As a 19-year old from Georgia (the former Soviet Republic, not the state), Nikoloz Tskitishvili was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 5th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. With six foreign players taken in the first round that year, the NBA’s evolution into an international league had hit another gear. Relative to draft position, that group included three very productive players (Yao Ming at #1, Nene Hilario at #7, and Nenad Krstic at #24), two underproductive players (Bostjan Nachbar at #15 and Jiri Welsch at #16), and one unproductive player (Nikoloz Tskitishvili). Based on a combination of horrendous shooting and abysmal production, Tskitishvili earned the title of #8 NBA Draft Bust.
After decorated college basketball careers at Purdue in the early 1980s, both Keith Edmonson and Russell Cross were taken with top 10 overall picks in the NBA Draft. Specifically, Edmonson was the 10th pick in 1982 after earning All-American honors while Cross was the 6th pick in 1983 after being named First-Team All-Big Ten. Despite their pedigrees, the former Boilermakers had difficulty transitioning to the NBA. Of note, Edmonson scored 522 points in 87 career games while Cross scored 166 points in 45 career games. Given their lack of production as early first round picks, both are recognized as all-time busts. On the margin, Cross was worse because he was drafted before the most productive players from the 1983 Draft (i.e., Clyde Drexler, Derek Harper, and Dale Ellis) whereas Edmonson was drafted after the most productive players from the 1982 Draft (i.e. Dominique Wilkins, Terry Cummings, and James Worthy). As such, Edmonson received an Honorable Mention as a Top 10 Bust while Cross earned the #9 spot.
Life couldn’t have been easy for James Earl Ray (the basketball player) growing up with that name in the South in the 1960s. After all, that name is associated most often with the assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr. While I won’t exploit that coincidence, I won’t ignore it either. After being named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Ray was taken by the Denver Nuggets with the 5th overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to expectations and tallied only 334 points and 228 rebounds in 103 career games (i.e. 3.2 ppg and 2.2 rpg). As an underperforming high draft pick, James Ray begins the countdown of Top 10 NBA Draft Busts at #10 on the list.