On the night of the 1998 Draft, Don Nelson pulled off one of the most lopsided trades in history. As GM of the Mavericks, Nelson traded Dallas’ 6th overall pick (Robert “Tractor” Traylor) to the Milwaukee Bucks for their 9th overall pick (Dirk Nowitzki) and 19th overall pick (Pat Garrity). In this post, I’ll evaluate the contention that Traylor should be considered an all-time bust simply because he was drafted ahead of and exchanged for a much better player (i.e. Nowitzki). For that reason alone, he was a bad draft pick (perhaps one of the worst picks), but he wasn’t unproductive enough to be called a Top 10 Bust. As an aside, Traylor died of an apparent heart attack in 2011 so I’ll be a less judgmental in this post than I have been in others.
As a redshirt junior in 1997, Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf won the Sammy Baugh Trophy as the most outstanding passer in the country. Helping his case, he led the nation in passing yards (3,968) and finished second in passing efficiency with a 158.7 rating. For as impressive as those numbers were, they seem even more impressive considering that Peyton Manning was a senior at Tennessee that year and trailed Leaf in both categories. In particular, Manning had 149 fewer yards on 67 more attempts and an efficiency rating that was 11 points lower. Returning the favor, Manning had more touchdowns (36 vs. 34) and won the Davey O’Brien Award as the most outstanding quarterback in the country. Given their success, it was no surprise when they went 1-2 in the 1998 draft. From that moment on, however, their paths diverged to the point of Manning becoming an all-time great and Leaf becoming an all-time bust. Of note, Leaf’s career totals of 3,700 yards with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions were horrendous. In addition, he had a 4-17 record as a starter. As if things couldn’t get worse, Leaf has been imprisoned for almost two years because of a drug-related crime. While certain players like JaMarcus Russell, Charles Rogers and Lawrence Phillips are all-time busts, Leaf tops them all as the worst of the worst.
On February 26, 1978, the Portland Trail Blazers escaped Chicago Stadium with a 100-99 win. Making the game even more exciting, Portland guard Lionel Hollins banked a 30-footer at the buzzer for the victory. Led by MVP-candidate Bill Walton, the “Blazers” were the prohibitive favorites to repeat as NBA Champions. However, the team’s fortunes changed that night due to a series of fateful events after the game. The story may sound far-fetched, but it really happened. At least, I heard it did.