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20 Worst NBA players of all-time

Vincent Frank
Minnesota-Timberwolves-Anthony-Bennett
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The worst NBA players in history are not talked about too often. Instead, we tend to focus on the GOATS. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry. Those types of talents.

That won’t be the case here. Below, we check in on the 20 worst NBA players in history. They span generations of ineptitude on the court and include both No. 1 overall picks and second-round selections.

From Michael Olowokandi to Cherokee Parks, here are the 20 worst NBA players in history.

Related: 10 tallest NBA players ever

20. Michael Olowokandi

Selected No. 1 overall in the 1998 NBA Draft out of a small California college named Pacific, this 7-foot center was expected to be the next great thing. Boy, was Clippers front office head and all-time NBA legend Elgin Baylor wrong about this one.

The “Kandi Man,” as he was known, went on to average 9.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in five uneventful seasons with the then-downtrodden Clippers before stops with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics. In his final two NBA seasons, Olowokandi averaged 3.9 points and 3.7 rebounds. What makes him especially a failure in Southern California is the fact that Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce were all selected behind him in the draft.

19. Keith Closs

There were some within the Clippers who believed Closs was going to break out after a decent rookie season back in 1997-98. He averaged 4.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in limited action. That never came to fruition.

Over the course of his final two seasons, this Central Connecticut State product (that’s a thing) averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds before bombing out in the Association. In his final NBA season, Closs joined Olowokandi in helping Los Angeles post a 15-67 record. How fun.

18. Elliot Williams

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After bombing out with Mike Krzyzewski and Duke as a freshman back in 2008-09, this former top recruit transferred to Memphis under then-coach Josh Pastner. It proved to be a boon for Williams as he averaged 17.9 points and 4.0 rebounds as a sophomore.

Well, Williams should have stayed in school. After being a first-round pick of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2020, he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. It was all downhill for the guard from there. Williams would finish his professional career averaging 4.9 points while shooting 42% from the field in parts of five seasons, including averaging 1.6 points on 20% shooting in his final campaign with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2015-16.

17. Javaris Crittenton

A former Mr. Georgia Basketball, Crittenton seemingly had the world as his oyster heading to Georgia Tech in 2006. He was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and the Senior Beta Club in high school and acted the part of a team leader with the Yellow Jackets in his only season with the team.

That led to the guard being selected No. 19 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest represents a cautionary tale. Crittenton played only two seasons in the NBA and 22 games with the Lakers. He averaged 5.3 points in stops with three teams. The Georgia native is best known in league circles for confronting then-Washington Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas with a gun in the locker room. Crittenton would never see the court again. He’s now serving 23 years in prison after being charged for manslaughter in the killing of a 22-year-old mother of four back in 2011.

16. DeSagana Diop

worst basketball player: desagana diop
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Diop somehow found a way to play parts of 11 seasons in the NBA despite averaging a mere 2.0 points and 14 minutes per game. Even at 7-foot, the Senegal never averaged more than 3.4 rebounds in a single season.

The No. 8 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2002 NBA Draft, there was hope that this big man could help provide some balance for LeBron James. As you can see, that never came to fruition. The likes of Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph and Gilbert Arenas were all picked after Diop that June. Funny enough, Johnson is back in the NBA.

15. Hamed Haddadi

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s an interesting story. An Iranian born big man, Haddadi is still somehow playing professionally overseas at the age of 36. He was originally undrafted by the Memphis Grizzlies after the 2004 NBA Draft. That came after he received offers for multiple teams in the lead up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.

It never panned out in the United States with Haddadi averaging 2.2 points and 2.5 rebounds in parts of five seasons. The good news? Haddadi has won three Asian Cup Gold Medals while earning the Asian Cup MVP four times. Sometimes, international ball just doesn’t translate to the NBA.

14. Mark Madsen

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Us children of the 1990s know full well just how much of a larger-than-life figure Madsen was with the Stanford Cardinal. He helped lead the team to four NCAA Tournament births with the Cardinal earning a trip to the Final 4 in 1998 due to some heroics on the big man’s part.

The Los Angeles Lakers hoped that this would translate to the NBA when they selected “Mad Dog” in the first round back in 2000. Despite the success this team was having under Phil Jackson, it never happened. Maden finished his Lakers career averaging 2.6 points in three seasons. He ended up playing another six seasons with the Timberwolves, averaging 0.4 points in his final two campaigns. Madsen does, however, have the distinction of being the worst basketball player ever to win two NBA titles. There’s that.

13. Lazar Hayward

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

A four-star recruit, “Money Man” had a brilliant college career at Marquette — earning AP All-American honors in 2010 and leading the program to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Unfortunately for the hapless Minnesota Timberwolves, this success didn’t transfer to the NBA. After being selected with the 30th pick in the 2010 draft, Hayward averaged all of 2.9 points on 35% shooting in parts of three seasons. He played all of 72 games. Oh, and the dude was arrested in September of 2021 for attempting to enter Hawaii with a fake negative COVID-19 test. That’s fun.

12. Hasheem Thabeet

worst nba player: hasheem thabeet
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What do James Harden and Stephen Curry have in common aside from being future Hall of Famers? Each one was selected immediately after Thabeet in the 2009 NBA Draft.

Considered a raw player at the time when the Memphis Grizzlies picked him up No. 2 overall, the Tanzania native went on to have one of the most unassuming careers for a top-three pick in Association history. This big man averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in parts of five NBA seasons. Did we mention James Harden and Stephen Curry went behind him in the draft? I am sure we did.

11. Darko Miličić

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons will never live this one down. Ever. The same 2003 NBA Draft that saw LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade come off the board within the top five also included Miličić going No. 2 overall behind King James.

You don’t need to be a genius to realize how this turned out for Detroit. The dude averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds while shooting 34% from the field in parts of three seasons with the Pistons. Those are real stats. Factual stats. And they have Miličić as one of the biggest busts in NBA Draft history.

Worst NBA players: The top 10

10. Anthony Bennett

worst basketball player ever: anthony bennett
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NBA Draft might have the distinction of being the worst in modern history. Bennett went No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Busts such as Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore were also top-10 selections. It’s crazy given that two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo went 15th overall.

However, Bennett takes the cake. The former UNLV star averaged 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds on 39% shooting in parts of four NBA seasons. The good news for Cleveland? He was one of the assets used in the trade for Kevin Love ahead of the 2014-15 season that helped LeBron James lead the organization to its first and only title.

9. Nikoloz Tskitishvili

LOL. If you’re not laughing after watching that video, you’re a drone. Speaking of laughing, we’re pretty sure former Nuggets front office executive Kiki Vandeweghe still isn’t turning that frown upside down after making this Republic of Georgia native the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Tskitishvili averaged all of 3.2 points on 30% shooting in two seasons with Denver before being dealt to the Golden State Warriors. The dude finished his career having averaged 1.7 points over his final two seasons. This makes Tskitishvili one of the worst NBA players ever.

8. Adam Morrison

NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns
OJennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy. Adam Morrison was hailed as the next great white hope after starring for an upstart Gonzaga Bulldogs team in college. It led to the then Charlotte Bobcats (that was a thing) selecting the forward No. 3 overall in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Morrison proceeded to average 3.4 points per game in his final two NBA seasons after playing pretty well as a rookie in 2006-07. He shot 36% from the field througout his brief run (161 games) in the NBA before giving Serbia a try (also a thing). Morrison was also in a draft class that included fellow busts Tyrus Thomas, Sheldon Williams, Patrick O’Bryant and Mouhamed Sene all going in the top 10. Whew, that cost GM’s some jobs.

7. Brian Scalabrine

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Chicago Bulls
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Before becoming a pretty solid assistant coach and boasting an unrivaled personality, White Mamba was an absolutely horrible basketball player. Perhaps, he’d even admit that today. Who knows? A second-round pick of the then-New Jersey Nets out of USC back in 2001, Scabs averaged all of 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds while shooting 39% from the field during his career.

The kicker? In his final two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, the California native averaged all of 1.1 points. That’s just hard to do. Despite this, he was still able to make it in the NBA for 11 seasons. The luxury of being 6-foot-9.

6. Todd Fuller

The young kids don’t remember when these Golden State Warriors were the laughingstock of the Association. From 1994-2002, the Dubs failed to win more 36 games in a single season. The main culprit? Drafting. Bad drafting.

There’s no further evidence of this than when front office head Dave Twardzik took Fuller No. 11 overall in the 1996 NBA Draft — two selections ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers taking someone by the name of Kobe Bryant. Heck, fellow Hall of Famer Steve Nash went 15th overall in that draft. Fuller rewarded the Warriors by averaging a fun 4.0 points in 132 games before trading him to the Utah Jazz. Fuller would end up bombing out in the NBA after averaging 3.3 points over the course of his final three seasons.

5. Mengke Bateer

Considered a legend in China (four-time CBA Player of the Year), Bateer never even came close to panning out in the states. Initially with the Denver Nuggets during training camp in 2002, he was let go in sort order.

Bateer ended up playing a combined 46 games with the Nuggets, Spurs and Raptors in his career — averaging 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds on 39% shooting. Perhaps, he’s best known in Association circles for the video embedded above. Check er out.

4. Rafael Araújo

The eighth pick of the Toronto Raptors back in 2004 out of Brazil, a lot of experts thought that this 6-foot-11 big man was going to be the next great thing up north. The idea for then-Raptors front office head Rob Babcock was to team him up with Chris Bosh and Vince Carter to form an elite three.

About that? Araújo played just two seasons with Toronto — averaging all of 2.9 points and 3.0 rebounds on 41% shooting. That’s impressively bad. What makes things even more damning for Toronto is the fact that three-time NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala went one pick after him. Ouch!

3. Michael Ruffin

Ruffin literally etched his name in NBA lore when he was a member of the Washington Wizards. Just check out his brain fart in a game against the Toronto Raptors (it’s right above). And in reality, it was one of the dumbest plays we’ve seen in modern league history.

As for his career, the former second-round pick of the Chicago Bulls somehow found a way to last nine seasons in the NBA despite averaging 1.7 points and shooting 41% from the field. As one of the worst basketball players ever, Ruffin finished his career averaging 0.5 points on 29% shooting with the Portland Trail Blazers back in 2008-09. Hey, I could do that!

2. Sun Yue

NBA: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Who is that dude to our left of Kobe Bryant? We’re pretty darn sure Sue is hanging this photo somewhere in his China-based dwelling, because, it was the height of his NBA career. The former second-round pick of the Lakers played 10 games during the 2008-09 season. He averaged 0.6 points on 27% shooting in less than three minutes of action per outing. That’s just hilarious.

This isn’t a knock on Yue. He actually earned an NBA ring with the Lakers that season and continues to star in the CBA. That includes earning two CBA titles. Not too shabby.

And the worst NBA player ever is…

1. Cherokee Parks

And the award for the worst NBA player ever goes to this former Duke standout. With the Blue Devils, Parks was all sorts of good. The former High School All-American earned a championship under Coach K while averaging 19.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in his final collegiate season.

This led to Parks being the 12th pick in the 1995 NBA Draft of the Dallas Mavericks. The big man was selected over the likes of Brent Barry and Michael Finley, only to bomb out in epic fashion. Parks averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds during his career. He finished up shop as a member of the Golden State Warriors back in 2003-04, averaging a robust 1.0 points in 12 games.