Seven No. 1 draft picks who rebounded after being deemed expendable

Anthony Bennett is being kicked to the curb by the NBA's worst team.

A mere two years removed from being selected No. 1 overall in the draft, Bennett is having his contract bought out by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bennett earned only three starts in 57 games last season, even though the Wolves compiled the NBA's worst record at 15-67.

This comes just one year after the team that drafted Bennett, the Cleveland Cavaliers, jettisoned him as part of the Kevin Love trade.

Bennett, a classic tweener at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, has averaged 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a pro. At this point, he makes Michael Olowokandi, another former No. 1 overall underachiever, look like Tim Duncan. Still, Bennett is only 22 years old, and it would be unfair to write him off completely. Some team almost certainly will take a flier on him for a league-minimum salary.

With that in mind, ESPN.com looks for precedence among No. 1 overall picks in major sports who bounced back after being left for dead early in their careers. Whether Bennett can join this small club remains to be seen.


Pervis Ellison: After injuries limited the former Louisville star to 34 games as a rookie in 1989-90, the Sacramento Kings cut bait and shipped him to the Washington Bullets in a three-team deal that netted journeymen Eric Leckner and Bob Hansen and a bevy of draft picks that would essentially be wasted in subsequent years. Ellison battled injuries for much of his career, but he did remain a serviceable big man for 10 more seasons. He averaged 20 points per game and was named the NBA's Most Improved Player in 1991-92, but he started more than 50 games in a season only once.

Joe Smith: The Golden State Warriors drafted the former Maryland star No. 1 overall in 1995 but shipped him to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through his third pro season. To say the Warriors underestimated Smith's shelf life would be an understatement, as he went on to play another 13 NBA seasons. Smith played only 30 games for the 76ers, but the Timberwolves thought highly enough of him in 1999 to arrange an under-the-table deal that later cost the team four first-round draft picks for circumventing the salary cap. Over the course of his career, he averaged 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds and played for 12 teams.


Phil Nevin: When Houston drafted the Cal State Fullerton slugger first overall in 1992, Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser famously quit his job as an Astros scout because the team ignored his advice to take Derek Jeter. Nevin would appear in only 18 games for the Astros before being sent to the Detroit Tigers in 1995 as the player to be named later in the deal that brought reliever Mike Henneman to Houston. Nevin, a corner infielder and outfielder, didn't hit his stride until 1999, when he was with the Padres and belted 24 home runs. He continued to put up solid power numbers when he was healthy and was an All-Star in 2001, when hit .306 with 31 homers and 126 RBIs. He finished his 12-season career with 208 home runs.

Josh Hamilton: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays used the first overall pick in 1999 on the North Carolina high schooler, but he never played for them. A battle with drug addiction derailed Hamilton's career, and he had been out of baseball since 2002 when the Chicago Cubs selected him in the 2006 Rule 5 draft and then sent him to the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000. In 2007, Hamilton hit .292 with 19 home runs for the Reds in 90 games. Cincinnati then traded him to the Texas Rangers, with whom Hamilton became one of baseball's most dominant players. He was a five-time All-Star for the Rangers and won the AL MVP and batting title in 2010. He signed a five-year, $125 million free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. Poor performance, substance abuse problems and injuries plagued him with the Angels, who traded him back to Texas, eating most of his remaining salary, early this season.

Adrian Gonzalez: Two teams traded away Gonzalez before the first baseman became a perennial All-Star, Gold Glover and MVP candidate. The Florida Marlins drafted the California high schooler first overall in 2000 but were willing to include him in a 2003 deal with the Rangers that netted closer Ugueth Urbina. (Urbina pitched only half a season for the Marlins, but he did help them win a championship.) Gonzalez appeared in 59 games for Texas in 2004 and '05 but hit only .229 with seven home runs, and the Rangers sent him to San Diego, his hometown, as part of a five-player deal. He became an everyday player 2006 and blossomed into a dangerous hitter, with five All-Star selections, four Gold Gloves and seven top-20 finishes in MVP voting for the Padres, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.


John Matuszak: Before he played Sloth in "The Goonies," the University of Tampa defensive lineman was the Houston Oilers' No. 1 overall pick in 1973. After his rookie year with the Oilers, Matuszak signed with the Houston Texans of the short-lived World Football League, which debuted in July 1974. He was still under contract with the Oilers, who got a court order to prevent him from playing in the WFL, but the incident compelled the team to trade him to the Kansas City Chiefs. He was dealt again two years later, to the Washington Redskins, but they cut him before the season started. The Oakland Raiders scooped him up, and the hard-partying "Tooz" found a home in Oakland, where he was a key part of two Super Bowl championship teams. Matuszak retired after the 1981 season and found success as an actor. In 1989, he died of what was ruled an accidental prescription drug overdose at age 38.

Jim Plunkett: The New England Patriots gave the 1970 Heisman Trophy winner a long leash relative to the other members of this list. Plunkett compiled a 59.7 passer rating in 61 games and was granted a trade to the San Francisco 49ers after an injurious 1975 season. Two suboptimal seasons with the 49ers followed, and Plunkett contemplated retirement. The Raiders signed him in 1978, but he played sparingly for two seasons and requested a trade prior to the 1980 season. The Raiders wisely refused, and Plunkett supplanted the injured Dan Pastorini in leading Oakland to victory in Super Bowl XV. Three years later, he would guide the Los Angeles Raiders to a Super Bowl championship, cementing one of the most unlikely career revivals in sports history.