Anthony Bennett is the latest number one draft pick that could turn out to be one of the worst number one picks of all-time. The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised General Managers everywhere around the league by taking the 19-year-old Bennett with the number one pick, when he probably could have dropped all the way to the fourth or fifth pick. If you asked the Cavaliers to do it again, they would probably draft Michael Carter Williams or Victor Oladipo.
Needless to say, this isn’t the first time that a team has selected the wrong player with the lucky number one pick. General managers have been fired time and time again for selecting the wrong player and passing up on the right players. This decision has changed the course of a franchise’s destiny for over a decade and sometimes close to two decades.
Consider what happens when an organization selects the right number one pick. The San Antonio Spurs have had two number one draft picks over the course of 25 years; they were David Robinson and Tim Duncan. As a result of these two picks, the San Antonio Spurs have had the best winning percentage in all of sports and have won four NBA titles. Had the Spurs drafted another player in either of those drafts, the Spurs wouldn’t even be in the city of San Antonio anymore, they would be in Austin or in another state.
Sometimes having the number one pick is a blessing and at other times it is a curse. It is a blessing if the number one pick is a unanimous no-brainer like Shaquille O’Neal or LeBron James, but at other times it is almost better trading down for a lower pick since there is no unanimous number one pick.
Here is a list of the worst number one draft picks of all-time that have cost general managers their jobs and have haunted organizations for decades.
10 Andrea Bargnani – Toronto Raptors (2006)
Andrea Bargnani entered the league with a bang by making the All-Rookie First Team. The Raptors were hoping that Bargnani would pan out as the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, but eight years later and he has looked more like the anti-Dirk.
The big man from Italy has all the tools to be an All-Star, but lacks the discipline and focus to ever live up to the hype of being the number one pick. What makes Bargnani an even worse number one draft pick is that the Raptors rewarded him with a $50 million contract, which has only added salt to the wounds of Raptor fans.
Bargnani was selected before:
Rajon Rondo, Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge.
9 Joe Smith – Golden State Warriors (1995)
The Golden State Warriors selected Joe Smith out of the University of Maryland with the number one pick. By the time Smith’s 16-year career was over, Smith played for thirteen different teams; fifteen if you count the two teams that he played for twice.
That means that Smith was traded almost every year he played in the NBA; not something that you exactly want to be known for. The former Terrapin took the title of NBA journeyman to a whole other level.
Smith was selected before:
8 Pervis Ellison – Sacramento Kings (1989)
After winning a NCAA title with Louisville, “Never Nervous Pervis” was selected with the number one pick in the ’89 draft. Pervis missed 48 games his rookie year and was traded after only one year with the Kings. Unfortunately, “Never Nervous Pervis” would eventually be nicknamed “Out of Service Pervis” throughout his career. Two knee problems and a broken toe kept Ellison on and off the floor his entire career.
Ellison was selected before:
7 Andy Tonkovich – Providence Steamrollers (1948)
This is going way back, but Andy Tonkovich was selected with the number one pick in the second draft in NBA history. Tonkovich only played one season in the NBA where he averaged 2.9 ppg and 0.6 apg in just 17 games. Tonkovich would have been the undisputed worst pick of all-time had he been drafted in a later era, but since 1948 was so early in the history of the NBA, he gets a mulligan with the number seven rank.
Tonkovich was selected before:
6 Bill McGill – Chicago Zephyrs (1962)
Bill McGill was a monster in college, so every general manager in the league would have chosen McGill had they had the number one pick in ’67. McGill led the country in scoring at the University of Utah averaging and incredible 38.8 points per game.
However, McGill only ended up playing three years in the NBA and averaged 10.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg. Quite a disappointment.
McGill was selected before:
5 Kwame Brown – Washington Wizards (2001)
Kwame Brown was Michael Jordan’s first major decision as a team president and boy was it a bad one. Brown was drafted right out of high school and is your quintessential player who should have spent a few years in college before jumping to the pros.
Brown is a human specimen at 6’11 and 270 pounds, but he had stone hands and a low basketball IQ, which is a terrible combination for a big man.
Brown finished his ten-year career on seven different teams with averages of 6.8 ppg and 5.6 rpg.
Brown was selected before:
4 Kent Benson – Milwaukee Bucks (1977)
Unfortunately, the only thing Kent Benson will be remembered for is being punched in the face by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar two minutes into his pro career. The former number one pick by the Bucks had his jaw broken, but more importantly his competitive edge as well.
Benson had averages of 9.1 ppg and 5.7 rpg and finished his career in Italy.
Benson was selected before:
Marques Johnson, Jack Sikma, and Otis Birdsong,
3 Michael Olowokandi – Los Angeles Clippers (1998)
The big man from Pacific University was a bit of a surprise pick, since he came from a no name school. However, general managers were intrigued by Kandi-Man’s size and potential, but during his nine-year career, it never actually realized.
Olowokandi finished his career with averages of 8.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg.
Olowokandi was selected before:
2 LaRue Martin – Portland Trailblazers (1972)
The Portland Trailblazers have the luxury of winning this undesired award twice. Martin was taken ahead of Bob McAdoo and Julius Erving, and lasted just four years in the NBA. At 6’11, Martin had a career average of 5.3 ppg and 4.6 rpg with an average of 14 minutes per game, which are the worst of any player on this list; earning him the prestigious award of being one of the worst first picks of all-time.
Martin was selected before:
Bob McAdoo and Julius Erving.
1 Greg Oden – Portland Trailblazers (2007)
If Greg Oden was even remotely healthy, he could arguably be the best center in the NBA today. During his college days at Ohio State University, Oden injured his right hand and shot his free throws left-handed. That is how talented Greg Oden was.
Additionally, Oden was even more talented on defense than he was on offense. He was the best interior defender in the country, controlling and dominating the paint on every defensive possession.
So, when Oden declared for the NBA draft, ten out of ten general managers would have selected the 7’1 behemoth with the number one pick.
Unfortunately, Oden ended up being the second coming of Bill Walton; a player with an illustrious college career that was derailed by injuries in his pro career.
During seven seasons in and out of the NBA, Oden has played in less than 100 games; a tally that some players accomplish in a single season including the playoffs.
Oden was selected before:
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