Butch Lee had a storied college career while a member of the Marquette Warriors (since changed to Golden Eagles) in the mid to late 1970s. He not only was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament after leading his team to the 1977 Championship, but also won the 1978 AP College Player of the Year. In the last 50 years, the only college players with the same accomplishments were Jerry Lucas, Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, David Thompson, Patrick Ewing, Christian Laettner, Shane Battier, and Anthony Davis. Unlike the other players, however, Lee had an abbreviated NBA career so his college achievements have been mostly forgotten. Whereas most entries on this site expose talented college players who are busts because they failed to succeed at the next level, this one is intended to highlight a talented college player who has been mostly forgotten because his professional career was cut short by a bum knee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of Dumb and Dumber (versus the new release of the far inferior Dumb and Dumber To), this post simplifies the previous one regarding the distribution of win shares for 1st round NBA draft picks. There still are a lot of numbers, but the takeaways should be easier to understand. Just to be sure, here they are.
1. Generally, draft order is a good predictor of future success in the NBA. As such, the higher the pick, the better the player should be to avoid being labeled a bust.
2. Starting with the 11th overall pick, the probability of being a flame-out exceeds the probability of becoming an All-Star by a margin of 2:1 (40% to 20%). For that reason, players taken outside of the first ten overall picks have been excluded as potential Top 10 Busts.
3. NBA legends are rare, but not as rare as you might think.
To be fair, the following post is geared towards “quant jocks” (ok, nerds) who have a reasonable knowledge of statistical distributions. In particular, I have used Weibull distributions to model different subsets of 1st round picks from over 40 NBA drafts. With different shape and scale parameters for each subset, the expected value of a draft pick can be estimated with statistical probability. Based on my analysis, I developed a methodology to define a bust objectively in order to overcome the bias which seems to be apparent in existing lists of all-time busts. If you work for an NBA team and came across this site, you should read this post.