The NBA draft is where teams select future superstars who will one day help them ascend to the top level: NBA champion. It’s also the event where they often select total duds who flame out of the league within a few years. It’s an inexact science, but it’s one all teams must master on some level.
Even if a franchise adds superstars in free agency, they must build their roster using draft picks at some point. Two of the biggest disappointments of the 2010s have been Anthony Bennett and Markelle Fultz. But which one was the bigger bust?
The case for Anthony Bennett as the biggest draft bust of the 2010s
Cleveland selected Bennett as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. He played only one season — 4.2 points per game — and almost immediately disappointed in a Cavs uniform.
During his first offseason, the team re-signed LeBron James and dealt Bennett along with 2014’s first overall pick Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves in exchange for Kevin Love.
Bennett failed to impress in any of his subsequent stops (Toronto and Brooklyn). His last NBA season was 2016-17. This year, he’s averaging 12.2 points per game for the Los Angeles Clippers’ G-League affiliate, so he has hopes of returning to the NBA.
The case for Markelle Fultz as the biggest draft bust of the 2010s
The Philadelphia 76ers selected Fultz with the first overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. The Sixers saw him as the final piece of “The Process” puzzle.
Unlike teammates Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, Fultz never came into his own in a Philadelphia uniform. He averaged only 7.7 points per game in his two seasons in Philly. He had major issues shooting the ball to the point where he seemed like he’d never develop into the star the Sixers thought he could be. The team dealt him to Orlando.
Fultz is looking much better in a Magic uniform. While he’s still no superstar, he’s averaging 11.7 points per game this season. A recent triple-double against the Lakers in Los Angeles proves he may be on the rise.
Biggest draft bust of the 2010s: Fultz or Bennett?
While both players have been fairly big disappointments, both have had promising seasons this year. The real question is, “Which one of them has more promise going forward?”
The answer has to be Fultz. While Bennett is playing well, he’s doing it in the G-League. Bennett coming back to become a solid contributor for an NBA team one day isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. But the chances of him playing at a level that would justify him being a first-round pick are almost non-existent.
On the other hand, Fultz is playing much better this season in the actual NBA. While it’s true he too may never reach the heights once expected of him, he’s at least playing better at the pro level. Fultz’s recent triple-double against the Lakers may be a fluke. And it may not mean he’s destined for NBA stardom. But at the very least, it’s a step in the right direction.
If both players are looking down a path at becoming a great (or even good) NBA player one day, Fultz’s road appears to be a much shorter journey. For that reason, it looks like Bennett is the bigger NBA draft bust of the 2010s.