Anthony Bennett had a rough rookie season after being selected No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers.June 19 is the 30-year anniversary of the Portland Trail Blazers drafting Sam Bowie with the No. 2 pick instead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft, a decision that has haunted the Trail Blazers franchise since then.
Jordan went on to win six NBA titles with the Bulls, as well as 10 scoring titles and five MVP awards. Bowie, meanwhile, went on to have a rather lackluster NBA career.
In honor of Bowie being picked before Jordan 30 years ago, let’s take a look at the worst NBA Draft lottery picks in the lottery era (since 1985) among players that played at least three NBA seasons.
In order to objectively evaluate the biggest busts, we use a statistic called win shares and compare the average win shares per season for each player to the expected average win shares per season based on the average for that draft pick position. Win shares are an estimate of the number of wins a player contributes to his team due to his offense and defense.
No. 10 – Marcus Fizer (2000 No. 4 pick): 2.7 win shares in 6 seasons
Marcus Fizer was the No. 4 pick in the 2000 draft by the Chicago Bulls. In six seasons, Fizer averaged less than 10 points and five rebounds per game. He started just 35 games in his career and never played on a playoff team or a winning team.
No. 9 – Andrea Bargnani (2006 No. 1 pick): 17.8 win shares in 8 seasons
Andrea Bargnani was the No. 1 pick by the Toronto Raptors in 2006 out of Italy. He was the last international player drafted first overall. In eight NBA seasons, the 7-footer has shot below 50 percent from the field in each season and has never averaged seven rebounds per game. He has been on a winning team just once in those eight seasons.
No. 8 – Darko Milicic (2003 No. 2 pick): 7.1 win shares in 10 seasons
Much like how Bowie was drafted between Hakeem Olajuwon and Jordan, Darko Milicic will forever be known for being drafted between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. The No. 2 pick in 2003 by the Detroit Pistons, Milicic averaged less than nine points per game in each of his 10 seasons. He was waived by the Boston Celtics one game into the 2012-13 season and hasn’t played in the NBA since.
No. 7 – Patrick O’Bryant (2006 No. 9 pick): 0.5 win shares in 4 seasons
The Golden State Warriors drafted 7-footer Patrick O’Bryant from Bradley with the ninth pick in the 2006 draft. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds per game in his four-season NBA career while making a grand total of three starts. He never grabbed more than seven rebounds in a single game.
No. 6 – Jonathan Bender (1999 No. 5 pick): 3.8 win shares in 8 seasons
After winning MVP of the 1999 McDonald’s All American game, Jonathan Bender entered the NBA Draft and was picked fifth by the Raptors, then was traded to the Indiana Pacers for Antonio Davis. Bender’s best season was his third season, when he averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. He was waived by the Pacers following the 2005-06 season and came back in 2009 for a brief stint with the New York Knicks.
No. 5 – Pervis Ellison (1989 No. 1 pick): 21.8 win shares in 11 seasons
The top pick in the 1989 draft, Pervis Ellison’s career seemed to be promising when he averaged 20 points and 11.2 rebounds per game for the Washington Bullets in his third season, but a series of injuries plagued his career. After his fourth season, Ellison averaged just 5.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for the rest of his career.
No. 4 – Kwame Brown (2001 No. 1 pick): 20.8 win shares in 12 seasons
Kwame Brown became the first player ever to come straight out of high school and get picked first overall in the NBA Draft when the Washington Wizards picked him in 2001. Brown played 12 seasons before being waived by the Philadelphia 76ers prior to playing any games this season. The big man has averaged 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for his career.
No. 3 – Adam Morrison (2006 No. 3 pick): -1.4 win shares in 3 seasons
Adam Morrison was the third pick in the 2006 draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. He had a decent rookie season, averaging 11.8 points per game. But he missed the entire next season with a torn ACL in his left knee. He played two more seasons with the Bobcats and Los Angeles Lakers but didn’t get much playing time. However, he did win two championships with the Lakers.
No. 2 - Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2002 No. 5 pick): -1.6 win shares in 4 seasons
Georgian 7-footer Nikoloz Tskitishvili was the fifth pick in 2002 by the Denver Nuggets. He started just 16 games in his four-year career, averaging less than three points and two rebounds per game. He shot just 30 percent from the field and played for four different teams in his short career.
Fewest Win Shares in Rookie Season
No. 1 Picks in Lottery Era (Since 1985)
No. 1 - Michael Olowokandi (1998 No. 1 pick): 2.5 win shares in 9 seasons
The Clippers used the No. 1 pick in 1998 on Michael Olowokandi, a 7-footer from Pacific. He lasted nine seasons in the NBA, averaging double-digit points just twice and never averaging double-digit rebounds. He finished his career averaging 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. His last season was 2006-07, when he played 24 games for the Celtics.
Future addition to this list?
Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 pick and he produced the fewest win shares by a top pick in their rookie season in the lottery era – even worse than the top bust on this list, Michael Olowokandi. Bennett produced -0.4 win shares, meaning it’s estimated that he actually cost the Cavaliers a fraction of a win.