It seems to happen every year, the player and/or players that dazzled basketball fans throughout their NCAA career with heroic exploits, and dominant play that is heads and shoulders above the rest, end up disappointing fans upon their graduation the the NBA game. Let’s face it, evaluating talent in any sport is tricky business, nobody can really know for sure what a young player will become when the bright lights come on in the arena and/or ballpark. If that were the case Michael Jordan would have been drafted #1, right? Tom Brady would certainly have been drafted well before the very last day of the NFL draft. With that being said, there are some players who we all just know is going to be a star, and then…nothing. Nothing happens. They fizzle out, and we break out the ‘bust’ label to affix to their foreheads. To be fair the players on this list are not the only NBA draft busts, and they certainly won’t be the last, however for the purposes of this article, they are getting the shine. In addition, we didn’t add any players who were ‘busts’ due to injury, as that wouldn’t be 100% fair, now would it? With that being said, Idiots Guide presents a look at 10 of the biggest (recent) NBA Draft busts.
The Most Recent 10 Biggest NBA Draft Busts…
#10. Ed O’Bannon / UCLA / Drafted: 9th Pick 1st Round Brooklyn Nets (1995)
In an irony of Shakespearian proportions, Ed O’Bannon is at once a member of the UCLA Basketball Hall of Fame with a retired jersey (No. 31) as well as a former 1st round NBA lottery pick in 1995. Today? He sells cars in Nevada. True story. The once imposing 6’9 power forward led the Bruins to the 1995 NCAA Championship, but his NBA career never got off the ground, ever. He managed to play only two seasons in the league, averaging a measly 5.0 points per game. His NBA career finished, he played overseas for another 8 years or so before hitting the used car lot. Oh, he did sue the NCAA regarding video game compensation and stuff but still…
#9. Mateen Cleaves / Michigan State / Drafted: 14th Pick Detroit Pistons (2000)
Mateen Cleaves had an amazing career in East Lansing. He, not Magic Johnson, is the all-time leader in assists at Michigan State. He is also their all-time leader in steals and assists, and led the Spartans to the NCAA title in 2000. However, his collegiate greatness didn’t transfer to the NBA game, at all. In fact he ended up officially playing more games in the ‘Development League’ than in the NBA. Just one of those things…
#8. Sean May / North Carolina / Drafted: 13th Pick Charlotte Bobcats (2005)
In 2005 Sean May was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. He led his Tar Heels to the NCAA title with a win over Illinois, and was flying high as an NBA prospect coming out of that run. However, the NBA portion of the show was a stellar disappointment. Weight issues were at the forefront of his issues, which always makes me shake my head. How is a multi-million dollar contract not incentive enough to call Jenny Craig? To each his own I guess. Nevertheless his NBA career was garbage on a stick. He has been bouncing around the international circuit ever since, there’s something about his food blog in there somewhere, but it’s not very interesting.
#7. Adam Morrison / Gonzaga / Drafted: 3rd Pick Charlotte Bobcats (2006)
There was a moment in time between 2003 and 2006 that Gonzaga University’s Adam Morrison was the ‘it’ player in college basketball. There was legitimate discussion about him being the next Larry Bird. True story. He led the entire nation in scoring in 2006 with a mind boggling 28.1 points per game, which is an unreal average for the college game. It impressed the great Michael Jordan, who was the Charlotte Bobcats Manager of Basketball Operations so much that he drafted Morrison 3rd overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. And then…nothing happened. For whatever reason, Morrison as it turned out, couldn’t play the NBA game, at all. His 5 year NBA career saw him start a grand total of 33 games. His career field goal percentage was a lackluster 39%. It turns out that a person can forget how to shoot the basketball. So this 6’8 small forward who dominated college hoops, who was tapped to be the next coming of Bird, quickly flew out of the NBA. Go figure…
#6. Thomas Robinson / Kansas / Drafted: 5th Pick Sacramento Kings (2012)
Maybe there’s something about 6’9 forwards that doesn’t translate from the NCAA to the NBA? Kansas University’s Thomas Robinson became another in a seemingly long line of failed 6’9 forwards. After being an absolute beast in his junior season, averaging 17.7 PPG and 11.9 RPG, and being named first-team All American and Big 12 Player of the Year, Robinson was drafted 5th in the 2012 NBA Draft, and that was basically the last anybody ever heard of him. Well, they never had the time since he was traded immediately after a disappointing rookie season to Houston, he then rode the bench for 5 teams in 6 years.
#5. Joseph Forte / North Carolina / Drafted: 21st Pick Boston Celtics (2001)
In many ways, Joseph Forte’s basketball career resembles the saying ‘blew his wad, too soon’. It started with his freshman season at North Carolina, where he was awarded the 2000 ACC Rookie of the Year, he followed that up with the ACC Player of the Year in 2001. So impressed were the Boston Celtics, that they selected Forte 21st in the 2001 NBA Draft. Then Forte ran out of gas, magic, luck, whatever have you. He wasn’t any good in the NBA. He was notoriously difficult to work with say his coaches and teammates, so you can probably guess that was definitely a part of his…nothing to write hime about career. In the end, Joseph Forte was out of the NBA at the age 22. What does one do when retiring at 22? Perhaps we can ask the next player, he was done at 23…
#4. Jonny Flynn / Syracuse / Drafted: 6th Pick Minn Timberwolves (2009)
Jonny, oh Jonny! I had such great hopes for you! For a quick minute you made the old Big East awesome again. In his freshman year of 2007, Flynn came out like a bat out of hell with exciting play. He scored 28 points in his very first game! Better than Carmelo Anthony ever did. Then he was magnificent in the legendary 127-117 (6) overtime win in the Big East Tournament against the University of Connecticut. Flynn was a hot prospect going into the 2009 NBA Draft. As a result the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Flynn 6th in the 2009 draft. Then well, nothing much. He never became a starting point guard let alone a star. He played the better part of 4 seasons and that was about it. Besides Minnesota, he played in Houston, and Portland, before hitting the unemployment roles at the age of 23. I wonder if he saw Sean May in the parking lot?
#3. Hasheem Thabeet / U. Connecticut / Drafted: 2nd Pick Grizzlies (2009)
Conventional wisdom would dictate that a 7’3, 265 pound center is going to play in the NBA for a decade or more, and do fairly well. Well former UConn center Hasheem Thabeet is the exception to that rule. In college he was a menace on defense, blocking shots at a torrid pace, leading the Big East in blocked shots in all three of his seasons there. The Memphis Grizzlies knew he was a raw talent, but were excited about his NBA potential. They drafted him 2nd in the 2009 NBA Draft. A high lottery pick, and one of the biggest busts in recent memory. Turns out Thabeet couldn’t play, a lick. His game was awful, and never got any better. Somehow he managed to play 7 years in the NBA (probably because of his 7’3 frame) but all he could manage was a putrid 2.2 points per game, and 2.7 rebounds to go with those cold ass fries. What a mess…7’3 he was…7’3!!!
#2. Shelden Williams / Duke / Drafted: 5th Pick Atlanta Hawks (2006)
This was a player who was so dominant on the defensive end of the ball at Duke, that a good if not great NBA career was on the horizon. Williams was the Defensive Player of the Year in both 2005 and 2006 seasons, making him the fifth player in history to win the award in back to back seasons. He also holds Duke career records for blocks and rebounds. He was a lock for NBA greatness, right? Wrong. As the 5th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft of the Atlanta Hawks, it turns out that Williams couldn’t play with the big boys down low on the blocks. NBA low post players pushed him around like a …well, they pushed him around. It took just 2 years for him to fizzle out Atlanta. After that he floated around the league looking for a home, playing for 7 teams in his remaining 9 seasons in the NBA.
#1. Jimmer Fredette / BYU / Drafted: 10th Pick Sacramento Kings (2011)
In many ways, 2011 was the year of the ‘Jimmer’. Jimmer Fredette was the ‘it’ player of college basketball with a shot that was deadly from all angles on the court. He even made it to the ESPY’s taking photos with Justin Timberlake and other stars. In his senior season, Ferdette was the nation’s top scorer, averaging a mid blowing 28.9 points per game! His 3 point shooting ability was so deadly that it was coined ‘Jimmer-Range’. Jimmer was so good in 2011 that he was named the National Player of the Year. He also led his BYU Cougars to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, and was BYU’s all-time leading scorer by the time he moved on to the NBA. Speaking of the NBA…He was terrible. As of 2016 Jimmer Fredette is a starter…in the Development League. He was the 10th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. Then nothing happened. Seriously, nothing happened. It seems that without being able to create your own shot in the NBA, 3 point shooting isn’t going to work. Well, he was fun to watch play…in college.