10 biggest NBA Draft busts of the past decade, by year

By Vincent Frank
Mar 14, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Derrick Williams (3) during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In a way, what we see during the annual NBA Draft can be seen as somewhat of a crapshoot. There are very few players who are seen as clear generational talents. The 2020 NBA Draft was a prime example of this.

This got us thinking. What are the worst NBA Draft picks of the past decade? Checking in on the annual event from 2010-19, there’s been some absolutely huge busts.

Derrick Williams in the 2011 NBA Draft and the Cleveland Cavaliers selection of Anthony Bennett in the 2013 NBA Draft come to mind first. Below, we look at the worst picks of the past decade.

Note: 2020 NBA Draft is precluded for obvious reasons

Related: 2021 NBA Mock Draft

2010 NBA Draft: Ekpe Udoh, center, Golden State Warriors (No. 6 pick)

2011 NBA Draft: Ekpe Udoh, Golden State Warriors
Apr 3, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Utah Jazz center Ekpe Udoh (33) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors’ years as the doormat of the NBA coincided with some of the most egregious draft performances in the modern era. Taking stiff Todd Fuller over Kobe Bryant back in 1996 was a prime example of this, as was going with Adonal Foyle over Tracy McGrady the following year. That doesn’t make this 2010 NBA Draft pick any better.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Warriors, check out #DubNation rumors, rankings, and news here.

Selected sixth overall, Udoh played parts of two seasons with the Warriors. He averaged under five points per game before being part of the Andrew Bogut trade, which turned things around for Golden State. The big man was selected over the likes of Gordon Hayward and Paul George in the 2010 NBA Draft. Just ouch.

2011 NBA Draft: Derrick Williams, forward, Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 2 pick)

2011 NBA Draft: Derrick Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers
May 25, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Derrick Williams (3) dribbles the ball between Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) and forward Jordan Mickey (55) during the fourth quarter of game five of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

As with the Warriors, these Timberwolves struggled through multiple drafts. That included the ill-fated decisions to select Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn immediately ahead of Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft. It’s something front office head David Kahn will never live down.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Timberwolves, check out #Timberwolves rumors, rankings, and news here.

With that said, Derrick Williams with the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft is a close second to the decision to pass up on Curry. A star forward at Arizona, Williams played less than three full seasons with the Timberwolves, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds before being shipped off for Luc Mbah a Moute. Yes, that Luc Mbah a Moute. Sadly, Minnesota could have had its pick of Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard with that selection. This proved that the 2011 NBA Draft was a downright bust in the Twin Cities.

2012 NBA Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, forward, Charlotte Bobcats (No. 2 pick)

2012 NBA Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets
Dec 27, 2019; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) stands on the court prior to the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

To be fair to the Charlotte-based franchise, Kidd-Gilchrist was seen as a star during his short tenure with Kentucky prior to the 2012 NBA Draft. A versatile player who could guard three different positions. It just never worked out for then-general manager Rich Cho. The forward did play eight seasons in Charlotte, but averaged a mere 8.6 points.

Related: NBA Power Rankings – Los Angeles Lakers top dog, Houston Rockets now bottom three.

What makes this specific 2012 NBA Draft pick so disheartening for Michael Jordan’s franchise is the fact that Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard were taken in the selections following it. Either player could have been franchise-altering for an organization that still lacks relevance in the broader NBA.

2013 NBA Draft: Anthony Bennett, forward, Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1 pick)

2013 NBA Draft: Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers
Sep 25, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Anthony Bennett (23) poses during Media Day at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We can say a couple things about this pick. First off, the 2013 NBA Draft was considered among the weakest in the modern history of the event. Secondly, Bennett was one of the pieces that landed Cleveland Kevin Love after just one season. In no way does that take away from the fact that this dude bombed out after playing a mere 151 games in parts of four seasons with four franchises, averaging a combined 4.4 points per game. Yeah, Bennett is among the biggest busts in recent NBA Draft history.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Cavaliers, check out #BeTheFlight rumors, rankings, and news here.

As noted above, the only saving grace here for Cleveland is that the 2013 NBA Draft included several busts. Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore were among the other busts who went in the top 10 that June. Just gross!

2014 NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas, forward, Sacramento Kings (No. 8 pick)

2014 NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings
Apr 4, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Nik Stauskas (1) shoots the ball against Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a reason these Kings have not earned a spot in the playoffs since all the way back in 1995-96. They have been among the worst teams in selecting players. That included taking this former Michigan standout in the top 10 of the 2014 NBA Draft. All Stauskas did in California’s capital city was average 4.4 points over the course of one season before being shipped off to the Philadelphia 76ers in a package for ArtÅ«ras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović. Those are names we did not just make up.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Kings, check out #SacramentoProud rumors, rankings, and news here.

Sadly for Sacramento, the 2014 NBA Draft saw current star Chicago Bulls wing Zach LaVine go 13th overall to the Timberwolves. Imagine how different the Kings might look with LaVine manning the wing instead of an overpaid Harrison Barnes.

2015 NBA Draft: Jahlil Okafor, center, Philadelphia 76ers (No. 3 pick)

2015 NBA Draft: Jahlil Okafor, Phoenix Suns
Nov 20, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) looks on from the bench during the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Another player who showed tremendous promise, Okafor quickly became one of the most-recent NBA Draft busts from Duke after Philadelphia took him third overall in 2015. Failing to show any ability on defense, that end of the court clouded the fact that he averaged a healthy 17.5 points as a rookie. Eventually, Philadelphia got sick of this process after three seasons. That included the team benching him for all but two games during the 2017-18 campaign after the big man requested a trade.

Related: 50 Top NBA players of 2021 – Major updates after James Harden trade.

As the process was starting to play out in Philadelphia, the team’s front office opted for Okafor over the likes of Kristaps Porzingis and Devin Booker in the 2015 NBA Draft. That obviously set said process back big time until Joe Embiid and Ben Simmons made their marks in Philly.

2016 NBA Draft: Dragan Bender, center, Phoenix Suns (No. 4 pick)

2016 NBA Draft: Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns
Apr 7, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Danuel House Jr. (4) attempts to dunk the ball as Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender (35) defends during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NBA Draft will go down as one major missed opportunity for the Suns to build up a supporting cast behind a then-young Devin Booker. It started with Phoenix selecting this Bosnia and Herzegovina big man with the fourth overall pick. He failed to pan out in any way, averaging 5.4 points on a mere 39% shooting from the field. Phoenix then traded for another bust in that of Marquese Chriss at No. 8. But that’s a story for another time.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Suns, check out #RisePHX rumors, rankings, and news here.

While Bender was struggling to do anything of substance in the Phoenix desert, other prospects from the 2016 NBA Draft continue to shine bright. Jamal Murray, Domantas Sabonis and Pascal Siakam are just three examples of players Phoenix could have had over Bender. Ouch!

2017 NBA Draft: Josh Jackson, forward, Phoenix Suns (No. 4 pick)

2017 NBA Draft: Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns
Feb 10, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson (20) shoots the ball against Sacramento Kings guard Alec Burks (13) and center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) during the second quarter at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

As noted in the previous blurb, these Suns initially struggled finding the right mix of talent to go with Booker. Then front office head Ryan McDonough thought they had an answer in this former Kansas wing with the fourth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. After all, Jackson averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in his only season with the Jayhawks after being the No. 1 recruit in 2016.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Suns, check out #RisePHX rumors, rankings, and news here.

Due to struggles on the court and some issues off the court, Jackson lasted just two seasons with Phoenix before he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies and eventually assigned to their G-League affiliate. This came within the same NBA Draft that included stars De’Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo all going within the top-20 picks.

2018 NBA Draft: Wendell Carter Jr., center, Chicago Bulls (No. 7 pick)

2018 NBA Draft: Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls
Mar 10, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) dunks the basketball in the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

We could go back several decades dating back to the start of Mike Krzyzewski’s career with the Blue Devils and point to a good dozen NBA Draft busts. One of the most recent in that list includes this former star big man for the Blue Devils and a top-seven recruit in 2017. Carter Jr. averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in his only season with Duke. It led to some being surprised he fell to the seventh pick.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Bulls, check out #BullsNation rumors, rankings, and news here.

Just a couple years later, and we now know why Carter slipped. He can’t play defense. That’s not a narrative. It’s a real thing. It is also why Chicago looked to trade him for pennies on the dollar this past offseason. The team could have also had young stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Collin Sexton and Michael Porter Jr. in the 2018 NBA Draft. That’s just gross.

2019 NBA Draft: Jarrett Culver, guard, Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 6 pick)

2019 NBA Draft: Jarrett Culver, Minnesota Timberwolves
Mar 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jarrett Culver (23) controls the ball as New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart (3) defends during the second half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps, Culver will turn out to be a good player for the Timberwolves. He’s still only 21 years old and is averaging north of nine points in his career. But rhyme me this. If the Wolves had high expectations moving forward for Culver, they likely wouldn’t have selected fellow guard Anthony Edwards No. 1 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Timberwolves, check out #Timberwolves rumors, rankings, and news here.

As Culver struggles to shoot even 40% from the field after being the sixth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the likes of fellow guards Tyler Herro and Cam Reddish are showing out for the respective teams. Hopefully, this doesn’t go down as another epic NBA Draft blunder for Minnesota.