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.
Due to the tragic death of #2 overall pick Len Bias from a cocaine overdose, the 1986 NBA Draft always will be remembered more for what might have been versus what was. Adding to that sentiment, #3 pick Chris Washburn, #6 pick William Bedford, and #7 pick Roy Tarpley all had their NBA careers negatively affected by drugs and alcohol. Whereas Washburn and Bedford were bust-worthy because they never produced respectable numbers (e.g. fewer than five points and three rebounds per game), Tarpley averaged a double-double over his 280-game career. With production of 13 points and 10 rebounds per game, Tarpley wasn’t a traditional bust. Instead, he was a “drug bust” who failed to live up to his tremendous potential after receiving not one but two lifetime suspensions.
The most interesting debate from the first night of the 2015 NFL Draft involved the exchange between Chris Berman and Mel Kiper regarding the sensibility of taking a running back in the first round. As Berman pushed for teams to select highly rated running backs Todd Gurley and Mel Gordon, Kiper argued that teams shouldn’t waste a first round pick on either player. Specifically, the long-time NFL draft expert claimed productive running backs could be found in later rounds. In response, I researched early first round picks to determine which positions provide the most value.
Quarterbacks: 25% were complete busts / 50% became Pro Bowl players / 20% won at least one Super Bowl;
Running Backs: 20% were complete busts / 55% became Pro Bowl players / 25% are Hall-of-Fame caliber;
Receivers: 10% were complete busts / 50% became Pro Bowl players / 30% could be considered game changers; and
Offensive Linemen: 5% were complete busts / 60% became Pro Bowl players /25% made at least five Pro Bowls.
So, which position offers the best risk/return profile? You’ll just have to read on.