Synopsis: At this point of the countdown, there’s a toss-up between two players from the 2004 NBA Draft who equally deserve recognition as a Top 10 Bust. The contenders are Rafael Araujo and Luke Jackson.
- Rafael Araujo – a 6’11” center who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior at BYU, but only three points and three rebounds per game with two different teams during his 139-game NBA career; and
- Luke Jackson – a 2nd Team All-American in college who recorded over 1,900 points, 700 rebounds, and 400 assists at Oregon, but fewer than 260 points, 90 rebounds, and 60 assists with four different teams in the NBA.
Take either one and you won’t be wrong.
#5 NBA DRAFT BUST: RAFAEL ARAUJO OR LUKE JACKSON?
The NBA Draft Class of 2003 is considered one of the best in professional basketball history. Of note, four of the first five picks from that year’s draft already have reserved a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (LeBron James at #1, Carmelo Anthony at #3, Chris Bosh at #4, and Dwyane Wade at #5). In comparison, only one player from the Class of 2004 (i.e. Dwight Howard) is even a possible Hall of Famer. Mind you, several players from the 2004 Draft started out strong but have since disappeared or faded away.
- Going – Devin Harris (#5 overall) peaked in the 2008-09 season with an All-Star appearance while averaging 21 points and seven assists per game. Coming off the bench, he has averaged only eight points and four assists per game over the last two seasons.
- Going – While technically still in the league, Ben Gordon (#3 overall) is a shadow of the player he once was. He averaged over 18 points per game in his first five seasons in the NBA, but has averaged only six points per game in the last two.
- Gone – As the #2 pick, Emeka Okafor averaged a double/double in each of his first five seasons. He averaged 12 points and ten rebounds per game in his first nine seasons in the league, but hasn’t played since due to a career-ending neck injury.
As a point of reference, the following table highlights these players as well as others from the 2004 Draft.
Rafael Araujo / Luke Jackson and Other Notable Players from the 2004 NBA Draft
[Updated after 2015-16 Season]
|#2||CHA||Emeka Okafor||PF / C||590||7,256||5,847||512||12.3||9.9||0.9||44.3|
In addition to the players already mentioned, other productive draft picks from 2004 included All Stars Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala, as well as All-NBA selection Al Jefferson. After 11 [now 12] years in the NBA, they all have peaked so they’re unlikely to become all-time greats. On the opposite extreme, the draft included three completely unproductive lottery picks (Rafael Araujo, Luke Jackson, and Robert Swift) who combined to total 1,057 points, 860 rebounds, and 119 assists in their careers. Whereas they amassed those totals in 11 combined seasons, Al Jefferson (who was drafted after each of them) has averaged similar numbers (1,339 points, 706 rebounds, and 126 assists) each year since becoming a starter nine years ago.
As an 18-year old high school senior in 2004, Robert Swift impressed scouts in the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Roundball Classic. With a 7-foot and 250-pound frame, Swift was praised for his attacking style on offense and toughness on defense. Back in the day of “None and Done” players, perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that he was a lottery pick. Clearly, the Seattle SuperSonics had high hopes by making him the 12th overall selection; however, they had no real basis for having lofty expectations. Without a pre-draft résumé similar to other busts, Swift doesn’t deserve consideration as a Top 10 Bust. He was drafted outside of the first ten picks so he was exempt based on my selection criteria anyway. Regardless, his lack of production in the NBA warrants an Honorable Mention.
In contrast to Swift, Rafael Araujo arguably was NBA-ready. In addition to being 6’11” and almost 300 pounds, Araujo was a 23-year old man who had played four years of college basketball and had international experience with Brazil’s national team. As shown by the following table, he had a very productive college career playing for both Arizona Western College (AWC) and Brigham Young University (BYU).
Rafael Araujo College Stats
|Shooting %||Per Game Averages|
Araujo’s numbers from Arizona Western (Junior) College don’t provide a valid comparison, but his production at BYU deserves further consideration. Based on his totals of 18 points and 10 rebounds per game for BYU in the 2003-04 season, Araujo was named Mountain West Co-Player of the Year (along with Nick Welch from Air Force) and earned Honorable Mention All-America honors from the Associated Press. Even after learning about these accolades, I was skeptical because he often played against smaller and younger players. In response, I researched specific box scores and found that he faced off against Andrew Bogut (the #1 overall pick in the 2005 Draft) three times during the 2003-04 college season. Bogut was only a 19-year old freshman, but the head-to-head match-ups still were interesting.
Rafael Araujo vs. Andrew Bogut (Head-to-Head in College)
- January 31, 2004 – In their first contest of the season, BYU lost at Utah by the score of 64-56. Bogut performed well in the game with 21 points (on 9-13 shooting), 12 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. In comparison, Araujo had a tough night from the floor with only eight points on 3-15 shooting, but contributed in other areas with nine rebounds and four steals. Verdict: Bogut by KO.
- March 1, 2004 – As the home team, BYU rebounded with a 70-57 victory. In contrast to the first game, Araujo did much better (16 points on 7-15 shooting with four rebounds), while Bogut did worse (10 points on 4-14 shooting with seven rebounds). Verdict: Araujo by unanimous decision.
- March 12, 2004 – In their final match-up of the season, Utah squeaked by BYU 54-51 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament held in Denver. Early in the game, Arajao received a technical foul for throwing an elbow at Bogut. While neither player dominated the game, both Arajao (13 points on 6-10 shooting, five rebounds and zero assists) and Bogut (nine points on 4-8 shooting, six rebounds, and five assists) played reasonably well. Verdict: A draw.
If both players had been boxing against each other, they would have finished with 1-1-1 records. However, given that Araujao was a 23-year-old senior and Bogut was a 19-year-old freshman, Araujo’s relative performance seems less impressive. In addition, Araujo’s averages dipped significantly (i.e. 12 points and 6 rebounds versus 18 points and 10 rebounds) when he faced Bogut. Presumably unfazed by those games, NBA scouts lauded Araujo for his size and aggressiveness. There were even comments in his pre-draft reports highlighting his “mean streak.”
Rafael Araujo – Hassan Chop!
As another potential red flag, Araujo tested positive for the steroid nandrolone while playing for Brazil in the 2002 World Championships. He claimed that the positive test was caused by an over-the-counter dietary supplement (because a 300-pound man needs a dietary supplement), but still received a 2-year ban from international basketball. Presumably, the NCAA tested him numerous times while he was at BYU and he passed. Interestingly, the NBA didn’t have such a ban at the time so he was free to pursue his professional career without any penalty. In case you’re unfamiliar with nandrolone, it was the steroid admittedly used by gold-medalist Marion Jones and reportedly used by Roger Clemens. I forget, what’s the connection between steroids and uncontrollable violence?
Going into the draft, Araujo was considered to be the most NBA-ready big man. Despite that assessment, he never demonstrated an ability to perform at the next level. Apparently, he just wasn’t big enough
Rafael Araujo vs. Shaq (The Shark vs. Superman)
Rafael Araujo NBA Stats
|Shooting %||Per Game Averages|
Araujo started approximately 70% of the games in which he played during his first two seasons with Toronto but still only played reserve minutes. I imagine that a big man who shoots 40% from the floor and blocks one shot every 10 games shouldn’t be on the floor for long, if at all. After his second year, Araujo was traded to Utah for Kris “Kardashian” Humphries. At the time, the trade looked like a swap of equally underperforming lottery picks but Humphries eventually developed into a double-double player for the New Jersey Nets in his 7th and 8th seasons in the league. Interestingly, those seasons occurred at the same exact time he he was involved with Kim Kardashian.
Based on his performance decline after becoming single again, Humphries probably wishes he didn’t get dumped by the amateur porn star. Then again, his Tweet after Bruce Jenner’s recent gender transformation announcement indicates something different.
In comparison to the two other busts from the Draft Class of 2004, Luke Jackson was more similar to Araujo than Swift. Just like Araujo, Jackson excelled during his four-year college career so his disappointing professional career was far more surprising (i.e. more bust-worthy) than Swift’s. The only issue is whether or not he was more bust-worthy than Araujo.
Luke Jackson Stats – University of Oregon
|Shooting %||Per Game Averages|
Throughout his career at Oregon, Jackson received incrementally more prestigious honors. To start, he was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team before being named All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention as a sophomore. He followed up those honors by being selected 1st Team All-Pac-10 as a junior and a senior. After averaging over 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game as a senior, he became a consensus 2nd Team All-American for the 2003-04 season. At the same time, he showed he was an elite shooter by hitting on 52% of his 2-point attempts, 44% of his 3-point attempts, and 86% of his free throws. With those numbers, Jackson almost joined the exclusive 50/40/90 club, whose only members in the NBA include Larry Bird (2x), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (4x), Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.
As the following table shows, Jackson’s success as a shooter in college didn’t translate to the NBA.
Luke Jackson – NBA Stats
|Shooting %||Per Game Averages|
As a Cavalier for his first two seasons in the league, Jackson had a hard time getting on the court for three primary reasons: 1) LeBron James; 2) poor shooting; and 3) injuries. Drafted one year after LeBron, Jackson was seen as someone who could come off the bench and fill in at small forward behind the future all-time great. Unfortunately, LeBron averaged almost 42 1/2 minutes per game in both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons so there wasn’t much time for a backup, much less a poor shooting one.
In college, Jackson was quick enough to drive by opposing players,
but he had a much harder time facing faster and taller players in the NBA.
Against tougher competition, Jackson’s 2-pt field goal percentage dropped from 52% in his last year at Oregon to 29% in his first year in Cleveland. Already hindered by poor shooting, he was plagued with injuries during his time with the Cavs. Thirty games into his rookie season, Jackson was diagnosed with two herniated discs and needed back surgery. In an interview with clevelandcavaliers.com after the season, Jackson commented, “The surgery was something I had to get done. I wanted to fix my back before it became a bigger problem.” He added, “It feels really good to be pain-free and healthy again.” In five summer league games, Jackson averaged 11 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game so he seemed to have recovered.
After showing that he was healthy again, Jackson began the ’05-’06 season as a key reserve for the Cavs. Playing an average of 12 minutes in 10 of the first 11 games, he failed to take advantage of the opportunity and scored only 26 points (2.6 ppg) on 8-29 shooting (an abysmal 28%). From that point on, he was relegated primarily to mop-up duty in blow-out victories or losses. As an exception, Jackson scored 11 points on 4-5 shooting (3-3 from behind the 3-point arc) in 16 minutes during a 99-98 loss against the Lakers in LA. Rewarded for his strong performance, he came off the bench for 19 minutes in the next game against Phoenix, but regressed by going scoreless after shooting 0-7 from the floor (including 0-3 behind the arc). Perhaps needless to say, he went back to the mop after the game.
Just past the halfway point of the season, Jackson fractured his wrist in a game against the 76ers. He was able to return in time for the final game of the year, but didn’t make the playoff roster. A month later, he suffered another herniated disc (presumably unrelated to his previous back injury) and needed surgery again. Whether fed up by Jackson’s lack of production or his proneness to injuries, Cleveland traded him to Boston in the off-season.
Waived by Boston before the season even began, Jackson signed with the Idaho Stampede of the D-League. After an unproductive 10-day stint with the L.A. Clippers (three points on 1-8 shooting), he went back to the Stampede before being called up by the Toronto Raptors at the end of the season. With the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference secured, Toronto let Jackson start the final two games of the regular season. In the first game, he played 36 minutes but only scored three points on 1-6 shooting. In the second, he had the best game of his career with 30 points on 12-16 shooting, four rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes. Regardless, he only played a total of 12 minutes in the Raptors first round loss to the Nets, and was waived during the 0ff-season. Interestingly, that final game of the regular season accounted for approximately 10% of Jackson’s career points and assists.
Despite starting the ’07-’08 season in the D-League, Jackson was called up by the Miami Heat in December to play behind Ricky Davis (who once shot at his own basket in an attempt to get credit for a 10th rebound as part of a triple double) and Dorell Wright. During a four-game span from December 28, 2007 to January 4, 2008, Jackson got consistent playing time (approximately 16 minutes per game) for the first time since the beginning of his second season in Cleveland. He had 19 points on 6-16 shooting in the first two games but only 2 points on 1-13 shooting in the last two games, so he went back to the end of the bench.
Eventually, Jackson moved up a few slots and had the best three game stretch of his career in late January. In particular, he had 38 points on 12-25 shooting (8-12 behind the arc) in 78 minutes (including 34 minutes in one of his only three starts in his career). Unfortunately, the Heat traded Shaquille O’Neal for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks in early February. With Marion on the roster, Jackson went back to the League of Broken Dreams (i.e. the D-League) for the remainder of the season (click the link to find out why the slogan fits). Despite putting up decent numbers, Jackson never got another shot in the NBA.
Luke Jackson’s D-League Stats – Idaho Stampede
|Shooting %||Per Game Averages|
Interestingly, Jackson’s career D-League stats were similar to his career college stats (45% vs 46% from the floor, 84% vs. 85% from the line, 15.4 vs. 15.6 ppg, 4.8 vs. 5.9 rpg, and 4.0 vs. 3.4 apg). In addition, he was selected to the 2009 D-League All-Star game. While that recognition is intended as an honor, it doesn’t bode well for someone trying to play in the NBA because the best prospects aren’t around long enough to earn that distinction. Overall, Jackson’s success in the D-League showed that he still could shoot after recovering from his early injuries; however, just not against better defenders in the NBA.
CONCLUSION: RAFAEL ARAUJO OR LUKE JACKSON
So, who would you pick as the Top 10 Bust? As a final comparison, I reviewed pre-draft evaluations to try to determine if one player underachieved more than the other. Of note, USAToday provided the following upside and downside scenarios:
- Rafael Araujo
- Upside: Brad Miller – an undrafted player in 1999 who became a 2x All-Star and finished his career with approximately 9,700 points, 6,200 rebounds, and 2,500 assists.
- Downside: Todd Fuller – a Top 10 Bust Honorable Mention who had 835 points, 674 rebounds, and 46 assists in his career. Taken before Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, and Steve Nash as the 11th overall pick in the 1996 Draft, Fuller is this site’s #5 Worst NBA Draft Pick.
Rafael Araujo vs. Brad Miller
- Luke Jackson
- Upside: Mike Miller – the 5th overall pick from the 2000 Draft who will likely finish his career with around 11,000 points, 4,300 rebounds, and 2,600 assists. [Editor’s note: Miller played for two more seasons after I wrote this post. He retired with career totals of 10,973 points, 4,376 rebounds, and 2,666 assists. In my mind, the accuracy of the prediction deserves this update.]
- Downside: Brian Evans – the 27th overall pick from the 1996 Draft who had a 3-year NBA career with 375 points, 164 rebounds, and 77 assists
Araujo, who finished his NBA career with 389 points, 395 rebounds and 41 assists, underachieved his upside by 95% and his downside by 50%. Meanwhile, Jackson finished his career with 252 points, 89 rebounds and 58 assists, so he underachieved his upside by 98% and his downside by 30%. Well, that didn’t help.
As I wrote at the beginning of this post, there’s no wrong answer picking either (or both) players as Top 10 Busts. To help with my final decision, I developed the following criteria (note: “Edge” implies that player is favored to earn Top 10 Bust status):
- Pre-draft success: Both players received All-American recognition. However, Jackson made several 1st Teams while Araujo was “only” an Honorable Mention.
- Edge: Luke Jackson
- NBA failure – Both players performed miserably in the Association.
- Edge: Neither
- Size: At 6’11” and 300 lbs, Araujo should have been able to stumble his way to more than 2.8 points and 0.1 blocks per game.
- Edge: Rafael Araujo
- Age: As a 23-year old, Araujo had already matured so his upside wasn’t as high.
- Edge: Luke Jackson
- Other: Jackson underperformed before suffering any injuries and underperformed after recovering from them. Regardless, his career couldn’t have been helped by them.
- Edge: Rafael Araujo
- Tie Breaker: Both the Raptors and Cavaliers made big mistakes by taking Araujo and Jackson with their 8th and 10th overall picks, respectively. Given that Andre Iguodala (an All-Star and 2x All-NBA Defensive player) went between them with the 9th overall pick, Araujo wins out.
- Edge: Rafael Araujo
Winner: By the narrowest of margins, I declare Rafael Araujo the #5 NBA Draft Bust. In default, Luke Jackson receives a Most Honorable Mention instead. As a caveat, I reserve the right to change my answer if I ever update this post.
[As further support for the “winner,” Andre Iguodala was named the 2015 NBA Finals MVP two months after I wrote this post. As of June 2020, my decision has not changed.]