NBA

The Worst NBA Draft Class Ever Was Tragically Cursed

Did the 1986 NBA Draft witness the worst class of all time? This draft was full of stars looking to make immediate impacts on their team’s, but ultimately a lot of players experienced tragic, often self-inflicted endings to their promising careers.

Could this draft class have been one of the all-time greats? Probably not. However, seeing the results of this class leaves us to ask wonder what could have been. Let’s look at a few of the notable names from the 1986 draft, possibly the worst NBA draft class ever.

Brad Daugherty, Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1 overall)

When Brad Daugherty was healthy, reports Sports Illustrated, he was a dominant NBA center. He quickly made a name for himself in Cleveland, averaging almost 16 points and eight rebounds per game as a rookie. 

He had a strong start to his career but was forced to retire at the age of 28 due to a back injury. Had he been able to stay healthy, we think he could have played four or five more seasons at an All-Star level.

Len Bias, Boston Celtics (No. 2 overall)

Entering the 1986 NBA Draft, many viewed Len Bias as a potential star in the making. At the University of Maryland, he was a two-time ACC Player of the Year and a two-time consensus All-American. With the athleticism to attack the basket, he averaged 16 points and five rebounds per game for the Terrapins.

Unfortunately, Bias never suited up for the Boston Celtics, who chose him second overall. The 22-year-old died of a cocaine overdose two days after being drafted. He’d been at a party celebrating his entry onto such a storied franchise.

Chris Washburn, Golden State Warriors (No. 3 overall)

Out of all the players drafted in the top 10 of the 1986 NBA Draft, Chris Washburn may have been the biggest reach by the Warriors. In two seasons with Golden State, he averaged just three points and two rebounds per game. His 6-foot-11 frame and nearly seven rebounds at North Carolina State made this even more shocking, reports Sports Illustrated.

The league banned Washburn following the 1988 season due to drug use. In 1991, he was sentenced to three years in prison after being arrested for cocaine possession.

William Bedford, Phoenix Suns (No. 6 overall)

The Suns rookie seemed to have a promising future as he got off to a good start as a rookie (averaging six points and five rebounds per game). However, in his sophomore season, William Bedford’s career went off the rails. He played in just 38 games that year before the NBA suspended him for the entire 1988-89 season due to cocaine use. 

After serving the suspension, Bedford played four more seasons. In 1993, he ended his career with the San Antonio Spurs.

Roy Tarpley, Dallas Mavericks (No. 7 overall)

Roy Tarpley is another major “what if?” When he was on the court, the University of Michigan alum blossomed into one of the top bigs in the game. By his second season, he was averaging a double-double.

Although Tarpley missed vital playing time during the early parts of his career, he still averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds per game in five games with the Mavericks. Then, the league suspended him for substance abuse. Tarpley wouldn’t play for the next three seasons. He finished his career in 1995 with Dallas.

Is this the worst draft class ever?

Looking at some of the top players selected in the 1986 NBA Draft, we can say, yes, this is indeed the worst NBA draft class of all time. When it’s all said and done, only five players had careers longer than 10 years of all 24 first-round picks.

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