The Bust Ratio

What are the odds your team drafts a first-round bust?

June 25, 2007

By Bryan Armen Graham

CSTV.com

 



BRYAN GRAHAM

Bryan is a basketball editor for CSTV.com and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
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It was the Spanish-American essayist and philosopher George Santayana who said those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

 

With that maxim in mind, I took a look at past drafts over the weekend to evaluate each franchise's body of work during the Lottery Era -- with the idea of determining which teams select lemons with the highest frequency. Since fair long-term assessments can't be made on most players selected over the past two years, I limited the scope to the 20 drafts between 1985 and 2004. Each team's first-round selections over that span were graded on a six-point scale:

 

                6 points for a current or future Hall of Famer

5 points for a superstar

                4 points for a star


 

 

                3 points for a career pro

                2 points for a disappointment

                1 point for a bust

                0 points for Shawn Bradley (or any similar civic embarrassment)

 

So using history as an indicator, what are the odds your team picks a first-round bust in Thursday's draft? Here's how the 29 franchises stack up from least likely to most likely. (Since the expansion Charlotte Bobcats selected just once over the considered span, they were excluded.)

 

 

Most Likely To Succeed

 

29. Indiana (Bust Ratio: 11.76%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.71 (ranks fourth out of 29)

Notable Hit

Reggie Miller, UCLA (No. 11, 1986)

Notable Miss

Scott Haskin, Oregon St. (No. 14, 1993)

 

That less than one in eight of Indiana's first-round picks during the Lottery Era has failed in the pros is a testament to the shrewd leadership of GM Donnie Walsh, whose management has guided the Pacers to the playoffs in 17 out of the last 18 seasons. Walsh became the target of derision among Indiana hoop fans in his second year on the job after his controversial selection of Miller over local hero Steve Alford. But that decision and many subsequent ones have paid dividends over the years.

 

28. New Orleans (Bust Ratio: 13.33%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.87 (ranks second out of 29)

Notable Hit

Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion High (No. 13, 1996)

Notable Miss

Kirk Haston, Indiana (No. 16 pick, 2001)

 

The Hornets can take credit for selecting Bryant with the No. 13 pick, cashing in the unproven high school prospect for a much-needed veteran post player on draft night. And though that decision reeks in retrospect, the Hornets have selected solid pros like Chris Paul, David West, J.R. Smith, Jamaal Magloire, Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson over the years. Haston and UCLA center George Zidek are the only legitimate first-round busts in franchise history.

 

27. Milwaukee (Bust Ratio: 16.67%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.50 (ranks 10th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Dirk Nowitzki, Germany (No. 9, 1998)

Notable Miss

Marcus Haislip, Tennessee (No. 13, 2002)

 

Aside from Haislip, who played just 79 games over three seasons before fizzling out, most of Milwaukee's picks have hung around the league as role players or better. Cincinnati's Danny Fortson, Minnesota's Joel Przybilla, and Georgia Tech's Stephon Marbury are still contributing.

 

27. Memphis (Bust Ratio: 16.67%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.50 (ranks sixth out of 29)

Notable Hit

Drew Gooden, Kansas (No. 4, 2002)

Notable Miss

Bryant Reeves, Oklahoma St. (No. 6, 1995)

 

The first was the worst for the Grizzlies, who selected Reeves with their maiden draft pick. The seven-footer nicknamed "Big Country" was coming off a Final Four appearance with the Pokes and his stock had been inflated appropriately. Since, the expansion team has selected a series of players who have staked productive careers in the league: Gooden, Cal's Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Arizona's Mike Bibby and Duke's Shane Battier, among others.

 

25. Seattle (Bust Ratio: 19.90%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.95 (ranks first out of 29)

Notable Hit

Scottie Pippen, Central Arkansas (No. 5, 1987)

Notable Miss

Robert Swift, Bakersfield High (No. 12, 2004)

 

Seattle gets points for drafting Scottie Pippen, even though the future Hall of Famer never played a game with the team before going to Chicago in a trade for Virginia big man Olden Polynice. But despite that blunder, the Sonics have managed to steer clear of franchise-sinking busts.

 

 

Hits And Misses

 

24. Phoenix (Bust Ratio: 20.00%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.95 (ranks seventh out of 29)

Notable Hit

Steve Nash, Santa Clara (No. 15, 1996)

Notable Miss

William Bedford, Memphis (No. 6, 1986)

 

Selecting a future first-ballot Hall of Fame point guard in the middle of the first round has proven Phoenix's proudest draft moment. Other successes have included UNLV's Shawn Marion (No. 9, 1999) and Wisconsin's Michael Finley (No. 21, 1994).

 

23. Detroit (Bust Ratio: 22.22%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.56 (ranks ninth out of 29)

Notable Hit

Joe Dumars, McNeese St. (No. 18, 1985)

Notable Miss

Rodney White, Charlotte (No. 9, 2001)

 

Dumars helped lead the Bad Boys to a pair of titles in the late `80s and Kentucky swingman Tayshaun Prince (No. 23, 2002) played a key supporting role on the 2004 champions. But the Pistons haven't enjoyed overwhelming success picking in the lottery, as the Grant Hill and Darko Milicic selections would indicate.

 

22. Los Angeles Lakers (Bust Ratio: 25.00%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.31 (ranks 13th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Derek Fisher, Arkansas-Little Rock (No. 24, 1996)

Notable Miss

Sam Jacobson, Minnesota (No. 26, 1998)

 

The 1996 draft proved pivotal for a franchise mired in the hangover of the Showtime years. The Lakers would obtain No. 13 pick Kobe Bryant from Charlotte in exchange for Vlade Divac -- but also drafted a point guard in Fisher who would run the triangle to perfection for a three-time championship team.

 

22. San Antonio (Bust Ratio: 25.00%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.69 (ranks fifth out of 29)

Notable Hits

Tony Parker, Belgium (No. 28, 2001)

Notable Miss

Felipe Lopez, St. John's (No. 24, 1998)

 

The Spurs have been the most consistent team in the league over the past 20 years. But success has come through bedrock No. 1 overall picks David Robinson (1987) and Tim Duncan (1997) rather than regular success in the draft. Aside from those twin towers, the Spurs have had scattershot aim while picking mostly in the twenties: For every Parker or Leandro Barbosa, there's a Bill Curley or Dwayne Schintzius.

 

20. Golden State (Bust Ratio: 27.27%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.59 (ranks eighth out of 29)

Notable Hits

Jason Richardson, Michigan St. (No. 5, 2001)

Notable Miss

Chris Washburn, North Carolina St. (No. 3, 1986) 

 

Mega-bust Washburn headlines a list of underwhelmers that includes Todd Fuller, Tellis Frank and Clifford Rozier. However, the Warriors got a few good seasons out of Latrell Sprewell (No. 24, 1992) and drafted the namesakes of Run TMC with a few sage selections during the late `80s: Chris Mullin (No. 7, 1985), Mitch Richmond (No. 5, 1988) and Tim Hardaway (No. 14, 1989).

 

20. Toronto (Bust Ratio: 27.27%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.82 (ranks third out of 29)

Notable Hits

Tracy McGrady, Mt. Zion Academy (No. 9, 1997)

Notable Miss

Jonathan Bender, Picayune High (No. 5, 1999)

 

No one knows more about rolling the dice on high school players than the Raptors, who experienced the pros (McGrady) and cons (Bender) of the gamble over a three-year span. Of the first-round picks in franchise history, only Bender, Villanova grad Michael Bradley and Barton County C.C. product Alek Radojevic are out of the league today.

 

18. Miami (Bust Ratio: 28.57%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.36 (ranks 12th out of 29)

Notable Hits

Dwyane Wade, Marquette (No. 5, 2003)

Notable Miss

Harold Miner, USC (No. 12, 1992)

 

Wade led the franchise to its first and only NBA championship. But while Miner gave the expansion Heat some much-needed P.R. with a pair of Slam Dunk titles, "Baby Jordan" didn't offer much during the regular season. Still, the Heat has managed to select a respectable number of career pros, including Caron Butler, Kurt Thomas, Steve Smith and Glen Rice.

 

 

Blind Squirrels

 

17. Cleveland (Bust Ratio: 31.82%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.49 (ranks 11th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Kevin Johnson, California (No. 7, 1987)

Notable Misses

Dajuan Wagner, Memphis (No. 6, 2002); Chris Mihm, Texas (No. 7, 2000)

 

The Cavaliers won the LeBron sweepstakes in 2003 and got dependable center Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the later stages of the first round back in 1996. But ill-advised picks like Trajan Langdon (No. 11, 1999) and Luke Jackson (No. 10, 2004) fit alongside obvious busts Wagner and Mihm.

 

16. Boston (Bust Ratio: 33.33%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.29 (ranks 14th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Paul Pierce, Kansas (No. 10, 1998)

Notable Misses

Kedrick Brown, Okaloosa-Walton C.C. (No. 11, 2001); Jerome Moiso (No. 11, 2000)

 

The Celts experienced the worst kind of luck with Maryland's Len Bias, the second pick in the 1986 draft who suffered a tragic heart attack before his first NBA game. But they made their own bed with a horrendous series of selections during the early `90s: Iowa's Acie Earl (No. 19, 1993), North Carolina's Eric Montross (No. 9, 1994) and Providence's Eric Williams (No. 14, 1995).

 

16. Sacramento (Bust Ratio: 33.33%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.00 (ranks 24th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Peja Stojakovic, Greece (No. 14, 1996)

Notable Misses

Billy Owens, Syracuse (No. 3, 1991); Bobby Hurley, Duke (No. 7, 1993)

 

Sacramento's first-round picks between 1989 and 1993 might have made one of the greatest college teams in history: Hurley at the point, Owens and La Salle's Lionel Simmons on the wings with Maryland's Walt Williams and Louisville's Pervis Ellison in the post. It's too bad that group comprises a veritable dream team of disappointing pros.

 

14. Los Angeles Clippers (Bust Ratio: 34.48%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.21 (ranks 20th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Chris Kaman, Central Michigan (No. 6, 2003)

Notable Misses

Darius Miles, East St. Louis High (No. 3, 2000); Bo Kimble, Loyola Marymount (No. 8, 1990)

 

That Kaman is this hard-luck franchise's most notable "hit" says it all. While the Clippers have managed to avoid a high volume of busts, they haven't picked up many great players either.

 

13. Chicago (Bust Ratio: 34.78%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.04 (ranks 23rd out of 29)

Notable Hit

B.J. Armstrong, Iowa (No. 18, 1989)

Notable Misses

Jay Williams, Duke (No. 2, 2002); Marcus Fizer, Iowa St. (No. 4, 2000)

 

Sure, the Bulls didn't get the most desirable draft positions during the dynasty years. But the team's worst gaffes occurred as an annual lottery team following Michael Jordan's second retirement.

 

12. Washington (Bust Ratio: 35.29%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.12 (ranks 21st out of 29)

Notable Hit

Richard Hamilton, Connecticut (No. 7, 1999)

Notable Misses

Calbert Cheaney, Indiana (No. 6, 1993); Kenny Green, Wake Forest (No. 12, 1985)

 

Whether or not Kwame Brown is the worst No. 1 overall pick in history remains a barroom debate for the ages.

 

11. Philadelphia (Bust Ratio: 37.50%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.25 (ranks 16th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Andre Iguodala, Arizona (No. 9, 2004)

Notable Misses

Shawn Bradley, BYU (No. 2, 1994); Sharone Wright, Clemson (No. 6. 1994)

 

The 76ers signed 7-foot-6 post man Bradley to the biggest contract in the history of Philly pro sports at the time -- before the lanky BYU center provided a practical definition of the term "stiff" for a new generation of basketball fans. At least the team went with Allen Iverson over Marcus Camby with the first pick in the 1996 draft.

 

11. New York (Bust Ratio: 37.50%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.19 (ranks 19th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Mark Jackson, St. John's (No. 18, 1987)

Notable Misses

Frederic Weis, France (No. 15, 1999); Dontae' Jones, Mississippi St. (No. 21, 1996)

 

Weis and Jones are lowlights, but selections like Georgetown's Michael Sweetney (No. 9, 2003) have sabotaged New York's seemingly perpetual rebuilding process.

 

9. Utah (Bust Ratio: 38.10%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.00 (ranks 25th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Karl Malone, Louisiana Tech (No. 13, 1985)

Notable Misses

Luther Wright, Seton Hall (No. 18, 1993); Jose Ortiz, Oregon St. (No. 15, 1987)

 

 

Here's another team whose consistent success has kept its draft position low. But Utah's inability to select players who can stick around the league justifies the low standing. Other prominent busts include Estonian native Martin Muursepp, Minnesota's Quincy Lewis and Notre Dame's Ryan Humphrey.

 

8. Houston (Bust Ratio: 38.89%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.11 (ranks 17th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Sam Cassell, Florida St. (No. 24, 1993)

Notable Misses

Alec Kessler, Georgia (No. 12, 1990); Jason Collier, Georgia Tech (No. 15, 2000); Michael Dickerson, Arizona (No. 14, 1998)

 

The Rockets secured two essential cogs to their back-to-back championship teams with astute picks during the early `90s: Cassell and Robert Horry (No. 11, 1992). But besides those scores, Houston's first-round history has been lackluster at best.

 

 

Oops! ... They Did It Again

 

7. New Jersey (Bust Ratio: 38.89%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

1.94 (ranks 27th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Nenad Krstic, Yugoslavia (No. 24, 2002)

Notable Misses

Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall (No. 7, 2001); Ed O'Bannon, UCLA (No. 9, 1995); Yinka Dare, George Washington (No. 14, 1994)

 

Aside from No. 1 overall pick Kenyon Martin, the Nets built the core of their two-time Eastern Conference championship team through the trade market, securing Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Lucious Harris through deals. A pair of high picks during the early `90s -- Syracuse's Derrick Coleman (No. 1, 1990) and Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson (No. 2, 1991) -- enjoyed productive pro careers but have been considered disappointments.

 

6. Minnesota (Bust Ratio: 42.86%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.29 (ranks 15th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Kevin Garnett, Farragut Academy (No. 5, 1995)

Notable Misses

Christian Laettner, Duke (No. 3, 1992); Isaiah "J.R." Rider, UNLV (No. 5, 1993); William Avery, Duke (No. 14, 1999)

 

The Timberwolves helped catalyze the boom in players skipping college with the success of Kevin Garnett. But few other Minnesota selections have done much in the pros -- and even fewer have stayed in Minneapolis long enough to do it.

 

5. Orlando (Bust Ratio: 45.00%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.20 (ranks 18th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Shaquille O'Neal (No. 1, 1992)

Notable Misses

Reece Gaines, Louisville (No. 15, 2003); Johnny Taylor, Chattanooga (No. 17, 1997); Keon Clark, UNLV (No. 13, 1998)

 

Take away Shaq and Dwight Howard (No. 1, 2004) and this team's Bust Ratio soars to 50 percent while their average first-round score plummets to the worst in the entire league.

 

4. Dallas (Bust Ratio: 45.45%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

1.95 (ranks 26th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Jason Kidd, California (No. 2, 1994)

Notable Misses

Roy Tarpley, Michigan (No. 7, 1986); Cherokee Parks, Duke (No. 12, 1995); Doug Smith, Missouri (No. 6, 1991)

 

The Mavericks have rebuilt themselves into one of the best-run organizations in pro sports under Mark Cuban. That's some facelift for a franchise that thought a guy like Leon Smith would make a good pro.

 

3. Atlanta (Bust Ratio: 45.83%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

1.91 (ranks 28th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Jason Terry (No. 10, 1999)

Notable Misses

DerMarr Johnson, Cincinnati (No. 6, 2000); Jon Koncak, SMU (No. 5, 1985); Doug Edwards, Florida St. (No. 15, 1993)

 

The Hawks seem to have a half-dozen picks every year, but never really strike gold. Arizona floor general Terry was a smart pick and the selection of Pau Gasol turned into established star Shareef Abdur-Rahim through a trade on draft night -- but the Hawks, who select third overall Thursday night, have suffered a mostly forgettable history with the event.

 

 

Tweedle Dum

 

2. Denver (Bust Ratio: 47.83%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

2.14 (ranks 22nd out of 29)

Notable Hit

Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (No. 3, 2003)

Notable Misses

LaPhonso Ellis, Notre Dame (No. 5, 1992); Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Italy (No. 5, 2002); Todd Lichti, Stanford (No. 15, 1989)

 

Big East standouts Anthony and Dikembe Mutombo are the lone bright spots on a dismal draft record that includes Ellis, Tskitshvili, Lichti along with Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (with the third overall pick), Temple's Mark Macon and Pittsburgh's Jerome Lane.

 

 

Tweedle Dumber

 

1. Portland (Bust Ratio: 55.56%)

 

Average First-Round Pick Score

1.83 (ranks 29th out of 29)

Notable Hit

Jermaine O'Neal, Eau Claire High (No. 17, 1996)

Notable Misses

Take your pick. Shawn Respert, Michigan State (No. 7, 1995); Sebastian Telfair, Lincoln (N.Y.) High (No. 13, 2004); Walter Berry, St. John's (No. 14, 1986); Ronnie Murphy, Jacksonville (No. 17, 1987); Qyntel Woods, Northest Mississippi C.C. (No. 21, 2002); Erick Barkley, St. John's (No. 28, 2000)

 

The Trail Blazers sure picked the right year to get lucky and score the No. 1 pick. Even Portland would seem incapable of screwing up Thursday night but, if any franchise could find a way, it's this brain trust. After all, more than half of Portland's first-round picks in the Lottery Era have been consensus busts. The team's draft history presents a comedy of errors as the Rose Garden has become an elephant graveyard for heralded high school, college and international prospects. Arvidas Sabonis worked out (eventually). More than a dozen other first-round picks didn't.