The NBA draft is where dreams finally come true, but it can also be where franchises doom themselves for years to come. There’s no shortage of NBA draft busts in the history of the league, but who are the five worst and where are they now?
5. Darko Milicic: No. 2, 2003
The 2003 NBA draft is one of the most famous of all time. LeBron James went No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade filled out the top five. But the man in between was largely forgotten because of the massive success the players selected around him went on to have. That man was Darko Milicic.
Milicic entered the 2003 draft as a promising big man out of Serbia. The 7-foot-0, 250-pound prospect showed elite skill overseas, but it didn’t quite translate to the NBA.
Milicic was unimpressive from the jump for the Detroit Pistons. He averaged just 1.4 and 1.8 points per game in his first two years, and he never averaged more than 8.8 points per game in any of his 12 seasons as a pro. The Pistons still wish they could undo this one.
4. Greg Oden: No. 1, 2007
Greg Oden is a complicated NBA bust story. Oden entered the 2007 draft as the clear top prospect, with Kevin Durant close behind at No. 2. The talented center dominated the NCAA at Ohio State, and hardly anyone questioned the pick by the Portland Trail Blazers at the time.
But injuries quickly derailed what could’ve been a long and prosperous NBA career. Oden missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury, and after playing two decent seasons after that, he missed another three years due to his chronic knee issues.
Oden returned to the NBA to play for the Miami Heat in 2013, but that’s the last we’ve seen of him in an NBA jersey. He went on to play in the Chinese Basketball Association and The Basketball Tournament in 2018.
3. Hasheem Thabeet: No. 2, 2009
Shield your eyes Grizzlies fans. Memphis took UCONN center Hasheem Thabeet with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, and he never realized any of the promise he showed in college.
Thabeet played 13.0 minutes per game as a rookie and scored just 3.1 points per game on 58.8% shooting. His playing time took a dive in year two, as did his production. Thabeet shot just 42.5% in 2010, and the Grizzlies gave up on the top draft pick in the middle of the season.
Thabeet lasted just five years in the NBA, and he finished his career with an average of 2.2 points per game.
2. LaRue Martin: No. 1, 1972
LaRue Martin is a lesser-known NBA draft bust, but he still earns the second spot on our list. Martin was selected No. 1 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1972, and it was clear from his first season that was a mistake.
The first overall pick scored just 4.4 points per game on 39.6% shooting as a rookie. He only lasted three more seasons in the NBA before ultimately flaming out of the league.
What’s worse? Julius Erving was selected a few picks after Martin.
1. Anthony Bennett: No. 1, 2013
Phew, Anthony Bennett. A puzzling draft pick from the start, Bennett never even came close to contributing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He shot an abysmal 35.6% from the floor as a rookie, and the Cavs let go of their No. 1 overall pick after just one season.
Bennett went on to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Brooklyn Nets, and Toronto Raptors, but it was more of the same for the catastrophic NBA bust. He rattled around in the G-League in the years after his brief NBA career came to an end, but he never made it back to the pros.
To think the Cavaliers could’ve taken Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013 instead.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference