#20: Hasheem Thabeet, 2009
There’s no real argument against Hasheem Thabeet being one of the biggest busts in NBA history. Across his short-lived career, Thabeet averaged 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.1 assists. Shortly after GM’s realized there was no real potential, Thabeet was bounced from the league and has never made a return since. What makes matters worse is that Thabeet was chosen ahead of James Harden, Steph Curry, and Demar Derozan.
#19. Jay Williams, 2002
This choice is slightly different than the rest, as Jay Williams never really got the chance to show us what kind of NBA career he was capable of. A motorcycle crash forced him to retire after his rookie season, severely costing the Chicago Bulls franchise who used their 2nd pick on him. Williams was one of the best players in college basketball history, so who’s to say if it could have translated over a long NBA career. Sadly, the world will never know.
#18. Darko Milicic. 2003
Although Darko Milicic did end up playing nine NBA seasons, his career averages would wind up at an underwhelming 6.0 points, 0.9 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game. He is notoriously best known for the players who were selected after him, including Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. He grabs the 18th spot on this list because he did end up lasting in the league for a respectable nine years, and he even won a title with the Pistons in 2004.
#17. Stromile Swift, 2000
Aside from a few rim-rattling dunk highlights, Stromile Swift had a poor NBA career for a 2nd overall pick. Through eight seasons, Swift averaged 8.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.5 assists. He only played for two playoff teams and was never an impactful player for an organization. For these reasons, Swift takes the 17th spot on the list.
#16. Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist, 2012
Coming out of Kentucky, expectations were high for Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist. He has just won the NCAA Championship as the second option to Anthony Davis, and the two were perceived to be future NBA stars. This prediction proved to be half-right, as Davis is an All-Star while Kidd-Gilchrist is a mediocre NBA player. Although nowhere near an All-Star, Kidd-Gilchrist has put up two seasons with double-digit scoring numbers, and his size and athleticism have allowed him to develop into a decent defensive player. Regardless, his funky jump-shot and inability to improve his skills place him at #17 on our list.
#15. Derrick Williams, 2011
Derrick Williams currently plays professional basketball in Turkey. We can be certain that when the Minnesota Timberwolves chose him at second overall, they were not expecting that sort of trajectory. After putting up absolutely monster numbers at Arizona–17 points and 7 rebounds on 58 percent from the field and 51 percent from three–Williams was seen to be a bright young star in the NBA. Unfortunately for him, he would fall far short of these aspirations. Williams never could overcome his shooting efficiency woes, and NBA defense prevented him from dominating with his strength and athleticism as he had in college. He bounced from team to team during his nine NBA seasons, always able to contribute around eight points per game, but hardly evermore.
#14 Jabari Parker, 2014
At this point in the list, we start to veer away from the bust-category and get closer to solid NBA players. Jabari Parker, through his six years in the league, has put up an impressive 15.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. By looking at those numbers alone, Parker seems to be a role-player capable of contributing meaningfully to an organization. What doesn’t pop out from this stat line is how Parker has dealt with a string of severe injuries during his professional career. These injuries have restrained Parker from developing fully, so once he can get past them, his potential is still sky-high.
#13 Michael Beasley, 2008
Although Michael Beasley was somewhat of a disappointment for a #2 pick, he has had a decent NBA career. Beasley has always had raw scoring talent, averaging as much as 19.2 points in his best season with Minnesota, in his third year in the NBA. However, Beasley would slowly decline after this season, never again seeing averages of more than 13 points per game. Beasley contributed respectable scoring for ten seasons; the main critique of his #2 selection comes when you see who was taken after him. This list includes names like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Serge Ibaka, and Deandre Jordan. All aspects considered, Michael Beasley lands at the #13 spot on our list.
#12. Marvin Williams, 2005
Marvin Williams has put together a solid NBA career. He was never an All-Star caliber player, but through 15 seasons, Williams was generally a starter who contributed meaningful minutes. Although much better players were chosen after him, The Atlanta Hawks can’t be too upset about their choice, as he gave them seven good years of consistent scoring and rebounding. Even now, towards the end of his career, the Milwaukee Bucks picked him up to play as their backup power forward. When the best team in the NBA wants you on their roster, it’s typically a sign you are a valuable asset.
#11. Marvin Bagley, 2018
Marvin Bagley is a terrific young player in today’s NBA. Bagley stands at 6’11, yet can shoot the ball and has guard skills, making him a perfect fit for modern basketball. In his rookie year, he put up 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, certainly encouraging numbers for the Kings front office. While Sacramento is amidst a rebuild, they likely will look to hold on to Bagley as he continues to develop as a player. All-Star status is well within reach for Bagley in the near future.
#10. Emeka Okafor, 2004
Widely unknown to the modern basketball fan is that Emeka Okafor won rookie of the year in 2005, edging out Dwight Howard, Ben Gordon, and Andre Iguodala. He was a walking double-double this season, averaging 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds while starting 73 games. Okafor would continue to average double-digits in scoring and rebounding for his next five NBA seasons. Okafor was an extremely underrated player due to his non-flashy play-style and reserved on-court personality. Nonetheless, the man had a great career and deserved recognition as one of the better big men of the 2000s.
#9. Evan Turner, 2010
Evan Turner has played crucial roles for multiple playoff teams throughout his time in the NBA. Turner is excellent at fulfilling whatever his team needs from him, even if it is at the expense of his own numbers. Early in his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Turner proved his ability to lead a team, averaging as much as 17.4 points per game one season. However, as he progressed in his career, Turner became a selfless player, doing whatever his team wanted to win. Every good team needs a player like Turner to have success, and for that reason, he lands at #9 on our list.
#8. Lonzo Ball, 2017
Going into Lonzo Ball’s rookie year, it was nearly impossible to live up to the hype. He struggled mightily with his confidence, which consequently took its tolls on his shooting percentages. He failed to take advantage of his athleticism and thus had a wildly disappointing entrance into the NBA. When he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans after just two seasons in LA, people were beginning to give up on the kid. However, playing in a small market has allowed Ball to finally blossom into the player we all thought he could be. He drastically changed his shooting stroke, and as a result, Ball now is shooting a hair under 40 percent from deep. Ball has also established himself as one of the elite on-ball defenders in the NBA, an ability that should not be overlooked. With a few more years of improvement, Ball could legitimately turn into a triple-double machine.
#7. Tyson Chandler, 2001
Tyson Chandler’s career resume speaks for itself. He has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team three times and was even awarded the Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 while with the New York Knicks. Chandler has played for the US National Team on two occasions, winning Gold Medals in the 2010 FIBA World Championship and 2012 Summer Olympics. Chandler played an integral role on the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks team, and he would go on to make the All-Star team two years later. After racking up these types of accolades, it’s only fitting that Chandler takes the #7 spot on our ranking.
#6.Victor Oladipo, 2013
Before the devastating quad injury of last year, Victor Oladipo was emerging as one of the better shooting guards in the NBA. In 2017-18, Oladipo was putting up 23.1 points, 4.3 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game. In the playoffs that year, Oladipo essentially single-handedly took the Lebron-led Cavs to seven games, albeit it did end in a series loss. In that series, Oladipo averaged a whopping 22.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 2.4 steal, which is insane numbers for the 25-year-old. Unfortunately, the injury did appear to set Oladipo back quite a bit, especially in terms of his athletic ability. If we were to judge him purely based on his career before the injury, he would appear a few spots higher on the list, but that is not the case.
#5. D’Angelo Russell, 2015
D’Angelo Russell is an elite point guard in the NBA; there’s not much else to it. Ever since his rookie year, Russell has shown progression in all aspects of his game, from maturity to on-court skills. After leaving the Lakers following his sophomore season, Russell blossomed into his own playstyle with the Brooklyn Nets, and he has never looked back. In the 2018-19 season, Rusell averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. He would go on to lead this underdog Brooklyn squad to a competitive series loss against the Philadelphia 76ers. Although Russell has been traded around and now plays for much less competitive teams, he demonstrated his potential early in his career. Russell can certainly lead a team, we now just have to wait and see for when he gets the right pieces around him.
#4. Ja Morant, 2019
Ja Morant’s dazzling rookie year was cut off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but he gave us enough evidence through 59 games to conclude his high spot on this list. Freakish athletic ability combined with great passing instincts and a silky stroke grant Morant a seemingly endlessly tall ceiling. Although he hasn’t had a full season of NBA experience, Morant was averaging 17.6 points and 6.9 assists while shooting a ridiculous 52.3 percent from the field. As a rookie. Who knows how good he will be once he puts on some muscle and refines his jumper. Morant will most likely be a superstar in the near-future of the NBA.
#3. Brandon Ingram, 2016
After getting traded to the New Orleans Pelicans alongside teammates Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram made an astonishing jump in his level of play. He went from averaging 18.3 points to 24.3 points, on shooting splits of 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. Through one off-season, Ingram transformed himself from a disappointing lottery pick to a bonafide star. Whenever the NBA returns, the trio of Ingram/Ball/Williamson will be one to be reckoned with.
#2. Lamarcus Aldridge, 2006
LaMarcus Aldrige has made seven All-Star teams. For that alone, Aldridge deserves our #2 spot on the list. Through 14 seasons in the NBA, the 6’11’’ power forward has been a lethal offensive player. The mid-range shot has defined his play-style, detailed in his career average shot distance of 11 feet. Aldridge has boasted such an impressive career that according to Basketball Reference, he has a 51.3 percent chance of making the NBA Hall of Fame.
#1. Kevin Durant, 2007
When compiling selections for this ranking, this spot was the easiest to fill. Kevin Durant will go down as one of the best scorers in NBA history. Durant is miles above everyone else on this list, with the accolades to back it up. Durant is a four-time scoring champ, two-time NBA Champion, MVP, and the list only goes on. Per Basketball Reference, Durant has an 100 percent chance of making the Basketball Hall of Fame. Enough said.