Excessive Injuries and Air Balls Galore: the Top 5 NBA Draft Busts of All Time

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The NBA is no stranger to picking bad players. Some have been so bad that teams and fans wonder what might have been had they selected someone who’d go on to have a great career and help win a few championships (and maybe even have statues of them built in front of their arenas). Since the NBA went to a lottery format in 1985, just about every pick has been a gamble. Being a lottery pick meant that you were guaranteed more money and more hype than someone who was just one lousy pick below lottery status. The lottery also saw a bunch of kids come out of high school thinking they were going to be the next Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant, only to be a bust and end up beingthe next mediocre player on some court in Venice, CA or New York City.Others went limping into an old folks home before they were 25 years old. We now bring you the cream of the crop in the Top 5 Biggest NBA Busts of All Time.

5 Michael Olowokandi – First Overall Pick, Los Angeles Clippers, 1998

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You can’t have a list of draft busts without including the Clippers in the conversation. This seven-foot center from Lagos, Nigeria only averaged 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game in his nine years in the league. The staff at Top 5 could dunk on this guy.

4 Pervis Ellison – First Overall Pick, Sacramento Kings, 1989

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Top 5 loved Pervis “Never Nervous” Ellison when he was a stud leading Louisville to the 1986 National Championship, and so did the Kings. But this bust ended up being Pervis “Out of Service” Ellison after a series of injuries. He went ahead of future all stars Sean Elliot, Glen Rice, Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp.

3 Kwame Brown – First Overall Pick, Washington Wizards, 2001

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Brown is so bad that he made the immortal Michael Jordan, who drafted this high school kid, look like Elgin Baylor of the Clippers as far as former great players turned general managers are concerned. After a horrible rookie season where he averaged just 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, this 6-foot-11 inch slug became a journeyman big-man-for-hire. Jordan apparently didn’t think that guys like Tyson Chandler, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol would amount to anything.

2 Greg Oden – First Overall Pick, Portland Trail Blazers, 2007

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How could a team have not one, but two all time busts in the Top 5? Top 5 doesn’t know, but for the Trail Blazers it was déjà vu all over again. Portland tried to exorcise the ghosts of Sam Bowie by drafting another big man in Oden, while passing on Kevin Durant. Like Bowie, Oden was a beast of a college player at Ohio State, but his body failed him. He missed his entire rookie season because of a fracture in his knee, and missed the next year because of a foot injury and hasn’t been the same since.

1 Sam Bowie – Second Overall Pick, Portland Trail Blazers, 1984

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Bowie is the mother (or father) of all draft busts. A big talent out of the University of Kentucky, Bowie was picked after the Houston Rockets selected now hall of famer Hakeem Olajuwon, and was done in Portland after just two seasons with injuries. Not very becoming of a second overall pick. Injuries followed Bowie everywhere he went as he averaged 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds a game in 11 seasons. What makes Bowie the biggest bust of all time are the three hall of famers who were selected after him, whom you’ve might have heard of — Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton.

Honorable Mention

Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Fifth Overall Pick, Denver Nuggets, 2002

Who!? Enough said. This bust from Georgia (the country, not the state) went ahead of Amar’eStoudemire, Nenê and Caron Butler. He averaged just 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds in four years in the league.

LaRue Martin
First Overall Pick, Portland Trail Blazers, 1972

The first of many great busts for the Trail Blazers, this guy only averaged seven points a game in four seasons in the league. That’s only slightly worse that what “Dr. J” Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo did in their careers.

Adam Morrison
Third Overall Pick, Charlotte Bobcats, 2006

Another Jordan bust. And Like Jordan, Top 5 had high hopes for this high-scoring, wild-haired forwardfrom Gonzaga University, but alas it was never to be. On the bright side, Morrison did gravy train two championship rings while sitting on the bench with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010.

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