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Biggest NBA Draft busts who were No. 1 overall picks: Fan’s take
These are the biggest NBA Draft busts who were taken with the number one overall pick in the draft. The list is ranked by a player's career scoring average in the NBA, and goes back to 1966. All number one overall picks with scoring averages below 10.0 points per game are listed.
Prior to 1966, the NBA had territorial picks in the draft. Teams were allowed to forfeit their first round draft pick if they wanted to select a player from their geographical area. The territorial picks were taken before any actual picks in the draft, so prior to 1966, many players were taken ahead of the technical first pick in the draft.
My favorite NBA team, the New Jersey Nets, has twice had the number one overall pick. We selected Derrick Coleman with the first overall pick in 1990, and Kenyon Martin(notes) with the first overall pick in 2000. Both have career scoring averages well above 10.0 points per game.
Biggest NBA Draft Busts Who Were #1 Overall Picks
1. LaRue Martin - 1972 NBA Draft
Statistically speaking, LaRue Martin is the worst player ever to be taken with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. The Portland Trail Blazers took Martin with the number one overall pick in the 1972 NBA Draft, after 6' 11" Martin, playing for Loyola University of Chicago, outplayed Bill Walton of UCLA in a college game. That was a fluke.
LaRue Martin played four years in the NBA, and averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. The player taken second in the 1972 NBA Draft was Bob McAdoo, who is the 29th best scorer in NBA history with a 22.05 average, and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Kwame Brown was the first player taken in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, who soon traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Caron Butler(notes). Brown has played 10 years so far in the NBA, and has career averages of just 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
He's made around $52 million in salary so far in his career. Brown, who is 6' 11", did not play college basketball, he went right from high school into the NBA. Players taken after Brown in the 2001 draft include Gilbert Arenas(notes), Pau Gasol(notes) and Tony Parker(notes).
3. Michael Olowokandi - 1998
After averaging 22.2 points and 11.2 rebounds at the University of the Pacific in 1998, Michael Olowokandi was taken with the first overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. Olowokandi played nine years in the NBA, and averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He earned some $38 million in salary.
Olowokandi is 7' tall and from Nigeria. He no doubt benefited from the great play of another 7' Nigerian, Hakeem Olajuwon. The Clippers took Michael hoping he would be another Hakeem, but he wasn't even in the same galaxy.
4. Kent Benson - 1977
After averaging 19.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game as a senior at Indiana University in 1977, Kent Benson was taken with the first overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. I remember as a kid the pick was derided by many at the time. My favorite NBA team, the Nets, had just moved to New Jersey that year, and we took a real player, Bernard King, with seventh overall pick in 1977.
Kent Benson hung around the NBA for nine seasons, and retired with career averages of 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Benson was one of the all-time jerks in the NBA (in college, he drove Larry Bird out of Indiana U with his actions). In his very first NBA game, he elbowed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar so many times that Kareem finally had enough and decked Benson with a sucker-punch that broke his jaw (Kareem broke his hand with the punch).
After averaging 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds at Ohio State University as a freshmen in 2007, the Portland Trail Blazers took Greg Oden with the first pick in the 2007 draft. To date, Oden's career has been marred by injuries. He missed both the 2007-08 and 2010-11 seasons with knee injuries. He's managed to play a total of 82 games so far in his career, and is averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
If Oden can come back healthy he might get off this list, but who knows if he can? Kevin Durant(notes), who has won the last two scoring titles in the NBA, was the second player taken in the 2007 draft. If the Oklahoma City Thunder had the first pick in 2007, would they have taken Oden or Durant?
6. Pervis Ellison - 1989
As a freshmen, Pervis Ellison led the University of Louisville to the 1986 NCAA Championship, where he was named tournament MVP. He played for Louisville from 1986 to 1989, and averaged 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. In 1989, the Sacramento Kings took Pervis with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Ellison played 11 years in the NBA, and averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He had talent, as he averaged 20.0 points and 11.2 rebounds per game in 1992, and was named NBA Most Improved Player. But overall he was inconsistent and often injured in his NBA career.
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