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Top Lottery Picks Busts Since 2010

By Jose Rohdin

Heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft, every team hopes they can select a player who can make an impact. The 14 teams who missed the playoffs are hoping that the player can be a cornerstone for the franchise. However, not every draft pick will be the correct one. Players can become a bust for many different reasons, injuries, drafted into a bad situation, or they just did not get acclimated to the NBA. This list is of lottery picks that did not make it work.

10. Kendall Marshall, 2012 Draft, 13th Pick

While playing for North Carolina, Kendall Marshall became one of the best passers and assist-men in school history. He won the Bob Cousy award in his sophomore season, averaging 8.1 points and 9.8 assists, having enough hype to enter the NBA Draft. The Phoenix Suns selected him with the 13th overall pick.

Top Lottery Picks Busts Since 2010
Jared Wickerham/AFP

In his rookie season, he played 48 games averaging 14.6 minutes, with three starts, scoring three points with three assists. Marshall was traded to the Washington Wizards after his rookie season but was cut by the Wizards. He played in the D-League for the start of his second season before being signed by the Los Angeles Lakers. His time with the Lakers was the best in his career. He started 45 games averaging 29 minutes per game, scoring eight points with 8.8 assists.

Marshall played two more seasons in the NBA, averaging 14.1 minutes. He retired in 2017 after spending some time in the G-League and playing in some preseason games that never amounted to a comeback.

9. Mario Hezonja, 2015 NBA Draft, 5th Pick

Mario Hezonja #44 of the Portland Trail Blazers
Abbie Parr/Getty Images/AFP

Mario Hezonja was drafted after playing three seasons professionally in Europe. He was chosen fifth overall by the Orlando Magic and would start 11 games in the first two years averaging 16.5 minutes per game and 5.5 points.

The Magic declined to pick up his fourth-year option on Hezonja, and he would play the best season of his career in his third season. He averaged 9.6 points in 30 starts in 22.1 minutes per game, all career highs. That season earned him a one-year $6.5 million contract with the New York Knicks in which he started 24 games, averaging 8.8 points in 20.8 minutes per game. In his final season in the NBA, he would play as a bench piece off the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers.

He has returned to Europe to pursue his basketball career.

8. Dante Exum, 2014 NBA Draft, 5th Pick

The Utah Jazz selected Dante Exum with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. His rookie season saw him play and start the most games of his career and the most minutes per game.

Injuries played a significant part in his struggle in the NBA, missing his whole second season after tearing his ACL. In his third season, he became a significant part of the Jazz roster, starting 26 games, but averaged fewer minutes per game at 18.6, scoring 6.2 points. Exum minutes declined every year after, and he only started one more game in his final two seasons with the Jazz. He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, playing 30 games for them before being traded to the Houston Rockets while he was injured. He would never play a game for the Rockets, and even though he re-signed in 2021, he was still cut before the season started.

He returned to the Cavaliers in 2020, playing six games, before officially making the move to European basketball.

7. Dragan Bender, 2016 NBA Draft, 4th Pick

Dragan Bender #35 of the Phoenix Suns high fives De'Anthony Melton #14
Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

After being one of the top talents in Europe, Dragan Bender entered the 2016 NBA Draft. The Suns selected him fourth overall. He did not start a single game, averaging 13.3 minutes, and suffered an ankle injury that shortened his rookie season.

Bender’s sophomore season was his best, playing all 82 games, starting in 37, with 25.2 minutes per game. Despite being given the minutes to succeed, Bender struggled, with 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. His minutes dropped in his third season to 18 minutes per game, and his stats stayed roughly the same at five points and four rebounds per game. It was not good enough for the Suns to pick up his fourth-year option, letting him become a free agent. He signed with the Milakwee Bucks on a two-year deal, but midway through the first, he was released and finished the season with the Golden State Warriors. In the 2019-20 season, he only played in 16 NBA games.

He returned to play in Europe after his contract with the Warriors ended during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

6. Thomas Robinson, 2012 NBA Draft, 5th Pick

After three years in college playing for Kansas, the Sacramento Kings selected Thomas Robinson with the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He would be traded during his rookie season after the Kings had too many centers on the roster. Robinson was traded three times in his first three years in the seasons, which could have affected his lack of success.

He never averaged over 15 minutes per game in his rookie season and did not start a game until the 2014-15 season on his third team. Robinson was traded again that season to the Denver Nuggets, who cut him before playing a game, allowing him to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers. With the 76ers, he had the best run, averaging 8.8 points with 7.7 rebounds per game in 18.5 minutes. He signed with the Brooklyn Nets and the Lakers for his last two seasons before playing for other leagues around the world.

5. Jahlil Okafor, 2015 NBA Draft, 3rd Pick

Nigeria's Jahlil Okafor goes to the basket past Italy's Achille Polonara (R)
Aris MESSINIS / AFP

Jahil Okafor was selected third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2015 NBA Draft and made an immediate impact. After winning a national title in his freshman and only year in college at Duke, Okafor averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds, playing 30 minutes per game starting in 48 games. Part of his success could have been because the 76ers team was so bad that it allowed Okafor to succeed as a focal point.

His rookie season was a success, but it was a quick decline after the 76ers started to see a future with Joel Embiid as their center. His second season saw a dip in minutes and stats, and he was traded to the Nets in his third season. He joined the New Orleans Pelicans and had a mini-resurgence, starting 24 games averaging 8.2 points. He split between the Pelicans and the Detroit Pistons in his final two seasons, only playing 57 games.

Okafor now plays in China.

4. Jan Vesely, 2011 NBA Draft, 6th Pick

With the sixth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Wizards selected Jan Vesely. He was considered one the best professional players in Europe. However, when he got to the NBA, he could never find his footing.

In his rookie season, he started 20 games averaging 18.9 minutes with 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Vesely played three more seasons in the NBA and only started six more games for the rest of his career. He averaged just 3.1 points and three rebounds per game and was traded to the Denver Nuggets in his final year, only playing 21 games for the Nuggets.

Vesely went back to playing in Europe, where he has done well, winning EuroLeague MVP in 2019.

3. Jimmer Fredette, 2011 NBA Draft, 10th Pick

The hype surrounding Jimmer Fredette when he left college was insane. He had been one of the best college players in the country after four years at BYU, and he fascinated fans with his ability to shoot from deep. His fame in college was a big reason why the Kings traded for him after being selected by the Bucks.

In his rookie season, he started seven games, the only starts in his career, averaging 18.6 minutes and 7.6 points per game. His second season saw his minutes dip, but he still averaged over seven points per game. In his third season, the Kings cut him after 49 games, and Fredette finished that season with the Chicago Bulls. He signed with the Pelicans for the 2014-15 season, who let him go, but then re-signed him again the following season due to injuries. He spent some time playing for the Knicks affiliate team in the D-League, appearing in two Knicks games.

From 2016 to 2019, Fredette played in China Basketball but played well enough to get a contract from the Suns in 2019, playing in six games before returning to playing for teams around the world.

2. Derrick Williams, 2011 NBA Draft, 2nd Pick

Derrick Williams #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers
Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Derrick Williams was drafted second overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his rookie season, he joined the All-NBA Rookie team, also participating in the NBA Rising Star Game on All-Star Weekend.

His second season saw him have his best season averaging 12 points in 24.6 minutes per game on 56 starts. However, Williams was traded to the Kings early in his third season and subsequently moved to a bench piece for the rest of his career. After an entire season with the Kings, he signed with the Knicks, making an impact averaging 9.3 points, but not enough to stay around, signing with the Miami Heat in 2016 and appearing in 25 games. After the Heat let him go mid-season, he signed with the Cavaliers, played 25 regular-season games, and appeared in eight playoff games in the Cavaliers’ run to the NBA Finals. The Lakers offered him a 10-day contract the following season but let him go when it ended.

Williams has played overseas since 2018.

1. Anthony Bennett, 2013 NBA Draft, 1st Pick

The 2013 NBA Draft did not have a clear No. 1 pick, but everyone was surprised when Anthony Bennett was picked first overall by the Cavaliers. Bennett was never a bad player, but being selected first overall and the pressure that comes with that selection weighed on him…

In his four-year career, he started four games, three of which came in his second season after being traded to the Timberwolves in the offseason, after averaging 4.2 points in 12.8 minutes per game in his rookie season. His third-year option was picked up by the Timberwolves but was waived before the start of the 2015 season. He signed with the Toronto Raptors, spending a lot of time in the D-League, before being released. He signed a two-year deal with the Nets but only played 11 games, once again spending time in the D-League, before being waived in the first year of his contract.

Bennett has spent most of his time in Europe playing. He did sign with the Suns in 2017, who waived him after less than a month and moved him to the G-League.

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