Draft Picks in NBA History

With the NBA draft upon us we know there will soon be fans crowing over the fact they’ve landed player X that arrives into the league with enormous amounts of hype. Well, we’re here to deliver a dose of reality.

Here we look at the worst draft picks in NBA history and, yes, these players were all number one picks.

Number 5. Joe Smith

Rewind to 1996 and Joe Smith had just made the Rookie team of the Year after an impressive inaugural campaign for the Golden State Warriors where he hit 15.3 points per game along with an average of 8.7 rebounds.

His second year was far from atrocious too but then things began to nose dive for the former Maryland power forward.

He moved on from the Warriors in 1998 and despite spending a total of 16 years in the NBA he played for 12 different sides – some of them more than once – with an average stay of about 13 months.

Joe failed to win any form of recognition for his game – as an individual or as a team – after that debut season. His career statistics averaged at 10.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game; hardly first pick material.

Number 4. Greg Oden

When the Portland Trail Blazers took Greg Oden as the number one pick ahead of Kevin Durant in 2007 nobody batted an eyelid. The duo was by far the biggest talents in the draft and Oden had everything to be a successful pick. Time hasn’t been so kind when you look at the comparisons though.

Durant, who joined the Seattle SuperSonics as the number two pick, has gone on to win a host of individual honours – including the MVP award – alongside two NBA Championships whilst Oden suffered injury after injury; the first came before he’d even made his debut for Portland and kept him out all season.

In total he made just 66 starts in the NBA in a nine year stay where he appeared in just three seasons. At the time, this draft selection was fine. With hindsight though it’s definitely one of the worst draft picks in NBA history and one of the most overrated players in recent times. You can read more about overrated NBA players.

Number 3. Anthony Bennett

We’ve just covered a man who was tipped to go early in the draft and now we look at Anthony Bennett i.e. a man who wasn’t backed as top order quality. That didn’t stop the Cleveland Cavaliers taking a gamble on the UNLV product.

It was, however, a gamble that didn’t ever look like paying off. Injuries had hampered his time on the court in college with the Freshman averaging under half an hour per game as his coaches tried to manage his niggles. It meant his stats of 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game were absolutely unreal.

His talent though just never translated into solid performances at NBA level. He spent four years in the league and played for four different sides. He made a combined four starts. Yes, just four. His best performances came for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2014/15.

That season he made 57 appearances including three starts but averaged just 16 minutes action per match 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds averages were hardly going to earn rave reviews and that was as good as it got. He will always have the honour of being the first ever Canadian first round pick though.

Number 2. LaRue Martin

When the 1972 draft rolled around Martin was rightly being lauded for an impressive set of stats that had seen him write his name into the Loyola college history books. The center had racked up over 1,200 points and 1,000 rebounds in 67 games giving him an average of 18.2 points and 15.9 rebounds per game.

The Portland Trail Blazers (yep – them again) thought they’d landed a star. He turned out to be a disaster.

Martin’s best points haul in the NBA was a season average of 7.0. Even that was substantially above his career average of 5.3. His rebounds were worse at just 4.3 per game.

His pro career last just four years. To rub salt into LaRue’s wounds, the Trail Blazers won the Championship the year after his retirement. We’ve not even mentioned the fact that players like Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo were in the same draft pool.

Number 1. Gene Melchiorre

Topping our list of the worst number one draft picks in NBA history is Gene Melchiorre from way back in 1951. He had been the star player for the Bradley Braves prior to the draft. His passing and point scoring ability convinced the Baltimore Bullets to use their first round pick on him. Everything was fine.

Shortly after the draft though, the point guard admitted to match fixing – specifically point shaving – during his college years. When you remove the controversy, it actually makes his numbers look even better if he wasn’t playing at 100%. But that’s not how the authorities saw it (obviously).

NBA President Maurice Podoloff ordered that he was banned from the league for life. That means he never played a single game. What a pick!

There you have it, the worst number one draft picks in NBA history. The advice to all your fans getting ready to boast…don’t count your chickens too soon.

By Punit