2006 NBA Draft

10 worst NBA draft classes of all-time

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When looking for the worst NBA draft class ever there are a number of drafts that immediately stand out. There are a few issues with the NBA draft that make an entire class much more likely to fail than an NFL draft class.

Firstly, there are just two rounds. This means if a couple of “can’t miss” prospects do miss then there isn’t a lot to pick up the slack. Secondly, the era of straight out of high school players made gauging potential NBA success much more difficult than football players with three years of college experience.

Worst NBA Draft Class

There are some bad NBA draft classes that stand out above the rest. Some of these had big swings and misses at the top, while others saw teams constantly pick busts and players that had mediocre (at best) careers in the league. Here is a look at the biggest NBA draft busts in history.


We start the list of worst NBA draft classes with the 2002 NBA Draft. This class did give us one Hall of Famer, but as good as Yao Ming was (and at his peak he was outstanding) he was never able to push the Houston Rockets over the top before knee issues took him out of the game after eight seasons.

After Ming, and with a nod to high school pick Amar’e Stoudemire and No. 35 choice Carlos Boozer, there is basically nothing here.


Nine of the 57 picks never even made it to the league, including No. 30 overall choice Steve Logan who engaged in a contract dispute with Golden State before plying his trade in Poland.


The early-to-mid-1970s were not a bright spot for NBA drafts with star power. This draft produced a couple of Hall of Famers in No. 30 overall pick Spencer Haywood and No. 117 pick Artis Gilmore.

This was a time when some of the picks would opt for the ABA and outside of the two Hall of Fame centers and brief spells from players such as Sidney Wicks and Austin Carr, there just isn’t much meat here. There are 25 All-Star games total in the class, with enough in the ABA to make that number a little exaggerated.


Comfortably the oldest draft class on the list, this is the only draft class to date that has failed to produce more than a single All-Star. This was the sixth draft in the history of the league and obviously, back at this stage, the scouting of college players was rudimentary at best.


Even so, to get just one player with All-Star caliber over 106 picks is astonishing.

Of the 106 picks, only 33 made it to play a single NBA game and only 12 played for more than one season. These are both all-time lows. Hall of Famer Clyde Lovellette was the No. 9 pick overall, at that time the final first-round selection, and he went on to have a decade-long career after being selected by the Minneapolis Lakers. The rest was awful.


This class is looked at as one of the biggest NBA draft busts because of how the early picks went on to do little to nothing in their careers. No. 1 overall pick Ralph Sampson is a Hall of Famer, but his production fell apart after his five years in Houston (and arguably one season for Golden State) as the 7-foot-4 center’s knees simply gave out on him.

The rest of the top five were Steve Stipanovich, Rodney McCray, Byron Scott, and Sidney Green. Scott is the most notable, and that was for his time as a coach.

The only truly consistent difference-maker in this class was No. 14 pick Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers. Unless you count Manute Bol blocking shots for 16 minutes a game.


It would have been interesting to see exactly where Brandon Roy‘s career would have taken him if not for knee injuries that basically destroyed the path of the No. 6 overall pick. Andrea Bargnani at No. 1 had a couple of decent seasons in the middle of his career before fading, while Adam Morrison (3), Tyrus Thomas (4), and Shelden Williams (5) were all busts.

Rajon Rondo had his moments and J.J. Redick had a long career as a premier perimeter shooter, but there just isn’t much to this group.


No. 1 overall pick David Thompson was an elite player in the ABA and as it transitioned into the NBA with the Denver Nuggets. His career would have been even greater, however, if not for drug problems and a knee injury that forced him into retirement after eight full seasons.

This is a class with plenty of players opting for the ABA at their early peak before switching leagues. World B. Free is another notable name that was a flashy player for a short time, while most everyone else filled a role without being a star or flamed out of the league quickly. Just 13-All-Star games here, including some in the much smaller ABA.


The 1990 NBA draft class had a legit Hall of Famer in Gary Payton and then a bunch of guys who were mostly interchangeable parts.

Players like Toni Kukoc, Antonio Davis, and Dennis Scott all played their roles well; Kukoc is a three-time NBA champion with the Bulls, but none of them were game-changers.

Top overall pick Derrick Coleman was supposed to be a superstar and for whatever reason, it never quite worked out. There are 14 All-Star games and 11 All-NBA teams in the class, almost all by Payton, one of the best perimeter defenders in league history.


The worst “way back” draft class was the 1973 group. This draft consisted of 20 rounds, but you would be hard-pressed to find a name you recognize out of it.

George McGinnis at No. 22 overall, which then was the fourth pick of the second round, is the only Hall of Famer in the class. He, like many players in the class, played at least part of their career in the ABA and almost none of them adjusted to the NBA after switching leagues.

Doug Collins is probably the headliner as a four-time All-Star who was known for his scoring and not much else.


Easily the most difficult class to assess on this list is the 1986 NBA Draft class. No. 2 overall pick Len Bias was selected by a Boston Celtics team that was one of the best ever and immediately tipped for greatness. Bias died of a drug overdoes just days after the draft.

No. 60 pick Drazen Petrovic was an elite long-range shooter that averaged 22.3 points per game in his fifth season in the league with the Nets before dying in a traffic accident in Germany that summer.

Arvydas Sabonis didn’t enter the NBA until 1995 despite being drafted No. 24 overall here because of political reasons. Those two players are the only Hall of Famers in the group outside of Dennis Rodman in what is (fittingly) the weirdest class of all time.

Read more: NBA Draft lottery explained


This class got slightly better over time and there are still enough players in the league to improve it further but it is still a pretty poor effort.

It started at the top with the Cavs taking Anthony Bennett at No. 1 overall. Bennett was last seen playing for Hapoel Jerusalem in Israel after falling out of the NBA, having spent four years on four different teams.

The case for worse NBA draft class continues with a top five featuring Otto Porter Jr., Cody Zeller, and Alex Len, alongside Victor Oladipo who is one of only three All-Stars in the class. The draft is entirely saved by the No. 15 overall pick, with one Greek Freak completely transforming the Milwaukee Bucks franchise.


It is easy to beat up on the 2000 NBA draft class, but it really is about as bad as it gets.

The top five picks were Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer and Mike Miller. Martin was seen as the only “can’t miss” and he broke his leg before playing an NBA game and never got back to the level he was expected to be.

There are three All-Star games COMBINED in the entire class, with one of those being from pick No. 19 Jamaal Magloire.

The draft reads like a who’s who of end of the bench players, with picks in the top 20 like Mateen Cleaves and Jerome Moiso summing up what this draft was all about. The only player to make an All-NBA team was No. 43 pick Michael Redd. Just a bad, bad draft and the worst NBA draft class of all time.

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1 thought on “10 worst NBA draft classes of all-time”

  1. While I agree that this draft class was weak, Derek Harper, Jeff Malone, Dale Ellis, Byron Scott, Doc Rivers (!), and Craig Ehlo were all good players on contending teams for many years. McCray was a good player, and very underrated. It’s not Rodney’s fault that Ralph had bad knees and the entire Rockets’ backcourt succumbed to drugs (Lewis Lloyd, John Lucas, and Mitchell Wiggins were all suspended after Houston’s run to the Finals in ’86.). Had those guys kept their noses clean, the Rockets would have contended for several more seasons, even without Sampson. But those lost players set us back 5 years.

    McCray was Shane Battier with better offensive skills. He was a terrific defensive player, a good shooter, and played Point Forward for several seasons while they gathered some guards to replace the depleted backcourt. He posted 11.7 points, 6.6 Rebounds, and 3.6 Assists for his career. We got Otis Thorpe for him in ’88. Otis was an integral part of the Rockets’ 1994 NBA Championship.

    There’s 8-10 other guys from that draft who had solid, and lengthy, careers – Thurl Bailey, Darrell Walker, Antoine Carr, Sedale Threatt, John Paxson, Mark West, and a few other guys each played well over 600 NBA games. Most of those guys played over 800 games. West played in over a thousand.

    A crappy draft, but I felt these guys needed to be mentioned.

    (On a side note, Ehlo was basically given away, and Houston could have drafted Clyde instead of Rodney. Imagine Drexler and Hakeem playing their entire careers together. We fans were upset when they waived Ehlo. We all could see how badly we needed him in the aftermath of “coke-gate.” Oh what coulda been…)

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