With the NBA Draft approaching on Thursday, I got to thinking about what players are going to be busts, who will be under the radar to be a steal and who is not known and will be a diamond in the rough. Then, I got to thinking about the biggest busts, steals & diamonds in the rough over the last few years. So, I took the last 20 draft classes, created a criteria, and ranked the top 20 in each category. Here’s how I broke down the “Busts”:

(A) the position in the lottery portion of the draft they were chosen,

(B) the output of their careers or careers to this point,

(C) the potential/physical ability they possessed and

(D) the players that were chosen before and their careers.

Note before we begin: players forced to call it quits early because of injury are not included.

Ladies & Gentlemen, here are the “Busts”:

20. “With the third pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select… Darius Miles

-At the beginning of the ranking system, I thought Miles would be a top 10 bust…after I looked at his stats & the players selected behind him, I had to be a little merciful. His career never amounted to much in LA, but had a couple bright moments in Portland… not that anyone was paying attention. Over his career, he averaged 10.1 pts, 4.9 rebs & 1.9 ast. a game. Not great, but really one of the highest averages in this countdown. Players like Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, Joel Przybilla & Hedo Turkoglu were picked after him, and because he was chosen at #3, he got the top 20. I guess I shouldn’t penalize him for the Clippers being stupid, but I am.

19. “With the fourth pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select… Marcus Fizer

-Now, I’m sure you’re saying, “Wait, he was picked after Miles was and you’re putting him higher”? For that I say yes, there was not a deep draft class, but Fizer’s numbers were worse than Miles (9.6 pts, 4.6 rebs & 1.2 ast.) and he played less games. He had the same players taken after him & he had more potential than Miles. If you remember, Fizer played on a very good Iowa St team… even though
they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, he was the star. Even if he wouldn’t have been a very good player, he should have been a solid player.

18. “With the eighth pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, the Portland Trailblazers select… Shawn Respert

-As much as I loved watching this guy in college at Michigan St and as much as I hate putting him on this list, Shawn Respert had a short & disappointing career. A guy who was a shooting guard/wing trapped in a point guard’s body. He wasn’t tall (6’1″), he wasn’t fast and he wasn’t real quick, but he could shoot!

His career amounted to 4.9 pts, 1.3 reb. & 1 ast per game over 172 games. He might be able to translate into today’s game with the high pick & roll with shooters at the corners, but back then, he couldn’t. Portland should’ve gone with Kurt Thomas, Corliss Williamson, Theo Ratliff or Michael Finley… but they didn’t and now they have #18 to answer for.

17. “With the sixth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select…Yi Jianlian

-This import from the Far East was supposed to bring Dirk-like qualities to the NBA. Instead, his game has been lost in translation. While playing in 272 games in a bunch of different jersies, he has averaged 7.9 pts, 4.9 rebs & 0.7 ast. Not good numbers for a guy that looked real good in the Olympics, but not here in the US. The Bucks are now kicking themselves for taking him instead of Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Al Thornton, Rodney Stuckey or Nic Young. But don’t worry, that’s not the last you’ll hear from Milwaukee.

16. “With the ninth pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets select… Ed O’Bannon

-Talk about a let down… this guy was a National Champion at UCLA, was a Naismaith Award nominee, could shoot from the mid-range, put the ball on the floor for a 6’8″ forward and was an athlete. He had a crazy amount of potential, but only put out 5 pts, 2.5 reb & 0.8 ast per game over 128 games. He vanished before anyone could say, “What happened to that lefty O’Bannon kid? He was good.” Welcome to the list Eddie O…guys that aren’t on the list that were taken after you: Kurt Thomas, “Big Nasty” Corliss Williamson, Theo Ratliff & Michael Finley.

15. “With the sixth pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select… DerMarr Johnson

-There are still people saying, “That kid could’ve been special.” Coming from Cincinnati, where Bob Huggins loves athletes, Johnson played one season & bounced to the League. In all honesty, I don’t know that it was a bad idea, but he just didn’t pan out for some reason. He was 6’9″, could shoot from the outside a little, could slash to the hoop & play a little D. In his time, playing 344 games, he averaged 6.2 pts, 2.2 rebs, & 0.9 ast. I can’t blame ATL for drafting him, but they did pass on the likes of Jamal Crawford, Joel Przybilla & Hedo Turkoglu. Atlanta is still scratching their heads after that one.

14. “With the twelfth pick in the 1995 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select… Cherokee Parks

-The poor, poor, poor man’s version of Christian Laettner (who you will see in the Honorable Mentions), Parks never could bring much to any team that he played for except six fouls. He looked more like a goofy Howdy Doody character than an NBA player, he averaged 4.4 pts, 3.6 reb & 0.6 ast. I’m surprised that he played as much as he did at Duke. For someone that is 6’11” to only average 3.6 boards a game is pathetic. If this list was for “wastes of space” he would be in the top 10. I know he was picked out of the top 10, but you can’t argue his bust status. Dallas should’ve gone with Williamson, Ratliff or Finley.

13. “With the eighth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select… Joe Alexander

-I never could see this guy doing much in the League. He had a couple of good years in college at West Virginia for Huggins, although Huggins never recruited him, but he didn’t have great years. For what he accomplished in college, which was not much aside from knocking out Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, he didn’t have the potential to be picked at #8. In fact, he wasn’t good enough to play even 100 games. He averaged 4.2 pts, 1.8 reb & 0.7 ast. I don’t know how he looked better than D.J. Augustin, Brook Lopez, Brandon Rush, Marreese Speights & Roy Hibbert to Milwaukee, but they have proved to judge talent differently than most
teams. Nice pick Milwaukee…see you again in a little bit.

12. “With the fifth pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select… Jonathan Bender

-He was selected #5 because he exploded in the McDonald’s All-American Game breaking Michael Jordan’s scoring record in the game. I understand that they thought he was going to be the next Kevin Garnett (same body style, same type of game), but this kid is missing one thing that KG has… fire. KG will give his mom a bow to the face if it means clearing space for the winning shot. Bender had potential and athleticism, so I can’t completely hate on the Raptors too much. He would’ve been a great piece to go along with Vinsanity up North if he would’ve played well. Instead he averaged 5.5 pts, 2.2 reb & 0.6 ast in his 262 NBA games and Toronto wasted a pick on him and missed out on Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry & Ron Artest. I’m not picking on Milwaukee alone here, Toronto will be visited again in a little while.

11. “With the fifth pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select… Shelden Williams

-Even at Duke, this guy couldn’t score if he was locked in a gym by himself. Everyone knew he wasn’t a scoring threat, but at 6’9″, he could rebound & defend. He was a pretty smart & successful player in college, but he never could catch up to the speed of the NBA game. He probably wouldn’t be on this list if he was taken out of the lottery portion of the draft or back in the 20’s, but Atlanta thought he could bring to them a smaller version of Dikembe Mutumbo… or at least Kevin Willis . They eventually got what they needed a couple of years later in Al Horford, but because they drafted Williams, they missed on Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Rajon Rondo & Kyle Lowry. Williams has played in 361 games averaging 4.5 pts, 4.3 reb & 0.5 ast.

10. “With the fifth pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets select… Nikoloz Tskitishvili

-Don’t jump to conclusions and blame the Nuggets, they were smart enough to trade that pick to Isiah Thomas and the Knicks. Zeke made so many great decisions while he was in NYC, they ought to put a statue of him out in front of MSG… and let the pigeons crap all over it. Anyway, don’t ask me to pronounce this joker’s name & don’t ask me what Isiah saw in him. He didn’t play enough for me to know how to say or spell his name, much less tell you about his game… that’s why he breaks the top 10. It’s beyond me why he was drafted this high, but at 7’0″ I guess the front office thought it was a chance worth taking. I can understand that, but what I can’t understand is why he’s that tall, but could only average 2.9 pts, 1.8 reb & 0.7 ast in 172 games… 1.8 boards!! The Great Khali is as coordinated as a parking cone, but he could average better than 1.8 boards a game. This was an awful pick for the Knicks, because they gave up Nene for that pick, and passed on Amare & Caron Butler. Good job Isiah, good job.

9. “With the sixth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks select… Robert Traylor

-Oh, Tractor Traylor… if Popeye Jones & Oliver Miller had a baby and they put the drive & desire of Andrew Bynum in him, I think it might have reached more of it’s potential than you did. From the Fab Five Remix team (that was not nearly as good as the original), we get a guy that never played close to his potential. I don’t think he was going to be great, which is probably why Dallas traded his draft rights to Milwaukee, but he could’ve been better. I told you I’d come see you again Bucks fans. He averaged 4.8 pts, 3.7 reb & 0.7 ast in his short NBA career. If Milwaukee would’ve stuck with who they originally drafted, they might be one of the teams to beat in the East by now, but they traded for Traylor & traded away Dirk Nowitzki… and they passed on Paul Pierce. Dallas should be arrested for highway robbery on that deal. Nice doing business with you Milwaukee.

8. “With the third pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select… Adam Morrison

-He took the college basketball world by storm. With his 70’s style haircut & mustache, he went into gyms lighting up the scoreboard from deep. He played with passion & determination. He was compared to Larry Bird & like Larry, he wasn’t very athletic, but he could do the little things right…until he made it to the NBA. As good of a scorer as he was in college, he couldn’t get open to shoot in the League.

He was very one-dimensional. He couldn’t guard, he couldn’t rebound, he couldn’t handle the ball, but he could sure sit the bench like a champ! MJ believed the hype and decided to draft him at the #3 spot hoping he would transform into the player that everyone compared him to, instead, he averaged 7.5 pts, 2.1 reb & 1.4 ast in his 161 career games. Morrison was picked over stars like Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry & his college arch nemisis J.J. Redick. This isn’t the last time MJ makes a bad draft decision. We’ll get on board that train wreck again soon.

7. “With the eighth pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select… Rafael Araujo

-Ara-who-jo? This BYU big man didn’t start recieving hype until the end of his last year. Many made some comparisons to another BYU alum: Shawn Bradley – who didn’t turn out well, but he was skinny as a rail and couldn’t handle all of the contact of the NBA game. This guy is 6’11″/ 290 and will be able to plant himself in the paint.” Unfortunately, he couldn’t uproot himself & run the floor real well. In his 139 game NBA career, Araujo averaged 2.8 pts, 2.8 reb & 0.3 ast. Not much potential, not many results, and the Raptors were stuck with yet another bust of a draft pick. They missed out on Andre Iguodala, Andris Biedrins, Al Jefferson & Josh Smith. Bad decisions lead to bad teams. Better luck this year… and you stay classy Canada.

6. “With the second pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select…Shawn Bradley

-Speaking of Mormon school busts, here’s another guy that was in the spotlight at BYU, but couldn’t deliver in the NBA. In looking at his career, he played 832 games and started his NBA career after his took his Mormon mission. Some thought that the extra time that he spent away from basketball would help make him be a more focused player…maybe if he was playing professional chess, but not basketball. He was thought to be the next dominant force in the middle & that he could possibly intimidate big men like Ewing, Olajuwon & Robinson. What happened is that he got dunked on by all of them. He averaged 8.1 pts, 6.3 reb & 0.7 ast in his time. The problem with Bradley was that he was hyped to be the Ninth Wonder of the World & could never live up to it. Had Philly been smart with their #2 pick, they would’ve drafted either Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Vin Baker or Alan Houston. It’s not all of Bradley’s fault, he was expected to be something greater than he could ever be.

5. “With the eleventh pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select… Todd Fuller

-I know that an eleventh pick shouldn’t be in the top 5, but when you look at his career & who was selected behind him, he HAS to go in the top 5. I watch college basketball religiously & wait for March like a 4 1/2 year old waits for their fifth birthday. In light of that, I don’t remember Todd Fuller being much of a factor in college basketball, much less ACC basketball. He averaged 3.7 pts, 3.0 reb & 0.2 ast in 225 games in the NBA. Golden St could’ve thrown a dart at a board with names on it and hit a winner at this point, but they drafted the one guy that amounted to “jack squat!!” (Matt Foley reference). Because they chose Fuller, they passed on Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Tony Delk and Jermaine O’Neal… did I mention Kobe Bryant!! Todd Fuller, this may be the only time you make the top 5… welcome to obscurity.

4. “With the first pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards select… Kwame Brown

-And here is the beginning of the train wreck known as Michael Jordan’s drafting career. I will admit, this draft class was about as deep as a kiddie pool, but with the choices that he had he picked the worst option. Out of four bigs taken in the first four picks, he chose the worst one of them all with #1. He could’ve taken Tyson Chandler (#2), Pau Gasol (#3), or even Eddy Curry (#4; who is an honorable mention), but instead gets the one guy who in his best days showed glimpses of decentness. His career average is 6.8 pts, 5.6 reb & 0.9 ast in 585 games. Even if Mike didn’t get a big man, he could’ve gotten Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson or Richard Jefferson. Michael’s choices in the draft have been pretty bad over the years, and with as many bad decisions as he has made, at some point someone has to take the keys away and call a designated drafter.

3. “With the second pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select… Hasheem Thabeet

-He was supposed to be the next Dikembe Mutumbo. He was supposed to be the guy to guard the paint, block shots and get boards… what he turned into was the “slam your head in the door” draft bust that Memphis is shooting themselves over. Thabeet was a dominating force in college at UConn, but has played in 135 games in the pros, averaging 2.2 pts, 2.7 reb & 0.1 ast… and has never been a factor.

Memphis wishes they had that pick back because they missed out on James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Jordan Hill, Demar DeRozan & Brandon Jennings. Those execs wish they were “walking in Memphis, walking with concrete
shoes in the river…”

2. “With the first pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select…Michael Olowokandi

-You’re telling me that a guy from Pacific who was never mentioned as being good, not great, but good in college all of a sudden gets enormous press & a team in the West decides to get him on a whim? Brilliant!! That’s what makes bad teams horrible! Not to mention the fact that you pass on Mike Bibby (who just won a National Championship with a winning program), Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter (who both play at a national powerhouse), Dirk Nowitzki & Paul Pierce (who led a college blueblood & is from Englewood), but you get a guy that ends up averaging 8.3 pts, 6.8 reb & 0.7 ast in 500 career games. Again, a classic example of a “it’s not his fault they’re stupid” pick, but because they were he gets to be where he is. Congrats on the silver medal Kandi Man.

1. “With the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select… Darko Milicic

-How does a #2 pick go ahead of a #1…when there were four “can’t miss” players…four superstars…four possibly Hall of Famers (early bold statement, I know) taken around him and he doesn’t play to the ability that he is capable of (6.0 pts, 4.2 reb & 0.9 ast). At the time that Darko was selected, Detroit was in great shape. They were one of the best teams in the East & would’ve been able to load up and become a dynasty…what they did was make a bad pick that didn’t hurt them right away, but would damage their franchise half a decade later. Had they chose Carmelo, Bosh or DWade, they would’ve won another one or two championships easily. I think if they would’ve gone with the other top 5 big in the draft (Bosh) he might not have been so miserable in Canada & stayed in the Motor City. Detroit could’ve taken Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich or T.J. Ford and been better off, but because they missed on the deepest draft class since MJ, Olajuwon & Sir Charles they (& Darko) get the distinct privilege of being #1.

For those keeping score, here are the teams that made the Top 20 Bust Picks:

2 – Los Angeles Clippers (20 & 2)

2 – Toronto Raptors (12 & 7)

2 – Dallas Mavericks (14 & 9)

2 – Atlanta Hawks (15 & 11)

2 – Milwaukee Bucks (17 & 13)

1 – Detroit Pistons (1)

1 – Memphis Grizzlies (3)

1 – Washington Wizards (4)

1 – Golden State Warriors (5)

1 – Philadelphia 76ers (6)

1 – Charlotte Bobcats (8)

1 – Denver Nuggets (10)

1 – New Jersey Nets (16)

1 – Portland (18)

1 – Chicago Bulls (19)

The guys that made my Honorable Mention list were:

(’92) Christian Laettner-#3, (’94) Sharone Wright-#6, (’95) Bryant Reeves-#6, (’00) Jerome Moiso-#11, (’01) Eddy  Curry-#4 & (’06) Patrick O’Bryant-#9