With the 5th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected point guard Kris Dunn. As a junior at Providence last year, Dunn averaged 16 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals per game. Those numbers, which were unmatched by anyone else in the NCAA, earned him 2nd Team All-American honors. Including Dunn, the Timberwolves have amassed a talented group of young players over the last three years. Specifically, they have the last two Rookies of the Year (and #1 overall picks) Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. At the same time, reigning two-time Slam Dunk Champion (and 2014 #13 overall pick) Zach LaVine has shown that he’s not a one-trick pony. It’s too early to tell how good the Timberwolves can be, but Dunn should help make them even more competitive for years to come.
Since quarterbacks are the most important players on a football field, their successes and failures get magnified. In contrast, the performances of players at other positions can get muddled more easily. As the only running back in the countdown, Lawrence Phillips’ failures were too glaring to hide. Unlike most busts who excelled in college but lacked the talent to succeed for the NFL, Phillips had the talent. Unfortunately, his downfall was based completely on an inability to stay on the field because he had severe anger issues off the field. With Ray Rice as a comparison, Phillips was a more talented runner but a much worse person. Depending on what you already know, to the extent you believe that Phillips sabotaged his football career because of some legal problems, then you probably believe that O.J. Simpson sabotaged his broadcasting career because of a disagreement with his ex-wife. In other words, Phillips was one bad dude (and not in a good way). As a talented player who failed miserably in the NFL (and in life), he has been named the #6 NFL Draft Bust.
[Note: Since I first wrote this post in October 2014, Phillips has been charged with first-degree murder for strangling his cellmate while in state prison. So much for thinking he couldn’t sink any lower.]
Oscar Robertson arguably was one of the top five or ten players in NBA history with extraordinary talent as a scorer, rebounder and passer. As an indication of his all-around ability, he is the only player to have averaged a triple double for an entire season. Less well known, but perhaps even more impressive, was his achievement of averaging double digit points, rebounds and assists over the first five years of his career. As an aside for stat junkies, he was 0.05 rebounds per game away from doing it through his first six seasons. For as incredible as Robertson’s “triple-double season” was, however, it might be overrated. To start, the infrequency of triple doubles today (on average, one occurs every 36 games) skews our perspective of it. Furthermore, the concept didn’t exist until five years after his retirement so the accomplishment was the product of retroactive data mining. If the NBA had recognized the stat in the 1960s, who knows how many triple doubles Robertson would have recorded. Then again, who knows how many other players (e.g. Wilt Chamberlain) would have had as well.