With respect to NBA Draft picks, Hasheem Thabeet is unique. In particular, he’s the only player to be named a Top 10 Bust as well as a Bottom 10 Pick. As mentioned in numerous other posts, there seems to be a disconnect between a player who should be considered a bust (i.e he underperformed on an absolute basis) and one who generally is considered a bust (i.e. he underperformed relative one or more other players). Despite being the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Thabeet was completely unproductive with career totals of 483 points, 585 rebounds and 27 assists in 224 games. Furthermore, he was taken ahead of likely Hall of Famers James Harden and Steph Curry. As a result, Thabeet selection as a bust can be supported on an absolute and a relative basis.
The two players in the featured image are Michael Olowokandi (the #1 overall draft pick in 1998) and Earl Boykins (an undrafted free agent in 1999). As a 7-footer, Olowokandi scored 4,135 points and made almost $38 million in his NBA career. Only 5’3″, Earl Boykins scored 5,791 points and made approximately $16.5 million in his NBA career. Based on these figures:
Olowokandi scored 49 points per inch of height and was paid almost $9,200 per point scored; and
Boykins scored 93 points per inch of height and was paid less than $2,900 per point scored.
Lessons learned: 1) Boykins was a better scorer inch-for-inch; 2) Boykins scored more points per dollar earned; and 3) NBA players get paid a lot of money. While this comparison might be amusing, it doesn’t form a legitimate basis to declare Olowokandi a bust. Instead, this post will evaluate Olowokandi’s career to determine whether or not such a claim is valid.
As detailed in my last post, I was intrigued by Mel Kiper’s pre-draft comment that running backs such as Todd Gurley and Mel Gordon should be avoided in the first round even though they were top prospects. In response, I reviewed previous drafts from 1977-2007 to evaluate top ten draft picks by position. In this post, I evaluate draft picks on the defensive side of the ball to determine which positions are the most worthwhile. As a quick summary:
Defensive Linemen: 5% are complete busts / 45% make at least one Pro Bowl / 20% are truly game changers;
Defensive Backs: 10% are complete busts / 60% make at least one Pro Bowl / 15% are truly game changers; and
Linebackers: 5% are complete busts / 50% make at least one Pro Bowl / 15% are truly game changers.
Based on these numbers, it appears that defensive linemen offer the best risk/return profile with the lowest percentage of busts and highest percentage of game changers. With respect to defensive backs vs. linebackers, the decision is less clear with DBs having more upside and more downside.