Projections Top 10 NBA Draft Busts

Projected 2016 NBA Draft Busts

Synopsis: Years from now, most fans will refer to the 2016 NBA Draft as “the one with Ben Simmons.” Generally speaking, we tend to remember the success or failure of the #1 overall pick. For me, however, I’ll remember the 2016 Draft because of ESPN’s entertaining telecast. My son and I already have running jokes about Jay Bilas’ infatuation with wingspans and Lisa Salters’ desire to ask cringe-worthy questions. As of now, the leading contender for future recognition as a Top 10 Bust is #4 pick Dragan Bender. Additionally, #10 pick Thon Maker seems poised to become an Honorable Mention.


During ESPN’s telecast of the 2016 NBA Draft, Jalen Rose repeated his long-held belief that the word “bust” should be eliminated. Specifically, he argues that any drafted player already has achieved a tremendous level of success. As such, the term shouldn’t apply to any draft pick regardless of how underwhelming his professional career might be. The argument does have some merit. Then again, it ignores the fact that public figures deserve public scrutiny. 

Given the incredible odds against them, all drafted NBA players have achieved the equivalent of winning the lottery. If so, a bust can be described as a lottery winner who gets his car repossessed. Furthermore, a Top 10 Bust can be described as a PowerBall winner who files bankruptcy. Would you feel sorry for such a person? Probably not. Would you object to calling such a person some variation of a bust (e.g. bonehead, idiot, fool, etc.)? Again, probably not.

In that regard, I offer my assessment of potential busts from the 2016 NBA Draft. To start, here’s a summary of the first ten picks along with their mock draft positions. As an aside, I highlighted the first five in their own posts. Click on their names for a more detailed assessment of their NBA potential.

Pick Team Player Nationality School (Yr) / Team Draft Express CBS Sports Fox Sports
#1 Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons Australia LSU (Fr.) 1 1 1
#2 Los Angeles Lakers Brandon Ingram U.S.A. Duke (Fr.) 2 2 2
#3 Boston Celtics Jaylen Brown U.S.A. California (Fr.) 8 5 3
#4 Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender Croatia Maccabi Tel Aviv – Israel 7 4 7
#5 Minnesota Timberwolves Kris Dunn U.S.A. Providence (Jr.) 3 3 6
#6 New Orleans Pelicans Buddy Hield Bahamas Oklahoma (Sr.) 5 7 8
#7 Denver Nuggets Jamal Murray Canada Kentucky (Fr.) 6 6 5
#8 Sacramento Kings Marquese Chriss U.S.A. Washington (Fr.) 4 12 4
#9 Toronto Raptors Jakob Pöeltl Austria Utah (So.) 9 8 12
#10 Milwaukee Bucks Thon Maker Australia Athlete Institute – Canada 10 33 > 30

Similar to most draft experts, the analysts at Draft Express, CBS Sports and Fox Sports accurately predicted the first two picks (i.e. Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram). From there, opinions varied with only Fox correctly predicting that Jaylen Brown would go to Boston at #3.

With respect to mock draft accuracy, CBS did best through seven picks, Fox did best through eight picks, and Draft Express did best through nine and ten picks. While Draft Express didn’t get the order correct, their analysts accurately predicted the first ten picks in the draft. While reserving judgment about whether the players deserved to be drafted with top 10 overall picks, I commend the analysts at Draft Express on their work. In fact, they deserve an A+ for their predictive abilities.

As a next step, the following table summarizes the “beauty pageant” stats for each of the top 10 picks.

Pick Player Age Height Weight Wingspan Reach Vert
#1 Ben Simmons 19 yrs 11 mos 6′ 9″ 239 lbs 7′ ¼” 9′ ½” 41 ½”
#2 Brandon Ingram 18 yrs 10 mos 6′ 8″ 196 lbs 7′ 3″ 9′ 1½” NA
#3 Jaylen Brown 19 yrs 8 mos 6′ 5½” 223 lbs 6′ 11¾” 8′ 6½” NA
#4 Dragan Bender 18 yrs 7 mos 6′ 11½” 225 lbs 7′ 2″ 9′ 3″ 27 ½”
#5 Kris Dunn 22 yrs 3 mos 6′ 3″ 205 lbs 6′ 9½” 8′ 4″ NA
#6 Buddy Hield 22 yrs 6 mos 6′ 3¾” 212 lbs 6′ 9¼” 8′ 5″ NA
#7 Jamal Murray 19 yrs 8 mos 6′ 3″ 201 lbs 6′ 6½” 8′ 1″ 39 ½”
#8 Marquese Chriss 19 yrs 6′ 8¾” 233 lbs 7′ ¼” 8′ 9″ 38 ½”
#9 Jacob Poeltl 20 yrs 8 mos 7′ 239 lbs 7′ 3″ 9′ 3½” NA
#10 Thon Maker 19 yrs 8 mos 6′ 11¾” 216 lbs 7′ 3″ 9′ 2½” 36 ½”

Based on these physical attributes, the following observations can be made.

  • Ben Simmons has serious hops with a 41.5″ vertical leap (especially for someone 6’9″).
  • Sub 200 lbs, Brandon Ingram needs to bulk up if he intends to battle in the paint.
  • At 22 years old, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield are the senior citizens of the group.
  • Dragan Bender, Jakob Poeltl, and Thon Maker are “long” as 7-footers with wingspans of 7’3″.

While the previous information helps demonstrate “god-given” talent, I prefer to judge players based on how they look on the court. In that regard, the following table shows how each player performed during his last season prior to the draft.

       2015-16 Per Game Averages  
Pick Player Pos  REB  AST  STL  BLK  T/O  PTS 2015-16 Honors / Recognition
#1 Ben Simmons PF 11.8 4.8 2.0 0.8 3.4 19.2 All-American (2nd Team)
#2 Brandon Ingram SF 6.8 2.0 1.1 1.4 2.0 17.3 ACC Freshman of the Year
#3 Jaylen Brown SF 5.4 2.0 0.8 0.6 3.1 14.6 Pac-12 1st Team
#4 Dragan Bender PF 1.2 0.4 0.2 0.5 0.4 1.5 He’s Tall?
#5 Kris Dunn PG 5.3 6.2   2.5 0.6 3.5 16.4 All-American (2nd Team)
#6 Buddy Hield SG 5.7 2.0 1.1 0.5 3.1 25.0 Naismith & Wooden Awards
#7 Jamal Murray PG/SG 5.2 2.2 1.0 0.3 2.3 20.0 All-American (3rd Team)
#8 Marquese Chriss PF 5.4 0.8 0.9 1.6 2.0 13.8 PAC-12 All-Freshman Team
#9 Jakob Poeltl PF 9.1 1.9 0.6 1.6 2.1 17.2 PAC-12 POTY
#10 Thon Maker PF NA  NA NA NA NA NA 2014 VA High School POTY

Note: POTY stands for Player of the Year

Leading up to and since the 2016 NBA Draft, I have heard numerous comments that the depth of talent this year compares unfavorably to next year. If so, I can’t wait to see how the 2017 draft class ages because the 2016 vintage looks quite good. In particular, I don’t sense any of the same weakness that existed at the top of the 2013 Draft. To help you remember, that was “the one with Anthony Bennett.”

Currently a mop-up specialist, Bennett has averaged four points and three rebounds per game during his four-year career. As such, he’s in a prime position to become a future Top 10 Bust. Fortunately for him, that draft lacked standout superstars so he’s often overlooked. Don’t worry Anthony, I won’t forget you when the time’s right.


As a preface, I based the following evaluation on comments made by ESPN’s crack staff of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jalen Rose, Michael Wilbon, Fran Fraschilla and Jay Williams. Compared to the network’s NFL draft coverage, the NBA draft coverage usually seems overly formulaic (and second rate). This year was no exception. 

With respect to U.S. players, Jay Bilas blurted out a few platitudes before highlighting each player’s wingspan. In fact, he must be a closet ornithologist given his infatuation with that singular physical attribute. At the conclusion of Bilas’ analysis, Jalen Rose helped provide context by naming a historically comparable player. In addition to mentioning key stats, Rose usually disclosed the comparable player’s career earnings.

With respect to the other players: 

  • Jay Williams offered position-specific insight for point guards.
  • Fran Fraschilla provided the analysis, as well as the obligatory comparison to Dirk Nowitzki, for international players.
  • ESPN reporter Lisa Salters asked questions that even Jim Gray would have been embarrassed to ask. For me, she provided the most entertainment (in a train wreck sort of way) throughout the entire evening.

For detailed analysis regarding the first five picks from the 2016 NBA Draft, please click on their names. With respect to picks 6-10, I have summarized my commentary in this post. 

#1 Pick: Ben Simmons – The Most Likely Superstar

2016 NBA Draft ben simmons

#2 Pick: Brandon Ingram – The Best Talent

2016 NBA Draft brandon ingram

#3 Pick: Jaylen Brown – The Earliest Surprise

2016 NBA Draft jaylen brown

#4 Pick: Dragan Bender – The Most Likely Bust

2016 NBA Draft dragan bender

#5 Pick: Kris Dunn – The Most Likable Player
2016 NBA Draft kris dunn

Since 1970, the drop-off in career performance after the top 5 overall picks has been significant. In particular, the median career win share total drops by 50% (i.e. from 46 to 23 win shares) after that cutoff. At the same time, the threshold to escape consideration as a Top 10 Bust drops by almost 70% (i.e. from 9 to 3 win shares).

#6 Pick Buddy Hield – The Most Accomplished Player

buddy hield

Buddy Hield had a magical senior season at Oklahoma last year. To start, he finished second in the NCAA with a 25 ppg scoring average and had the 6th best 3-pt shooting percentage (45.7%). Largely based on these stats, he won the Naismith and Wooden Awards. Furthermore, he won the West Regional Most Outstanding Player Award while leading the Sooners to the 2016 Final Four. 

When commenting about the pick, Jay Bilas called Hield the hardest worker in the draft. The ESPN analyst also liked the player’s quick release, shot preparation, impeccable footwork, and explosiveness. Furthermore, Jalen Rose compared Hield to Voshon Lenard, who coincidentally played high school ball with Rose. Recognized as a knock-down shooter, Lenard won the 2004 All-Star Weekend Three-point Shootout. As a mid-second round pick who averaged 12 ppg during his 11-year career, Lenard proved to be a steal. With similar numbers as a #6 overall pick, Hield would be about average. 

True to form, Lisa Salters overshadowed her colleagues during the interview portion of the program.

Salters: Well Buddy, times were tough for you and your family growing up. Just tell me what does this mean for your entire family to be drafted?

Hield: I just happy for my family. Happy where we come from. Just glad we could come this far. We couldn’t have done it without God.

Salters: Is it true that you and your five brothers and sisters all had to share, six had to share the same bed growing up?

Hield: Yeah for sure. . . .Our mom kept us strong. Shout out to my mom for keeping our family together. We couldn’t do it without her.

Apparently, Salters has watched Jerry Maguire (1996) a few too many times. In particular, she endlessly tries to recreate Roy Firestone’s moment with Rod Tidwell at the end of the movie. Lisa, just stop already. 

#7 Pick Jamal Murray – The Most Accomplished Freshman


Despite Ingram’s impressive freshman year at Duke, Jamal Murray put up even better numbers as a freshman at Kentucky for the 2015-16 season. Murray’s average of 20 ppg ranked as most ever for a freshman at Kentucky. Furthermore, his total of 113 3-pointers ranks #2 all-time for a freshman at any school. With 122 3-pointers as a freshman at Davidson, two-time reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry is the only player to have surpassed Murray’s total. The AP recognized Murray by naming him 3rd Team All-American.

Interestingly, the ESPN analysts all viewed Murray similarly. In particular, they commended him on his ability to score but thought he needs to improve on the defensive end. Additionally, they believe he compensates for a lack of speed with good lateral quickness. Jalen Rose compared him to Michael Redd, a career 20 ppg player with two seasons over 25 ppg. In turn, Jay Williams compared him to Sam Cassell, a 16-year vet who averaged 16 points and six assists per game. 

After his first four games in the league, Murray looked more like Anthony Bennett than either Redd or Cassell. In particular, Murray averaged 0.5 ppg while going 0-16 from the floor. Over his last four games, Murray has averaged 21 ppg while shooting 50% (28-56) from the field, including 57% from behind the arc (13-23). At this point, Rose may be on to something.

#8 Pick Marquese Chriss – The Most Physical Player


Relative to the other top 10 overall picks from the 2016 NBA Draft, Marquese Chriss seems to be the hardest to summarize. Of note, Jay Bilas described him as a “high risk / high reward” player. For me, that description seems like another way of saying, “Drafted too high.” 

As a positive, Chriss averaged 14 points and seven rebounds per game as a freshman at Washington. Additionally, he set a freshman record at the school with 55 blocks. As a negative, he had trouble staying on the court because he too often fouled out. His average of four fouls per game was one on the highest in the last 20 years.  

The “experts” didn’t seem to be any less confused than I. In particular, Jalen Rose compared him to Rashard Lewis while Michael Wilbon compared him to Amare Stoudemire. I don’t know about you, both those are two completely different players. 

Even before Chriss got off the stage, Andy Katz announced a trade of the player from the Kings to the Suns. Apparently, Chriss already knew based on Lisa Salters’ question. Specifically, she asked:

I was worried I was going to have to break the news to you, but you said you already knew you were being traded to the Suns. How did you find out?

Personally, I didn’t care about the answer. Instead, I was amused that Salters was worried about breaking the news. Frankly, I think she wanted to tell him so that he would give her a “bummed-out” reaction. And the media wonder why the public distrusts them so much.

#9 Pick Jakob Poeltl – The Best Export from Austria since the von Trapp Family


I wish I could claim the line about Jakob Poeltl being the best export from Austria since the von Trapp family, but all credit goes to Jay Bilas. And I thought the witty Duke grads were Cameron Crazies and not former Blue Devil players.

While other players in the 2016 Draft have more upside, Rece Davis believes Friedrich von Trapp has the highest downside. Specifically, Davis called Poeltl the least likely bust in first 5 years. As support, the ESPN draft host highlighted Poeltl’s size and averages of 17 points and nine rebounds per game as the 2015-16 Pac-12 POTY. While not necessarily disagreeing with his colleague, Jalen Rose provided a comparison of 13-year journeyman Chris Kaman. As such, Poeltl would be a median #9 overall pick. 

Despite Davis’ prediction, Poeltl became the first 2016 top 10 pick to be assigned to the D-League in late November 2016. Apparently, he has learned first-hand the downside of being an early pick for a playoff team. Who knows if Poeltl will match the career of Chris Kaman. However, as a 7-footer who can player in the post with his back to the basket (just like Kaman), Poeltl has the size and tools to survive in the league for years to come. 

#10 Pick Thon Maker – The Riskiest Pick


Even though Draft Express accurately predicted that Thon Maker would go 10th overall, both Fox and CBS had him as a 2nd round pick. Ultimately, Maker may prove worthy of the high pick. However, I don’t think the Bucks needed to take him so high. In particular, they probably could have traded down and still gotten him plus another mid-to-late 1st round pick. 

With respect to commentary, Fran Fraschilla offered a gem by saying that Maker has “traveled more than Flat Stanley and he’s almost as skinny.” I know, I chastised Lisa Salters for making a similar remark about Brandon Ingram. For me, however, there’s a big difference when someone asks the player to respond to the comment.

Not to be outdone, Salters made sure to create another awkward moment when interviewing Maker. In particular, she asked him, “You could have been in the Green Room with the other guys, but you chose to sit in the stands instead. How come? Perhaps, Maker didn’t want to have ESPN’s cameras focused on him for a couple hours in case he slipped to the 2nd round. Instead, he simply told Salters, “I wanted to be near my family. And just sit where I was comfortable.” Good for you, Thon.

But wait, there’s more. In particular, Salters followed up by asking, “You don’t have any college experience so how do you know that you’re ready for the NBA? In response, Maker said, “I think it’s basically on the team personnel how they want to use me. They can use me at a position that I need to grow first or at a position that I can help out straight away. I feel like I’m ready because I trust my game.” Again, good for you Thon.

While describing Maker as a player with a lot of upside, the ESPN analysts referenced him as a young, super athlete with quick feet and a good shot. Interestingly, Jalen Rose didn’t have a specific comparison for him. Hmm, I wonder why? Then again, Rose thought it was a good pick for Milwaukee head coach Jason Kidd because Maker fits the Bucks’ roster as a “positionless” player who can rebound and score. 

The selection of Maker reminded me of the selection of #3 NBA Bust Hasheem Thabeet. In particular, I remember questioning the 2009 #2 overall pick as an unproven player. While I believe Maker might come close to Thabeet’s bust-worthy career totals of 500 points and 600 rebounds, I have a hard time considering him worthy of a Top 10 Bust. For me, the Bucks’ stretch in making the pick makes him exempt from all-time bust status.


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