Due to the tremendous success of Die Hard (1988), Bruce Willis was given an opportunity to star in a movie based on a character he helped create while still a struggling actor in his twenties. That character was the inspiration behind the action adventure spoof Hudson Hawk (1991). Given the film’s budget of $70 million, fans expected a traditional Bruce Willis action adventure movie, but were forced to sit through a poorly written (and acted) spoof. With only $17 million in gross ticket sales, the movie ended up losing over $60 million for the studio. In addition to suffering financially, the movie suffered critically and won three Razzies for Worst Picture, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. Given its failure despite the resources dedicated to it, the movie has earned the #9 spot as a Top 10 Box Office Bust.
With the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Croatian phenom Dragan Bender. Unlike the first three picks, Bender played exclusively overseas. As such, most of us have no basis to compare him with the other top prospects. Regardless, the “experts” believe he has the talent to become a star. In contrast, I believe he’s more likely to become a bust. I’ll admit that I undervalued 2015 #4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis. However, I’ll double down and bet that Bender is not another “unicorn.”
To be fair, the following post is geared towards “quant jocks” (ok, nerds) who have a reasonable knowledge of statistical distributions. In particular, I have used Weibull distributions to model different subsets of 1st round picks from over 40 NBA drafts. With different shape and scale parameters for each subset, the expected value of a draft pick can be estimated with statistical probability. Based on my analysis, I developed a methodology to define a bust objectively in order to overcome the bias which seems to be apparent in existing lists of all-time busts. If you work for an NBA team and came across this site, you should read this post.