Honorable Mention Top 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks

Michael Olowokandi: Honorable Mention (NBA)

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.

Honorable Mention Top 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks

Robert Traylor: Honorable Mention (NBA)

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.

Exemptions Honorable Mention

Jonathan Bender Exemption: Too Inexperienced (NBA)

Prior to the 2006 draft, the NBA and the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) agreed to modify draft requirements such that eligible players now need to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school. Since most top players currently play college basketball for only one year before declaring for the draft, the requirement has become known as The One-and-Done Rule. This post explores the impetus for the rule change based on the underachievement of certain players who were drafted directly out of high school. While it’s certainly reasonable to declare these underachievers as busts, I fault the teams for their unreasonable expectations of these unproven players. As such, I have established an exemption for players who wouldn’t have met the new eligibility requirements. As the first “None-and-Done” player to fail in the league, Jonathan Bender gets the naming rights. At the same time, #1 overall pick Kwame Brown deserves an assist because he exposed the problem as being worthy of a rule change.

Exemptions Honorable Mention Top 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks

Greg Oden Exemption: Too Injured To Play (NBA)

Over the last 40 years, the Portland Trail Blazers have used a #1 or #2 overall pick to select three different big men. Specifically, they have taken Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, and Greg Oden during that time frame. Unfortunately, each player lost significant time due to various injuries. Walton brought a title to the city so he avoided the disdain experienced by the others. Drafted ahead of Michael Jordan, Bowie predictably earned the title of #1 Worst NBA Draft Pick. At the same time, he produced enough in his NBA career to avoid being called a bust. Oden, my #10 Worst NBA Draft Pick, similarly deserves to be omitted from a countdown of all-time busts. In his honor, this post establishes the Greg Oden Exemption for players whose careers cannot be fairly judged because of injuries.

Exemptions Honorable Mention Top 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks

Jon Koncak and Joe Kleine (the Jo.K.ers)

In a prior post, Jon Koncak and Joe Kleine were identified jointly as the 4th Worst NBA Draft Pick. They earned this distinction for being selected ahead of three Hall of Famers (Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, and Joe Dumars) and four other star players (Detlef Schrempf, Charles Oakley, AC Green, and Terry Porter). Despite this honor, Koncak and Kleine are not on the short list for Top 10 Busts because they were too productive in their careers. Regardless, they provide an interesting side story to the countdown. At the same time, this post also highlights the underwhelming careers of oft-considered busts Keith Lee and Kenny Green.

Exemptions Honorable Mention Top 10 Worst NBA Draft Picks

Sam Bowie Exemption: Too Productive (NBA)

As discussed in a previous post, Sam Bowie is often highlighted as the biggest bust in NBA history simply because he was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan. While it’s clear that the Trail Blazers made a really bad decision regarding their 2nd overall pick in the 1984 Draft (especially given that Portland also passed up on Hall of Famer Charles Barkley), Bowie was not an all-time bust. In particular, he averaged approximately 11 points and eight rebounds per game during his career. On behalf of all players who achieved at least a minimum threshold of production during their careers and in honor of the most inappropriately maligned player in NBA history, I have created the Sam Bowie Exemption.

Exemptions Honorable Mention

Acie Law: Honorable Mention (NBA)

If NBA games were only five minutes long, Acie Law may have been an all-time great. Well, they’re not, so he’s not. As a senior at Texas A&M, Law was named 1st Team All-American and won the Bob Cousy Award as the best point guard in the country after averaging 18 points and five assists per game. Despite being a clutch performer in college who elevated his game at the most critical moments, Law never elevated beyond backup duties in the NBA. During his four-year NBA career, he averaged less than four points and two assists per game while playing for five different teams. As previously established, any player taken after the first ten overall picks is exempt from being declared a Top 10 Bust. But for this restriction, Law would have been a prime candidate. Instead, he earned an Honorable Mention and an eponymous exemption.