Should the Boston Celtics do the expected and pick Markelle Fultz first overall in the upcoming NBA draft, there will be a whole lot of second guessing.
While he is the consensus no. 1 and has been for some time, the talented point guard would go to a team that already has a stud at that position, Isaiah Thomas.
How the Celtics, then, develop the youngster — barring a draft day trade, which is rumored — will be integral to his future NBA career.
Because of the brevity of the draft, just two rounds, it’s imperative that teams do their homework.
However, all the studying and vetting of college and high school prospects has produced some duds, particularly when better players were available after some of them were drafted (a theme here).
A look around the world of basketball sees European and Asian leagues are littered with the detritus of failed NBA draft experiments.
With that fact in mind, here are every NBA’s teams worst selections.
30. Atlanta Hawks – Marvin Williams
Marvin Gaye Williams Jr. is still in the NBA as a starting forward for the Charlotte Hornets. In 2005, the Atlanta Hawks owned the second overall pick in the draft and after Milwaukee selected Andrew Bogut at no. 1, the Hawks decided on North Carolina freshman Williams. While Williams has carved out a decent career, the Hawks missed out on superior talents such as Chris Paul (4th to New Orleans), Danny Granger (17th to Indiana) and David Lee (30th to the New York Knicks). For a second overall pick, Williams’ career 10.6 points per game and 5.3 rebounds just don’t cut it. Little wonder the Hawks haven’t gotten over the East Conference finals hump since.
29. Boston Celtics – Fab Melo
The Boston Celtics have been the recipients of some great draft positioning after that trade in 2013 with the Brooklyn Nets that netted them a passel of picks, including this year’s no. 1 overall selection. But, just one year prior to dealing Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets, the Celtics whiffed at the 2012 draft. They owned the 21st and 22nd selections that year and at no. 21, they picked Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, who panned out for a while before allowing him to leave as a free agent (he signed with Toronto in 2016). Next up on the podium, Boston grabbed Syracuse center Fab Melo, who would play all of six games with Boston in 2012-13. What makes that pick worse was the fact Cleveland took Jae Crowder 34th and Golden State selected Draymond Green at no. 35.
28. Brooklyn Nets – Derrick Favors
The deplorable Brooklyn Nets will only be able to look on longingly at the draft while the Boston Celtics call out the first pick. After trading away the future for a brief but ill-fated run during the 2014 playoffs, the Nets will also see their no. 1 (likely a high draft pick again) frittered away to Boston. Their recent draft history, when they actually had first round picks, hasn’t been anything to write about home about. In 2010, the Nets (then in New Jersey), had the third pick in the draft and took Georgia Tech freshman power forward Derrick Favors. In his only part season with the Nets (56 games in 2010-11), who probably wasted his talent, he scored just 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game before being traded to Utah, where he is still playing. The players they could have had, though, were huge talents DeMarcus Cousins (5th to Sacramento) or Paul George (10th to Indiana).
27. Charlotte Hornets – Adam Morrison
The Charlotte franchise had many hits in the NBA draft in their early years, including Larry Johnson (no. 1 in 1991), Alonzo Mourning (no. 2 in 1992). Then they coughed one up in 1996 when they picked Kobe Bryant 13th, only to deal him to the Lakers. The Hornets followed that bad deal years later when, with the no. 3 pick in the 2006 draft, they opted for Gonzaga “can’t miss” prospect Adam Morrison. He had a decent rookie season in 2006-07, scoring 11.8 points, but never reached the potential so many in the Charlotte organization thought he had. He appeared in just 122 games with Charlotte and another 39 with the L.A. Lakers and was out of the league by 2010. Other players Charlotte could have taken in the first round that year were Brandon Roy (6th to Minnesota), Rajon Rondo (21st to Phoenix) and Kyle Lowry (24th to Memphis).
26. Chicago Bulls – Jay Williams
The Duke Blue Devils basketball program under Coach K has been a breeding ground for elite future NBA talent. Jay Williams, though, didn’t turn out as expected. In 2002, Williams was coming off a huge season at Duke and had that “superstar” swagger about him. After the Houston Rockets made giant Chinese center Yao Ming the first pick in the draft, the Chicago Bulls were only too happy to nab Williams at no. 2. What the Bulls should have seen in him, however, was how he lived his life off-court, which is to say full out. Williams played just one half decent season with the Bulls, then crashed his motorcycle (which he wasn’t licenced to drive) and sustained what would be career-ending injuries.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers – Anthony Bennett
Cleveland has had four no. 1 overall picks in the last 14 years and three of them turned out just fine. LeBron James went first in 2003, followed by Kyrie Irving in 2011, Anthony Bennett in 2013 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014 (subsequently traded with fellow Canadian Bennett to Minnesota for Kevin Love). Bennett, of Toronto, who played at UNLV, was the first ever Canadian to be drafted no. 1. And he struggled mightily in the Land, also becoming the first ever no. 1 overall selection to be demoted to the D-League. Bennett’s numbers have not befitted a top pick, even though he is still technically in the NBA with Brooklyn. In his 52 games with Cleveland in his rookie season (no starts), he averaged 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds. He has played all of 151 games four four teams and has started exactly four games. Just imagine the possibilities had the Cavs taken Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th to Milwaukee) instead.
24. Dallas Mavericks – Samaki Walker
The Mavs have had a few dubious first round picks in their 37-year history, none worse, however, than the selection of Louisville PF/C Samaki Walker at no. 9 in 1996. Dallas under Don Nelson was a team in transition in ’96 and Walker was seen as a player to build around. So, they picked a nattily white-suited and fedora wearing Walker ninth, which would be the highlight of his career. Drafted ahead of Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic and Steve Nash, Walker never panned out in Big D. He started just 33 of 123 games with the Mavericks, averaging just 6.6 points and 4.8 rebounds. He shuttled around the NBA quite a bit, playing with six teams and was out of the league by 2005.
23. Denver Nuggets – Raef Lafrentz
In 40 years, the Denver Nuggets have selected no higher than third overall in any draft, having that distinction twice. One player they took at three was Carmelo Anthony (in 2003, good) and the other was center Raef Lafrentz (1998, bad). Lafrentz was a phenom at the basketball factory known as the University of Kansas, earning coveted First Team All-America honors twice (one of just three players in the 1990s including Tim Duncan and Shaq, to do so). Thus, the Nuggets were probably quite pleased to select him third overall in ’98. Like many players on this list, Lafrentz never lived up to his advanced billing and draft stature. Sure, he averaged 13.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, but he playd just 222 games with the Nuggets before moving on. Players Denver missed out on in that draft included Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Rashard Lewis.
22. Detroit Pistons – Darko Milicic
Detroit has had just one top-3 draft pick since taking Grant Hill third overall in 1994. Too bad they wasted it on Darko Milicic at no. 2 in 2003. The Pistons were actually a contender that year and had the good fortune of a second overall selection, which they obtained from Memphis in a 1997 trade for Otis Thorpe. After Cleveland made LeBron James the no. 1 overall pick, Detroit stepped up and announced Serbian center Milicic as their selection. Only later would this selection haunt them, as the next three picks turned out to be all-stars (Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade at 3-4-5). Milicic would turn out to be one of the worst draft blunders since 2000, as he played in just 96 games with Detroit, starting two of them, while averaging 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds.
21. Golden State Warriors – Joe Smith
Among the players on this list, Joe Smith actually had a fair career, albeit bouncing around with an astounding 12 different teams. While he did average 17.0 points and 8.2 rebounds in three seasons after being picked no. 1 out of Maryland in 1995, it was the generational players selected after him that make him a consensus bust. These talents included Jerry Stackhouse (third to Philadelphia), Rasheed Wallac (fourth to Washington) and Kevin Garnett (fifth to Minnesota). The selection of Smith first overall was also made worse by the fact he wanted to return to his east coast roots in the last year of his rookie contract, forcing the Dubs to deal him to Philadelphia, where his career took a bit of a nosedive.
20. Houston Rockets – Rodney McCray
When the Rockets have had the good fortune to own a top 10 draft pick — which has been rare — they have rarely made a misstep. In the 80s they got Ralph Sampson (1st overall, 1983) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1st, 1984). But, in ’83, they had two top-3 picks and after Steve Stipanovich was called at no. 2 by Indiana, Houston opted for Louisville senior Rodney McCray. The team was rebuilding and felt that one of the key pieces to the Cardinals NCAA DI champion team would be a great front court addition along with Sampson. Now, McCray was a starter for most of his five seasons with the Rockets and did average 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, but the players they missed out on could have greatly increased their odds of being a champion. They would have been Byron Scott (4th to San Diego), Clyde Drexler (14th to Portland) or John Paxson (19th, San Antonio).
19. Indian Pacers – Tyler Hansbrough
The 2009 draft was a deep one and the Indiana Pacers, who have rarely ever had a top-10 pick, were slated to choose 13th. They had always did fairly well with their middle-of-the-first round picks and in ’09 the Pacers had a lot of options. On the board at their pick was North Carolina’s spiritual leader and throwback physical type Tyler Hansbrough. The big power forward would be paired with small forward Danny Granger, another mid-first round selection who was coming into his own. Hansbrough, though, was too raw a talent and never became a starter in his four years in Indiana. He appeared in 246 games, starting only 38 and averaged just 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds. He bounced to Toronto after Indiana didn’t tender him after his rookie contract expired. He is now a free agent.
18. Los Angeles Clippers – Michael Olowokandi
From the time the Clippers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984, to about 2005, they were just a bad team, posting one winning season and playing in three playoff rounds. In 1998, the Clippers were coming off the third 17-win season in franchise history, securing just their second first overall pick since taking Danny Manning in 1988. They needed a game-changer up front and figured they couldn’t miss with University of the Pacific center Michael Olowokandi. The Clips couldn’t have missed worst on one of the biggest draft busts ever. The Kandi Man underwhelmed for a player so highly regarded, averaging just 9.9 points and 8.0 rebounds in five seasons while the Clippers continued to be just an also-ran. A boatload of good to great players were taken after him, including Antawn Jamison (4th Toronto), Vince Carter (5th, Golden State; traded for Jamison), Dirk Nowitzki (9th, Milwaukee) and Paul Pierce (10th, Boston).
17. Los Angeles Lakers – Javaris Crittenton
The Lakers were a great team in the first decade of the new century, winning five championships and going to two other finals between 2000 and 2010. Thus, their first round draft picks tended to be on the low end of the scale, putting no pressure on them to do their homework. In their second worst season of that decade, 2006-07, they went 42-40 and lost in the first round of the playoffs, securing the 19th pick in the 2007 draft. Available at that spot was freshman PG/SG Javaris Crittenton, considered by his coach at Georgia Tech to be a leader. His time in La-la land would be oh so short lived. After 22 uninspiring games, in which he averaged 3.3 points, Crittenton was dealt to Memphis and by 2009 he was out of the NBA. Crittenton is currently serving 23 years for manslaughter.
16. Memphis Grizzlies – Hasheem Thabeet
We find it extremely hard to believe that the Memphis Grizzlies passed up on picking James Harden in 2009, tabbing Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet at no. 2. Even worse, they could have had Tyreke Evans (4th to Sacramento), Stephen Curry (7th to Golden State), DeMar DeRozan (9th to Toronto). Thabeet, at 7’3″, was a force with the Huskies in his junior year in 2008-09, blocking shots and rebounding like a champ, leading UConn to a Final Four appearance for the first time since 2004. Unfortunately for the Grizz, Thabeet fizzled at the big league level, averaging a measly 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 113 games (13 starts) with Memphis. He played another 111 games with three other teams and has been out of the loop since 2014.
15. Miami Heat – Michael Beasley
Miami has had exactly eight top 10 picks in the 29-year history of the franchise and just one top 3, Michael Beasley. He was a freshman beast with the Kansas State during the 2007-08 season, where he was the third leading scorer in NCAA DI basketball (26.2 PPG) and led the Big 12 in rebounds with 12.4 (also the most by any Big 12 player all-time). The Heat owned the no. 2 pick in 2008 and after Chicago took Derrick Rose, the Heat were only too happy to call Beasley’s name. Beasley, however, would prove to be too immature to handle the rigors of the NBA, having many off-court issues and never really panning out as a full-fledged starter. He lasted just two seasons with the Heat before they considered him expendable in 2010, moving him to Minnesota to clear cap space in order to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
14. Milwaukee Bucks – Yi Jianlian
The Bucks must have figured they had the second coming of Yao Ming in 2007, selecting Chinese seven-footer Yi Jianlian sixth overall. He was a start with Guangdong of the CBA and had to get special dispensation to enter the NBA draft in 2007. The Chairman, as he was called in Milwaukee, never quite lived up to his lofty perch, playing just one middling season with the Bucks, scoring 8.6 points and pulling down 5.2 rebounds per game in 2007-08. Jianlian bounced from New Jersey (two seasons), Washington (one) and Dallas (one) before returning to China in 2012. A player they could have had, similarly sized, was Joakim Noah, who was picked ninth overall by Chicago.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Jonny Flynn
We could have put two T-Wolves draft picks from the ’09 event here. Minnesota had the no. 5 and no. 6 picks and nearly pulled a double-double draft gaffe. At no. 5, they took point guard Ricky Rubio, who only recently has become about two-thirds the point guard Minnesota thought he would become. Their no. 6 pick, Flynn, turned out even worse. The Niagara Falls, N.Y. native and standout at Syracuse was also a slender point guard with decent enough skills to go to the next level. He got the chance to start in 2009-10 when Rubio opted to stay in Spain, and for the most part, played well enough to keep the job, scoring 13.5 points and dishing out 4.4 rebounds per game in 81 contests. However, Flynn nosedived in 2010-11 and after 82 more games with three teams (including Minnesota), he was out of the league in 2012. The players Minnesota could have had with those back to back picks? Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan. Yikes.
12. New Orleans Pelicans – Hilton Armstrong
Nawlins picked some pretty decent players during their first few years of existence, taking J.R. Smith 18th overall in 2004 and Chris Paul fourth overall in 2005. The next year, they had the 12th selection, and needing a big man, felt they couldn’t lose with UConn senior center Hilton Armstrong. He started slowly in college, but put in the work to become a premier defender in NCAA hoops, averaging 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in his final season with the Huskies. Thus, a 12th overall selection wasn’t a stretch. Expected to be the man in the paint, Armstrong wasn’t the player he was at Connecticut, averaging 3.6 points, 0.9 blocks and 2.7 rebounds in 209 games with New Orleans, only 37 of them starts. Part of the reason he fizzled was the acquistion of Tyson Chandler, who was the starter in Armstrong’s three full seasons.
11. New York Knicks – Frederic Weis
The Knicks of the ’90s were a pretty good club, going to two finals and never missing the playoffs during a post-season streak that stretched from 1988 to 2001. Therefore, their draft picks reflected their standing, with all mid-to-late first round selections. Even still, they had some minor successes with those picks that decade, including Hubert Davis (20th overall 1992) and Charlie Ward (26th in 1994). Their 1999 pick, 15th overall, would turn out to be their biggest blunder. Inexplicably, with Ron Artest still on the board, the Knicks opted for Frenchman Frederic Weis of Limoges. He never did sign with New York, angering and alienating a whole generation of fans, who only got watch as Artest became a star after being selected 16th by Chicago.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder – Robert Swift
Maybe California teenage sensation Robert Swift should have went to USC after all. The 7’1″ phenom had committed to play with the Trojans in 2004, but was also drafted 12th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics, which he found more palatable. The carrot-topped big man would turn out to be their biggest draft bust (but pave the way for more astute drafting later, i.e. Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook in 2008). Swift played in just 16 games his first season (no starts) and averaged 0.9 points and 0.3 rebounds. After 47 games in 2005-06, when he started 20 contests and contributed 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, he missed all of 2006-07 with a knee injury. Swift would play just 34 more games he was released in 2009.
9. Orlando Magic – Fran Vazquez
Too bad the Magic didn’t consider the fact that a European — Frederic Weis — didn’t sign with the New York Knicks after being drafted in the first round in 1999. The Magic repeated that sad story by selecting Spanish PF/C Fran Vazquez 11th overall in 2005. The big Spaniard, however, chose to stay with his club team Girona, which angered Magic fans to no end, as he was expected to pair up with Dwight Howard in the front court. It angered fans because he gave no indication that he would return to Europe and was said to be pleased to join the Magic. He never did come over and still plays in the Spanish league with Tenerife. Some of the players still available when Orlando made their selection were Danny Granger (17th to Indiana) and David Lee (30th to the Knicks).
8. Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner
Evan Turner has turned into a passable bench player the last two seasons, but was it worth Philadelphia wasting a no. 2 overall selection on him in 2010? Uh, no. Turner, a 6’7″ SF/SG, was a superstar with Ohio State, winning all-American with the Buckeyes in 2010 and then foregoing his senior year to enter the NBA draft. After being taken behind no. 1 John Wall, he immediately signed a lucrative deal with the Sixers and then played in 78 games (14 starts) with Philly in 2010-11. His numbers were fairly pedestrian (7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds), but he did go out and improve on those numbers in by scoring 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 2011-12 and 13.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 2012-13. But, Philly being Philly, they didn’t want to develop him further, trading him to Indiana for Danny Granger midway through the 2013-14 season. What a colossal waste of a top-3 pick.
7. Phoenix Suns – Earl Clark
Mid-first round picks are at best, a crap shoot. In 2009, the Suns had the 14th overall pick and with a contending team fronted by Steve Nash and Grant Hill, they were looking for a young gun to provide a boost off the bench. Clark, a forward from Louisville, was just that guy. Or so they figured. The Suns gave him ample opportunity in 51 games but was only able to score 2.7 points per game, along with 1.1 rebounds. They sent him down to Iowa of the D-League and after nine games in the 2010-11 season, he was traded to Orlando. They must still be kicking themselves to this day, what with Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and DeMarre Carroll still waiting to be picked in 2009.
6. Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden
Oden was a big, big deal in his college days, in more ways than one. Later, after being selected first overall by Portland, he was a big, big bust. While much of his own misfortune could be attributed to myriad injuries, Oden wasn’t all that effective when he did play. He’s even so much as admitted he might be the biggest draft dud, ever. At 7 foot and 270 lbs. the freshman Oden was a man among boys at Ohio State and is play with the Buckeyes had scouts drooling. He decided to enter the draft after the 2006-07 season and the Portland Trail Blazers did the expected and called his name out first. He promptly missed his first season after surgery on his right knee and in all he would play just 105 games (82 with Portland) between 2008-09 and 2013-14 (he missed three more complete seasons between 2010-11 and 2012-13).
5. Sacramento Kings – Jimmer Fredette
Jimmer Fredette is a superstar in China for the Shanghai Sharks. We’re quite sure, though, that Kings fans would have liked him to be a star for their team in the NBA. Fredette, a PG/SG, was a superstar at Brigham Young University, leading the Cougars to the Sweet 16 at the 2011 NCAA DI tournament. He averaged 28.9 points per game for BYU that year and was named collegiate player of the year. “Jimmermania” was so intense that Sacramento agreed to be part of a three-team trade at the 2011 draft to get him after he was picked 10th overall by Milwaukee. Everyone expected Fredette to at least put up double digit scoring figures in the NBA, however, he never did that once in parts of five seasons with Sacramento, then Chicago, New Orleans, and the Knicks. He headed over to China midway through the 2015-16 campaign and finished his 235-game NBA career with 6.0 PPG.
4. San Antonio Spurs – Livio Jean-Charles
Trying to actually find a true draft bust in San Antonio Spurs history is a bit of a daunting task. So we settled on 2013 draft pick and French Guyana native Livio Jean-Charles, who has yet to play a regular season game with the Spurs. It’s been 20 years since the Spurs had a top-3 pick, when they used the no. 1 selection in 1997 to take superstar Tim Duncan. They found some good players in the late first round (where they have been at every draft since 1997), including Manu Ginobli (55th in 1999), Tony Parker (28th, 2001) and George Hill (26th in 2008). So, in 2013, they figured Jean-Charles was a good fit at no. 28. As of this season, his rights are still owned by the Spurs, who cut him in the 2016 pre-season and are still waiting for him to mature while he plays in Europe.
3. Toronto Raptors – Rafael Araujo
Some pundits have said that Toronto’s only no. 1 overall draft pick, Andrea Bargnani, is the Raptors’ worst ever. We have to disagree, given the fact they drafted Brazilian Rafael Araujo eighth in 2004 and got all of 111 games out of him. Araujo, who was censured for dirty play while with BYU, caught the eye of Raptors management and was taken one pick ahead of Andre Iguodala, among other players such as Al Jefferson, J.R. Smith and Jameer Nelson. Araujo would start 41 of 59 games his rookie season, but didn’t get near enough minutes and put up disappointing numbers (3.3 points, 3.1 rebounds). That would be a recurring theme in 2005-06 and in June 2006 he was traded to Utah, where he would last just 28 games the following season before heading to Europe.
2. Utah Jazz – Dante Exum
High schoolers drafted out of foreign countries are as rare as a three-dollar bill. But, that is exactly what happened in 2014 when the Utah Jazz picked Australian teenaged point guard Dante Exum, who hailed from Melbourne and played for Lake Ginninderra High School in Canberra. The Jazz selected him fifth overall that year and it was expected that he was going to light it up. The team gave him plenty of minutes in 82 games during his rookie season (41 starts) to prove himself, but ultimately he disappointed. Exum averaged just 4.8 points and 2.4 assists, while averaging 22.2 minutes per game. He sustained a tear of the ACL in his left knee while on tour with the Australian national team in 2015 and missed the 2015-16 NBA season. He was back this season, getting into 66 games, but still has yet to fulfill the promise of being a fifth overall pick. Utah must be wondering what Boston’s sixth pick that year, Marcus Smart, could have done for them.
1. Washington Wizards – Kwame Brown
Greg Oden might like to think he’s the biggest first overall bust in NBA history, but Kwame Brown runs a close second. The Washington Wizards have had just two first overall selections in Wizards/Bullets history, the other being the superb John Wall. In 2001, though, the Wiz and GM Michael Jordan struck out big time on star high schooler Brown when they were gifted with the no. 1 pick. Brown would be the first ever no. 1 to be taken straight out of high school. The transition to big league hoops, however, did not go at all smoothly. He averaged double digits in scoring just once in four seasons with Washington (10.9 in 2003-04) while being given ample playing time (22.7 minutes average in 253 games). All the pressure cracked him and after feuding with coach Eddie Jordan and fellow player Gilbert Arenas, he was dealt to Los Angeles for virtually nothing (Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins). Maybe he can make a name for himself in the new 3-on-3 BIG3 loop.