NBA Draft: 5 Overachievers and 5 Busts
Depending on how your team’s front office operates, the NBA Draft can be one of the most exciting times for fans or one of the most painful. One selection can erase decades of misfortune or set a franchise back multiple years.
With the NBA Draft just hours away, we’ve compiled five of the biggest overachievers and five of the worst busts in the past 20 years of the event.
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
15th Overall Pick, 2011
When you take a look at what Kawhi Leonard has accomplished in his first six years in the league, it’s hard to believe he was selected in the middle of the first round. The former San Diego State forward has been among the best players in the game over the past two seasons, making the All-NBA team twice and winning defensive player of the year twice as well. Leonard–already one of the best two-way players in the league–found another gear in the playoffs this season, averaging 27.7 points per game while shooting over 52 percent from the floor. With his best years ahead of him, he’s easily the best value pick in the NBA Draft in quite some time – especially when you consider that Jimmer Fredette was picked five slots ahead of him.
2. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
35th Overall Pick, 2012
Playing out all four years of your college eligibility has a way of scaring off potential teams, just ask Draymond Green. The Michigan native played four seasons at Michigan State and somehow slipped to the Warriors in the second round. The rest is history. Green has wasted little time in developing a versatile NBA game, making the All-Star game twice, winning two NBA titles, being named to two All-Defensive First Teams, and being selected for the All-NBA Second and Third Teams. He’s been one of the key pieces that has helped Golden State kick off what looks to be a dynasty in the making.
3. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
57th Overall Pick, 1999
Foreign draft picks have proven to be a risky gamble for many teams, but the San Antonio Spurs built their dynasty by uncovering international gems like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Ginobili ended up joining the Spurs in 2002 and strung together a career that included four championships, a Sixth Man of the Year Award, two All-Star selections, and two All-NBA Third Team appearances. The Argentine retired this season after playing 992 games with the Spurs, averaging 13.6 points per game, and consistently offering whatever his team needed to win.
4. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
24th overall pick, 2006
Kyle Lowry has very quietly rounded into one of the best players in the league over the last three seasons, which is more than you can ask for from a player drafted at the tail end of the first round. The former Villanova guard struggled to find consistent minutes early in his career, but a move to the Toronto Raptors jump started his rise to stardom. Lowry has averaged more than 17 points per game in each of his last four seasons and averaged over 22 points in 2016-17. The Philadelphia native has made the All-Star team for three consecutive seasons, in addition to making the All-NBA Third Team last year and forming a dynamic duo with DeMar DeRozan. Not too shabby for someone who was selected after players like Quincy Douby, Renaldo Balkman and Josh Boone.
5. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
60th overall pick, 2011
When you Google the term “overachiever,” Isaiah Thomas should be the first result. Due to his small stature, Thomas ended up being selected with the last overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. The Washington native has gone on to average 19.1 points per game in his first seven years in the league and has become a superstar for the Boston Celtics. Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game last season, a mark that was only bested by James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Honorable mentions: Michael Redd – 43rd overall pick, 2000, Paul Millsap – 47th overall pick, 2006, Jimmy Butler – 30th overall pick, 2011
1. Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
1st Overall Pick, 2007
Portland Trail Blazers fans still wonder what could have been if Brandon Roy and Greg Oden were able to stay healthy. Oden played 32 games for Ohio State back in 2006-07 and averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He led the Buckeyes to the National Title game and put up 25 points and 12 rebound in a losing effort. The talented big man ended up being selected No. 1 overall by the Trail Blazers, but was plagued by injuries throughout his tenure with the team. When his career ended in 2016, Oden had played just 105 NBA games, averaging 8.0 points per game and 6.2 rebounds. What’s more, the Portland Trail Blazers picked Oden over Kevin Durant. Ouch.
2. Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers
1st Overall Pick, 2013
The 2013 NBA Draft could go down as one of the worst ever and the first overall pick is the poster child for this particularly awful crop of players. The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised the league by taking Anthony Bennett number one overall after just one season at UNLV. Four years and four different teams later, the Canadian forward is already out of the NBA. Throughout his career, Bennett only saw the court for 12.6 minutes per game and four total starts. His 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds were not enough for a fifth team to take a gamble on him and he ended up signing with Fenerbahce in Turkey earlier this season.
3. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis Grizzlies
2nd overall pick, 2009
Much like Anthony Bennett, Hasheem Thabeet flamed out in the NBA after just four seasons. The 7’3” center was a dominating presence for the University of Connecticut and helped lead the team to a Final Four appearance in 2009. The Tanzanian was never able to adjust to how the game is played at the NBA level and ended up starting just 20 times over the course of his brief career. He averaged just 10.5 minutes, 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. Thabeet was taken one pick before James Harden, five picks before Steph Curry, and eight picks before DeMar DeRozan. Talk about a swing and a miss by the Grizzlies.
4. Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats
3rd overall pick, 2006
Adam Morrison was selected No. 3 overall by the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2006 on the heels of an excellent junior season at Gonzaga. The Montana native averaged 28.1 points per game and shot just under 50 percent from the floor for Gonzaga coach Mark Few. Morrison had a productive rookie campaign in Charlotte, averaging 11.8 points per game, but ended up suffering a knee injury in his second season. Morrison was never the same, averaging less than 4.5 points per game in his two other NBA seasons. The former Gonzaga forward played just 161 NBA games and was out of the league by the 2010-11 season.
5. Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Denver Nuggets
5th overall pick, 2002
Our final inclusion on our busts list is none other than Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who played for Mike D’Antoni in Italy prior to coming stateside. The Georgian center was selected No. 5 overall by the Denver Nuggets but never made an impact in the NBA. He played four seasons in the league and averaged only 2.9 points per game and 1.8 rebounds per game. Tskitishvili’s selection was so bad that NBA columnist Bill Simmons once dubbed it “the worst-case scenario for any foreign pick.” Tskitishvili can be found playing overseas for Manama Club in Bahrain.
Honorable mentions: Kwame Brown – 1st overall pick, 2001, Darko Milicic – 2nd overall pick, 2003, Thomas Robinson – 5th overall pick, 2012
(Image courtesy The All-Night Images via Flickr.