Top 10 NBA Draft Busts Top 10 Selections

Bo Kimble: #6 NBA Draft Bust

NO SHINING MOMENTS

Synopsis: While playing for Loyola Marymount during the 1989-90 season, Bo Kimble led the NCAA by averaging of over 35 points per game. For as incredible as that stat was, we remember him more for his free-throws. In particular, who can forget Kimble shooting with his off-hand as a tribute to former teammate Hank Gathers? If you like heart-warming stories, you should read my previous post. Of note, I highlighted Kimble’s college achievements as well as LMU’s magical run to the 1990 Elite Eight. If you think fairy tales are overrated, keep reading because he proved to be an overrated college basketball player with a disappointing NBA career. With such a significant discrepancy, Kimble earned his spot as the #6 NBA Draft Bust.


#6 NBA DRAFT BUST: BO KIMBLE

Before researching potential Top 10 Busts candidates, I knew Bo Kimble had a disappointing NBA career. However, I didn’t realize how bad he really was as a professional. Perhaps, I was too caught up remembering him for that “One Shining Moment” from the 1990 NCAA Tournament.

Bo Kimble – One Shining Moment
Bo KIMBLE left-handed free throw at LMU
Remember this? I still get chills watching it.

After doing my analysis, I planned to include that moment as a backdrop for Kimble’s failure in the NBA. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition detracted from the narrative. As a result, I have split Kimble’s story into two posts such that the heart-warming ending to his successful college career can stand on its own instead of being lost as a setup to his disappointing professional career. Click here for the uplifting half of the story.

The contrasts in Kimble’s career reminds me of Stanley Kuprick’s Full Metal Jacket. Of note, the movie provides a good reference to describe a bust in simplistic terms. For me, the story starts out strong with tremendous promise while it takes place at bootcamp. However, it ends with disappointment and unfulfilled expectations when the story moves to Vietnam. Similarly, a bust is a person whose career can be divided into two halves. One is full of success and tremendous promise. The other is full of disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. Based on that description, Kimble certainly was a bust.

As a quick reminder from my previous post, the following table summarizes certain statistics from Kimble’s college career.

BO KIMBLE – COLLEGE STATS (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / LOYOLA MARYMOUNT)
Shooting % Per Game Averages
Season Team Games FG FT Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks

Points

1985-86

USC 28 46.5% 77.1% 3.6 2.1 0.6 0.4

12.1

1987-88

LMU 26 43.9% 78.6% 3.1 1.0 1.9 0.2 22.2
1988-89 LMU 18 45.9% 75.6% 4.2 1.4 1.9 0.2

16.8

1989-90*

LMU 32 52.9% 86.2% 7.7 1.9 2.9 0.7 35.3
Career 104 48.4% 82.2% 4.9 1.7 1.8 0.4

22.6

* Named 2nd team All-American and West Coast Conference Player of the Year. Also led all Division I players with a 35.3 scoring average for 1989-90 season.

Kimble was an accomplished college basketball player who had tangible skills (e.g. an ability to score) and intangible qualities (e.g. the ability to lead). As such, the Los Angeles Clippers understandably took him 8th overall in the 1990 NBA Draft. Like many high draft picks, Kimble started strong before deteriorating. What was unusual about him, however, was the speed with with his career turned south.

Of note, a typical 6th-10th overall pick contributes as a productive starter for 4-5 years before staring his decline. Even with diminished skills, that player can contribute enough as a role player to last another 5-6 years. In Kimble’s case, he went from being a productive starter to an unproductive starter to a marginally productive role player to an unproductive role player all within his rookie season.

 BO KIMBLE – NBA CAREER IN FOUR STAGES
I. Production Starter (Nov. 2 – Dec. 2, 1990)

Due to an injury to Ron Harper, Kimble began the season as the Clippers’ starting shooting guard. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, Kimble scored 22 points on 9-15 shooting from the floor in his first game. One month into the season, he seemed to be a worthy lottery pick with averages of 15 points, four rebounds and two assists per game. In part due to Kimble’s production, the Clippers started the year with a surprisingly average 8-8 record.

II. Unproductive Starter (Dec. 5-18,  1990)

After a strong start, Kimble went into a slump and connected on fewer than 30% of his field goal attempts over the next seven games. With a scoring average of only five points per game during the two-week period, he was benched for Jeff Martin, who was the Clippers’ 2nd round pick from the 1989 Draft. The team’s 2-5 record over these seven games didn’t provide a cushion to allow Kimble to play through his shooting problems.

III. Marginally Productive Role Player (Dec. 19, 1990 – Mar. 12, 1991)

Coming off the bench over the next three months, Kimble put up decent numbers relative to his time on the court. Adjusted for playing time, his production was similar to what it had been at the beginning of the season. However, with a field goal percentage below 40%, he wasn’t shooting well enough to get off the bench. Additionally, Harper returned to the starting line-up and averaged 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. Unfortunately, Kimble couldn’t figure out how to contribute enough to deserve additional minutes.

IV. Unproductive Role Player (Mar 13-23, 1991)

Beginning in mid-March, Kimble’s shooting woes returned as he shot less than 25% from the floor during a six-game stretch. Due to the slump, he didn’t get off the bench for the Clippers’ remaining 13 games of the season.

The following chart summarizes the four stages of Kimble’s rookie year with his actual production.

BO KIMBLE – ROOKIE YEAR NBA STATS
    Per Game Averages
Stage Games Starts Min FG FGA FG% Rebounds Assists

Points

Starter – Productive

15 15 29.7 5.5 13.0 42.6% 3.6 1.9

14.9

Starter – Unproductive

7 7 22.4 2.1 7.6 28.3% 2.7 2.6 5.4
Bench – Marginally Productive 34 0 10.3 1.7 4.5 37.3% 1.2 0.8

4.4

Bench – Unproductive

6 0 8.7 0.7 2.8 23.5% 0.8 0.7 2.7
Season 62 22 16.2 2.6 6.7 38.0% 1.9 1.2

6.9

 

Was Kimble a productive player going through a temporary slump or an unproductive player with an unsustainable start? Well, he started all 22 games to begin his NBA career but never started again. In case that statement doesn’t tell you the answer, the following table will.

 BO KIMBLE – CAREER NBA STATS
Shooting % Per Game Averages
Season Team Games FG FT Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks

Points

1990-91

LAC 62 38.0% 77.3% 1.9 1.2 0.5 0.1 6.9
1991-92 LAC 34 39.6% 64.5% 0.9 0.5 0.3 0.2

3.3

1992-93

NYK 9 42.4% 37.5% 1.2 0.6 0.1 0.0 3.7
Career 105 38.6% 72.8% 1.5 0.9 0.4 0.1

5.5

While it’s fair to argue that Kimble was an unproductive role player for the remainder of his NBA career, I would classify him as a marginal role player instead. In particular, his adjusted scoring per 36 minutes of playing time actually wasn’t too bad (i.e. 15 ppg with the Clippers and 22 ppg with the Knicks). Regardless, his overall production wasn’t worthy of an 8th overall pick.

Prior to the 1992-93 season, Tom Friend of the New York Times wrote an article about Kimble and the trade that resulted in him going to the Knicks. In a proposed three-team deal, the Clippers wanted to trade:

  1. Doc Rivers and Charles Smith to the Knicks for Mark Jackson; and
  2. A 1st round pick to the Magic for Stanley Roberts.

However, the trade would have put the Clippers over the salary cap. As such, Kimble (along with his remaining 3 yr / $3.5 million contract) had to go. In the article, Kimble was quoted as saying:

Right now, I probably am a throw-in, a disappointment or a lottery bust. But only because of circumstances uncontrollable by me.”

Well, at least he was half right.

In his own mind, Kimble was handicapped by his fame and by a coach who didn’t appreciate his talent. Specifically, he told Friend,

“The guys didn’t accept me. I was really popular in L.A., and halfway through the season a lot of guys were against me. When I was open, I wouldn’t get the ball, and that affects you. They weren’t looking for me, or you’d get the ball passed at your knees.”

Bo Kimble – Rookie Card
Bo Kimble rookie card
Greg Kimble? Oh, so that’s Bo’s real name. Also, notice that Kimble had a “featured role” in a movie. Could that have affected team chemistry? Nah.

At first, I seriously doubted Kimble’s claim. Then again, anything could have happened with the Clippers so I reserved judgment. When describing another “uncontrollable circumstance,” Kimble added,

“I shot amazing in practice, but he [Clippers Coach Mike Shuler] still wouldn’t play me.”

In response, Schuler said,

“Bo did make every shot in practice. Why didn’t I play him? He didn’t make shots in the game.”

mic drop

As a marginal bench player, Kimble might have been able to survive with the perennially bad Clippers. However, the Knicks were a title contender so he didn’t last long in New York. In fact, he only played in nine games with the team during the 1993-94 season before agreeing to a buy-out for the remaining two years of his contract. Unwilling to give up the dream, Kimble first went to play in France before getting cut and returning to play in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA).

BO KIMBLE – CBA BUST AS WELL?

Back then, the CBA was the NBA’s development league so it had a lot of former players trying to get back to “The Show.” In his time with the Rapid City (South Dakota) Thrillers, Kimble put up over 10 points and three rebounds per game. At the same time, he shot almost 50% from the floor, including over 45% from behind the arc. However, his coach still sent him packing because of his attitude and lack of respect for the league.

According to SI’s Gerry Callahan, Rapid City Coach/GM Eric Musselman (Bill’s son) didn’t appreciate Kimble or fellow top 10 pick Rumeal Robinson. As reported by Callahan, Musselman repeated a story about a meeting after a blowout loss to the Yakima Sun Kings. In particular, the coach asked his “star” players if they could name at least one other team in Rapid City’s division. In essence, the coach wanted to get a sense if they were present or stuck in a fantasy. When they failed the test (mind you, the team they had just played was the division leader), Musselman went to the owner to trade them. With the most revealing quote in the article, Musselman stated,

“‘I liked Bo and Rumeal; they were nice guys, but I’ve never traded two guys who were less valuable.”

Ouch!

Ultimately, Musselman traded Kimble to the Hartford Hellcats for a 5th and 6th round pick in the 1995 CBA Draft. Within one month, Hartford folded so Kimble ended up with the Pittsburgh Piranhas after a dispersal draft. Shortly thereafter, Pittsburgh waived him as he recovered from an injury. One year earlier, the New York Knicks paid up to $60,000 per week to buy out his contract. Now, Pittsburgh wouldn’t pay him $1,500 per week to keep him. Kimble lasted another two uneventful years in the CBA before finally deciding to call it quits.

As shown by the following table, the 1990 Draft had a lot of quality players but only one superstar (Gary Payton) and one star (Derrick Coleman). On the opposite extreme, there were two busts. The busts should be evident because of their underwhelming production. Not to mention, they’re bolded.

BO KIMBLE AND OTHER NOTABLE PLAYERS – 1990 NBA DRAFT 
Draft Pick Team Player Position Games Points Rebounds Assists PPG RPG APG Win Shares
#1 NJN Derrick Coleman PF/C 781 12,884 7,232 1,985 16.5 9.3 2.5 64.3
#2 SEA Gary Payton PG 1,335 21,813 5,269 8,966 16.3 3.9 6.7 145.5
#3 DEN Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf PG 586 8,553 1,087 2,079 14.6 1.9 3.5 25.2
#4 ORL Dennis Scott SG/SF 629 8,094 1,774 1,296 12.9 2.8 2.1 33.4
#5 CHH Kendall Gill SG 966 12,914 4,002 2,945 13.4 4.1 3.0 47.8
#6 MIN Felton Spencer C 640 3,354 3,436 213 5.2 5.4 0.3 20.9
#7 SAC Lionel Simmons SF 454 5,833 2,833 1,498 12.8 6.2 3.3 16.9
#8 LAC Bo Kimble SG 105 574 162 98 5.5 1.5 0.9 0.1
#9 MIA Willie Burton SF 316 3,243 932 393 10.3 2.9 1.2 9.1
#10 ATL Rumeal Robinson PG 336 2,546 606 1,179 7.6 1.8 3.5 5.2
#11 GSW Tyrone Hill PF 801 7,532 6,854 647 9.4 8.6 0.8 56.2
#27 LAL Elden Campbell C 1,044 10,805 6,116 1,199 10.3 5.9 1.1 62.8
#29 CHI Toni Kukoc SF 846 9,810 3,555 3,119 11.6 4.2 3.7 59.6
#45 IND Antonio Davis PF 903 9,041 6,755 1,017 10.0 7.5 1.1 59.6
#48 PHO Cedric Ceballos PF 609 8,693 3,258 723 14.3 5.3 1.2 40.4

With respect to Bo Kimble and Rumeal Robinson, the similarities between these two players are quite remarkable. In particular, they:

  • peaked in college. Specifically, the highlight of their careers involved hitting free throws in the NCAA Tournament. Kimble shot a left-handed free throw in honor of his fallen teammate. Robinson hit two game-winning free throws in the 1989 Championship Game.
  • were separated by one player as top 10 overall picks in the same draft.
  • ended up on the same CBA team. Their coach considered them the least valuable players he ever traded.
  • were NBA busts.

Overall, a comparison of their NBA stats should help clarify the difference between a bust and a Top 10 Bust. A #10 overall pick with approximately 2,500 career points is a bust. A #8 overall pick with fewer than 600 points is a Top 10 Bust.

#6 NBA DRAFT BUST: BO KIMBLEw
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