With the success experienced by the most recent number one overall pick, Karl-Anthony Towns, it sparked a question to see which three players have been the worst picks since the turn of the century.
Since 2000, there have only been a few classes that contained multiple talented prospects. Obviously, the 2003 class is one of the all-time best, but there have been more poor drafts than good ones.
This post isn’t to talk bad about the trio but to highlight how they weren’t deserving of their number one spot, and the pressure that came with it played a part in their poor play. Along with that, their placement on this list is backed up by who was selected behind them.
Greg Oden, 2007
Greg Oden, if he wasn’t so injury prone, had the potential to turn into an outstanding NBA player, thus avoiding any conversations about being a bust. However, those nagging injuries limited him to 105 games played since his rookie year in 2008-09. His dominance at Ohio State during the 2006-07 season showcased how good Oden could’ve been; averaging 15.7points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.2 blocks for the Buckeyes.
Those same Buckeyes went on to lose to Florida in the Final Four, but the NABC named Oden their Defensive Player of the Year, and Ohio State finished the year ranked number one overall by the Associated Press.
Also Read: Kevin Durant Doesn’t Consider Oden a Bust
When Oden wasn’t on the sideline with injuries, he was a stud. Unfortunately, his teams couldn’t extract much out of him. He was a foul machine, and that limited his minutes. Over his first two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Oden averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 boards and 3.9 in just 22.1 minutes a night. If we adjust those and go by the per 36 numbers, Oden’s a 15-point, 12-rebound machine who’s fouling out of every game that he plays in.
Oden’s body failing him is what created the “bust” label. Moreover, Kevin Durant, Marc Gasol, Al Horford and Joakim Noah getting drafted behind him didn’t help. (In hindsight, drafting the guy who had one leg that was shorter than the other doesn’t seem like the ideal move.)
Kwame Brown, 2001
For his career, the former first overall pick averaged 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. Looking back on it, having Brown get drafted before anyone else was a terrible mistake. Even back then, it was the now 35-year-old didn’t have much game. His post play wasn’t up-to-par and a lack of athleticism made him a liability on defense. The most Brown offered was being a big body to clog up the paint.
It was evident that Brown became more productive with the more minutes he played. His career average is 22.2 minutes a game, but there are 145 contests where he’s played more than 30 minutes and is noticeably more productive in them. In 25 of those games, Brown got more than 40 minutes of court time and his averages ballooned to 14.8 points and 10.7 boards; they’re still not what we expect from a first overall pick, but they’re significantly improved.
Anthony Bennett, 2012
When Commissioner Stern announced Anthony Bennett as the number one overall pick, there was a sense of confusion and amazement: the former because the Cavaliers didn’t take Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, or Victor Oladipo, and the latter because the Cavaliers actually drafted Bennett over those above.
Despite having a solid year at UNLV, no one (literally, no one) expected Bennett to be taken as the first overall. I’m not sure he expected it, either, because to call his production lackluster would be a compliment. Through his very short career, Bennett’s teams are 12 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the court. I’m no mathematician, but that doesn’t sound too promising.
On top of that, he’s failed to tailor his game. At his size, 6-8, 245, Bennett should have no problems playing multiple positions and spacing the floor. That hasn’t happened. His three-point clip is a tick above 26 percent, and he’s far from a defensive stopper.
The three men above aren’t bad basketball players in any context. Unfortunately for them, they failed to live up to their high expectations and had some circumstances they couldn’t avoid. If they’d been taken later in their draft, behind the guys who are outperforming them, this would be a different conversation.