Being the number one pick guarantees certain benefits. You don’t get cut from the roster for two-three years; you get paid a huge sum and revel in the publicity that only teens dream about. However, not many turn out to be sensations that are predicted out of them. In fact, very few lottery picks shine in today’s NBA compared to late first round and second round picks.
Here we compile the worst of the number 1 overall picks of all time – players who failed to cement a place amongst NBA’s grandeur despite the backing of an entire city.
5. Pervis Ellison
PPG: 9.5, RPG: 6.7 and BPG: 1.6
The numbers that Ellison put up throughout his career were within the bracket of an average player. But he was drafted as the number 1 overall pick in the 1989 Draft by the Sacramento Kings. With the tag of being the number 1 overall pick, comes a heap of expectations. And that’s what Ellison failed to live up to.
Under Denny Crum in Louisville, Kentucky, Ellison was a star. He was 6’ 9” which was termed problematic against other tall centers in the NCAA tournament. Despite his height being a concern, Ellison and Louisville was a happily married couple. In his freshman year, Ellison won Final Four Player of the Year and graduated after four years as a venerated Cardinal with stats of 17.6 points, 2.5 assists and nearly 3 blocks a game. Such was the hype surrounding Ellison that he was projected a top 5 draft pick at the beginning of his final college season itself.
Unlike his nickname (Never Nervous Pervis) that suggests his composure, Ellison flopped and was spoofed in the NBA as “Mr. Buttery Hands”. What made it worse was the draftees after him such as Glen Rice and Tim Hardaway were All-NBA team members. Ellison, meanwhile, shambled on the court having never crossed a double-double season once. After 11 miserable seasons, Pervis Ellison fell off the radar in the NBA.
4. Michael Olowokandi
PPG: 8.3, RPG: 6.8 and BPG: 1.4
When Michael Olowokandi was drafted number 1 by a pathetic Clippers management, they shouldn’t have marketed him as “the next Olajuwon”. Total fail!
Even if that hadn’t happened, Olowokandi was still too ambitious of a pick to be drafted that high. In a league where very few centers drafted have made it out successfully, the Nigerian born was looking at playing within the fringes of any organization – especially considering he played in a below par team in University of the Pacific (wait, what? Who are they?). Despite his gigantic of a stature and toothpaste ad of a smile, Olowokandi never really got off in the league. Taking up basketball at the age of 18 showed how inadequately equipped his game was with sometimes missing sitters under the rim, most notably his dunks. Haunted by injuries and inconsistent play, Olowokandi’s minutes were cut as he progressed in his career. In his retirement, the British citizen’s best season was a laughable 45% within the paint and 66% from the free throw line.
The only reason he is not anywhere above in this list is because he was a solid blocker for most of his career and a decent man-marker.
3. Greg Oden
PPG: 9.4, RPG: 7.3 and BPG: 1.4
“I really pity Greg Oden; I really wish he fired in the NBA.”- Anonymous
Oden, who played for Ohio State as one of ‘Thad Matta’s 5 superstars’, singlehandedly took the Buckeyes to the National Championship game. His season averages were phenomenal for a freshman, often winning games by himself. Although questions were asked about his true age, Oden till today remains the best recruit in Ohio State’s recent memory. Brushing that aside, Oden shouldn’t have been picked as number 1 in the draft which had better talents like Kevin Durant and Al Horford – both of whom are All-Star regulars.
The Portland Trail Blazers, eternally documented for their poor draft policy, have never had Oden play for an entire season. To add further misery, the Trail Blazers (who drafted Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan) have seen Oden play in just two seasons out of the six where he combined for only 82 games. Such is the condition of the man’s knee that he risks tearing, breaking or rupturing it each time he even “walks” on the court. Greg Oden might have been extremely unlucky with injuries, but when given time, he did no justice to being picked number 1. Today, Oden has no contract offers. He could possibly never play the game of basketball again.
2. LaRue Martin
PPG: 5.3, RPG: 4.3 and BPG: 0.5
Who is LaRue Martin? Do you know? Neither do I. This is how unknown a number 1 pick has become, drafted ahead of legends like Bob McAdoo, Julius Irving in the ’72 draft. And there are no easier guesses than who grabbed this mysterious guy – THE PORTLAND TROLL BLAZERS.
LaRue had a great college career. He was publicized after his victorious duels against Bill Walton in one of the several Loyola vs. UCLA title runs. The Trail Blazers, who are just so impressed with any center that makes it to the NCAA final, drafted him hoping he would carry the same form to the NBA. He didn’t. And it ends here there. He lasted four seasons in the NBA, in none of which he played predominantly. Not many websites list LaRue Martin’s present location till recently one Portland fan spotted him in a UPS office. How sad, LaRue!
1. Kwame Brown
PPG: 6.8, RPG: 5.6 and BPG: 0.6
If anybody associates NBA as a scam, they need to look no further than this man. He’s played for eight teams in 11 years. Last season, he had zero blocks. In 2007, he shot 40 percent of his free throws – you read it right, 40 percent. Throughout his “illustrious” career, he’s never recorded a double-double season. And all this to match he’s been paid 68 million over these years and was the first high school graduate to be drafted number 1.
Now, look at the players drafted below Brown – Tyson Chandler, Joe Johnson, Zack Randolph, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier and Gilbert Arenas. Till today, I haven’t figured why teams offer him a contract. If Greg Oden wasn’t offered a chance by the Trail Blazers, so shouldn’t be Kwame Brown. He offers no hope under the rim nor does he play with commitment and dedication. So far, during his time in the NBA, he has made the newspapers for all the wrong reasons like rape accusation, cake throwing and arrested for disorderly conduct. To think of it that the 76ers actually signed him this free agency, makes me cry.
Kwame Brown: the worst number 1 draft pick of all time!
Stats from Espn.com
PS: Two things to learn from this article – Portland Trail Blazers can’t draft for nuts and centers are the least likely to be successful as number 1 draft picks. Be aware, Anthony Davis!