The NBA Draft Lottery began in 1985. The New York Knicks won the top pick and took Patrick Ewing. That pick was anything but a failure. But there have been some horrible picks since then. Here’s a look at the worst lottery picks since 1985. Many NBA top picks never live up to their draft status, but they put forth a few good seasons and last for several years in the league. Others set their franchises back a few years, and that’s the point of this list. For the sake of this article, I’m only going to use top 3 picks, since those are the picks that the 14 lottery teams hope to win. Here’s a look at the list.
Chris Washburn – 1986 – Golden State Warriors – 3rd Overall
1986 may be the worst draft in NBA history. And Chris Washburn is the worst of the bunch. Washburn lasted only two seasons in the NBA, and both were pretty lousy. He also battled drug issues off of the court. For a draft that produced very little in the way of successful NBA players, the Warriors got the worst of the bunch
Dennis Hopson – 1987 – New Jersey Nets – 3rd Overall
The Nets were looking to rebuild their backcourt when they took Hopson, a guard from Ohio State. Hopson lasted only three nondescript seasons in New Jersey. After that he played one year with Chicago (and got a championship ring, although not really from any effort he gave) and then another year with Sacramento before continuing his forgettable career in the other hemisphere.
Pervis Ellison – 1989 – Sacramento Kings – 1st Overall
Thought of as unflappable in college, during which he led Louisville to a national title, Ellison was dubbed ‘Nervous Pervis’ in the NBA. He missed most of his rookie year with the Kings, after which he was dealt to Washington. He had one modestly successful year there but battled injuries most of the rest of his career with Washington, Boston and Seattle.
Shawn Bradley – 1993 – Philadelphia 76ers – 2nd Overall
Bradley is the worst in a long line of pretty lousy 76ers draft picks. He played just two seasons in Philadelphia, where he couldn’t match up physically with the bigger bodies in the NBA. He played in New Jersey and Dallas before knee injuries effectively ended his career. He’s still remembered as one of the biggest draft busts in Philadelphia history.
Michael Olowokandi – 1998 – Los Angeles Clippers – 1st Overall
It’s no secret that the Clippers are one of the most hapless organizations in all the sporst world. One such reason is a pick like Olowokandi, a star at the University of the Pacific who the Clippers overvalued in making him the top pick in a draft that included Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. Olowokandi floated around a few NBA teams, never living up to any potential he might have had.
Darius Miles – 2000 – Los Angeles Clippers – 3rd Overall
At the time Miles was drafted higher than any other high school player. He made the NBA Rookie Team his first year, but he lasted only two seasons with the Clippers, and bounced around to several other NBA destinations, most notably Portland where he became one of the poster childs for the ‘Jail Blazers.’
Kwame Brown – 2001 – Washington Wizards – 1st Overall
Meet the first high school player to be the top pick overall, as drafted by Michael Jordan. Brown played four combative years in Washington, making more headlines for feuds and contract issues than on-the-court efforts. The Lakers dealt for Brown in 2005, where he was a marginal player for a Lakers team that was going through a down period. He has since played with Memphis and Detroit. He was traded to Memphis for Pau Gasol, a player drafted two picks after Brown who helped LA win the title in 2009.
Mike Dunleavy – 2002 – Golden State Warriors – 3rd Overall
The Duke sensation was a key player in the Blue Devils 2001 title squad. He never delivered that hype to Golden State though. He had a moderate first couple of seasons, but was ultimately benched by the Warriors before a 2007 trade sent him to Indiana.
Dark Milicic – 2003 – Detroit Pistons – 2nd Overall
The Pistsons were already a good team, and got this pick from a trade with Memphis. With Carmelo Anthony waiting to fall in to their lap, they instead went with Milicic. He rarely saw the court under Larry Brown, even during the Pistons’ championship run in 2004. He’s been a journeyman ever since, never coming close to being worthy of the second pick.
Adam Morrison – 2006 – Charlotte Bobcats – 3rd Overall
The Gonzaga star might still have some time to take himself off this list, but so far his career has been a disaster. He battled injuries and poor play in just over three seasons in Charlotte. He was traded in February 2009 to the Lakers, but has barely seen any minutes during his run there.
Greg Oden – 2007 – Portland Trailblazers – 1st Overall
Oden might still have some time to make his career meaningful, but his first three seasons have been injury-plagued. He missed his entire first season, played just 61 games his second season, and just 21 his third season. So far, people in Portland can’t be happy. What’s more is he’s likely to never come close to the franchise player that Kevin Durant, the second pick that year, has become.