Lakers, Bobcats, Warriors, Grizzlies, Pistons and Sixers before leaving the NBA after struggling with injuries, teammates, and coaches, being picked over guys like Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson, Tyson Chandler, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas.
7. Michael Olowokandi
Olowokandi was yet another reason for the Los Angeles Clippers to be the laughing stock of most of the NBA when they drafted him 1st overall in 1998, spending the first 5 years of his 8-year NBA career with a Clippers team that miserably failed to even compete for a spot in the postseason.
Going ahead of Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Antawn Jamison, the center roughly averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 boards after completely destroying everybody during his college career, averaging 22.2 points, 11.3 boards and 3 swats per contest.
6. Joe Smith
Joe Smith was a complete beast during his 2 seasons at Maryland, as the Power Forward averaged 20.2 points, 10.7 boards and 3.1 blocks per game, enough to be the undisputable first overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in 1995, but those numbers were far distant from the mediocre averages of 10.9 points and 6 boards he averaged in 16 years in the NBA.
What’s more sad about this guy is the fact that the Warriors drafted him ahead of Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse and some other power forward you’ve probably heard of, a guy called Kevin Garnett.
5. Kent Benson
The only achievement in this guy's sad career was getting punched in the face by one of the greatest players in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as Benson was yet another player that had a stellar college career but could never settle in the Majors, going 1st overall for the Milwaukee Bucks in 1977.
After killing it at Indiana University, the Bucks only dealt with him for only 2 and a half seasons, and even if he lasted for 10 years in the league, nobody would have even remembered him or his 9.1 points and 5.8 boards, being yet another floppy center. On top of that, he was drafted ahead of Marques Johnson and BERNARD KING.
4. Pervis Ellison
Spending 11 years in the NBA, Ellison was yet another guy that was keen to leave his footprint in the books of the best basketball league in the world, but the Forward/Center wound up averaging just 9.5 points and 6.1 boards during his time with the Sacramento Kings, the Washington Bullets, Boston Celtics and Seattle Supersonics.
The Kings thought they were getting a steal out of Louisville, but this guy actually shot 5% from three during his eleven-year career (classic Kings). He was picked ahead of Clifford Robinson, BJ Armstrong, Dana Barros, Glen Rice, Tim Hardaway, Shawn Kemp and Vlade Divac. WOW.
3. Greg Oden
Nowadays it’s pretty clear that the Portland Trail Blazers made a HUGE mistake drafting Greg Oden ahead of Kevin Durant (although he probably would have left them to join the Warriors anyway), but considering how much of a dominant beast this guy was in the NCAA, he seemed to be the next king in the paint of the NBA.
Nevertheless, constant injuries completely destroyed the career of a guy that seemed poised for stardom and that was really dominant when he was actually able to stay on the court. It’s hard to believe we’ll ever see Oden on an NBA court again after spending just 5 seasons in the league while going ahead of Durant, Al Horford, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Mike Conley, Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo.
2. Anthony Bennett
This guy was just a terrible pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers, although he wound up being useful by taking part in the deal that brought Kevin Love to the Quicken Loans Arena. Going ahead of Victor Oladipo, CJ McCollum, Otto Porter Jr, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, Gorgui Dieng, Andre Roberson, Allen Crabbe, Rudy Gobert and GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, he only lasted 3 seasons in the NBA.
Showing absolutely no confidence or improvement whatsoever, being a huge liability on defense, struggling to score or rebound, Bennett was a huge bust, with career averages of 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds.
1. LaRue Martin
And finally, even if it seemed like nobody was ever going to be worse than Bennett, we remembered about LaRue Martin, the 1st pick in the 1972 NBA draft, a draft that had other guys like Bob McAdoo and Julius Erving, being yet another huge bust for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lasting only 4 years in the NBA and failing to reach the playoffs in every single one of them, LaRue roughly averaged 5.3 points, 0.7 assists and 4.6 boards per game on just 41% from the field, terrible numbers for a center, especially in a time when the game was practically played below the rim, becoming the ultimate draft bust and the worst 1st draft pick in NBA history.