The first pick in the drafts gives NBA teams hopes for a superstar. However, it doesn’t always pan out. Here are 10 examples of when the player chosen didn’t rise.
The L.A. Clippers are still searching for their first NBA championship. Many years ago, they placed their faith in a big man who played college ball at Pacific. He was 7-0 tall and 270 pounds and the Clippers thought they had a dominant center. Wrong. Olowokandi lasted five years in LA. He never shot better than 45.6% from the field, an astounding low rate for someone of his size. His career was mediocre at best. Don’t judge everyone by what they do in box scores. Olowokandi has gone on to be a charitable person, often donating to children’s hospitals so they can add resources.
Kwame Brown has been in the news a lot in 2021, going on the offensive for those who took his NBA career to task. Brown went from high school to the Washington Wizards in 2001. The most games he started as a Wizard were 57 in 2003-04. That also was a career high. Overall, he averaged 6.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds. That ‘03-04 season saw him notch career highs at 10.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg. He did manage to stick around the league until the 2012-13 season, eventually playing in 607 total games with seven teams.
A No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013, Anthony Bennett is 28 years old and at last report playing basketball with a team in Puerto Rico. Not what one would expect for someone who should be in the prime of his career. However, there was no prime for the former UNLV star. He lasted 52 games and 0 starts in Cleveland before making three of his four career starts as a Timberwolve. Bennett has not played in the NBA since 2016-17 and was last in the NBA G-League in 2018-19.
The Bucks had great success when they drafted a center No. 1 overall (Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), so why not take a big man first overall in 1977. They chose Kent Benson out of Indiana. The career started off poorly as Benson had his jaw broken by Abdul-Jabbar after elbowing the Lakers’ star a couple minutes into his first NBA game. Eventually, Benson Benson played 680 games with four teams and averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. He did win the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1982.
One of a number of high draft picks that went South as they headed to the Northwest was LaRue Martin. Drafted out of Loyola (Ch), the 6-11 center was the first pick in 1972. He spent four years with Portland averaged 14 minutes per game. For his career, he totaled an average of 5.3 points per game and 4.6 rebounds. After troubled times out of basketball, Martin found his way and moved up through the ranks at UPS.
John Lucas played college ball at Maryland and was the first overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 1976. He was far from awful. His lone NBA honor was on the All-Rookie team. Substance abuse issues derailed his career at a point and once he went through rehab, he played in the league through 1989-90. Overall, Lucas averaged almost 11 points per game and 7 assists. He went on to run a wellness and aftercare substance-abuse recovery program for athletes as well as coaching in the NBA.
The Sacramento Kings “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison out of Louisville with the top pick in the 1989 draft. All you need to know about his career is Danny Ainge nicknamed him “Out of Service Pervis” due to his plethora of injuries. He did earn an honor as the Most Improved Player in the league in 1992. That tells you how bad things were prior to and after that in a career that spanned four teams.
Joe Smith was another Maryland player taken first overall in the NBA draft, like John Lucas. Smith defined the term journeyman as he played for 12 — 12!! — teams in his NBa career, A little geography from his Wikipedia page: In 1998, Smith was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers; he then played for the Minnesota Timberwolves (with a midway pitstop for the Detroit Pistons) until 2003. He later played for the Milwaukee Bucks, the Denver Nuggets, the 76ers again, the Chicago Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Atlanta Hawks, the New Jersey Nets, and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Philadelphia 76ers chose Markelle Fultz out of Washington in 2017 and it was a bad marriage from the start. He wound up being traded to the Orlando Magic in 2017. Overall, Fultz played in a grand total of 33 games with Philly. He showed signs of why he was a No. 1 overall pick in 2019-20 with Orlando, starting 60 games and averaging better than 12 points and five assists. That progress was derailed when he tore an ACL on Jan. 6, 2021, ending his season.
Greg Oden was a big man from Ohio State many teams coveted by the Portland Trail Blazers earned the shot at by getting the first pick in the draft in 2007. Before his rookie season, the center had microfracture surgery and that cost him that campaign, Injuries ruined a promising carreer and he was limited to 66 starts and 105 regular-season games. He tried to playin China in 2015-16 and when last heard from was on a team in The Basketball Tournament, the Scarlet & Gray was composed of former Ohio State players. Oden graduated from Ohio State in 2019 with a degree in sports industry.