Worst NBA Draft Classes: The Most Forgettable Drafts Ever

Anthony Bennett
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA ..Photo by Icon Sport

With the hype around expected No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama reaching levels not seen since LeBron James in 2003, there is a good chance the 2023 NBA draft will not go down as an all-time bad draft class.

But it will take years to find out just how good (or bad) the class really is. Fortunately, we have enough hindsight to already list the worst NBA draft classes of all time, which we have for you below as a trip down memory lane.

1951: Who Are These Guys?

You know it’s an all-time bad draft when the No. 1 pick (Gene Melchiorre) never makes his NBA debut after getting banned for point shaving in college. While the league was still in its infancy in its 5th draft in 1951, this class is completely underwhelming. Only 25-of-87 drafted players played in the NBA, and No. 2 pick Mel Hutchins was the only player to score 3,000 career points. He finished with 4,851 points as a 4-time NBA All-Star.

1973: The Doug Collins Draft

For a No. 1 overall pick, you know Doug Collins was underwhelming as a player when he is better known for being the coach Phil Jackson replaced in Chicago and for his later broadcasting career. Collins only played 8 years and finished with 7,427 points, which ranked 5th in this class that failed to produce a single 10,000-point scorer. Caldwell Jones, who was a 1-time All-Star in the ABA who played until he was 39, led this underwhelming class in Win Shares (44.3).

1986: Tragedy Strikes

If you look at our best draft classes of all time, 1984, 1985, and 1987 all make the list. It was possible that 1986 would have continued the greatest run ever, but this class is marred by tragedies.

The Celtics took Len Bias, who had so much promise, with the No. 2 pick. Adding a talent like this to one of the best teams in sports at the time could have kept the Boston window open even longer, but within 48 hours after the draft, Bias died at age 22 from a drug overdose.

The draft did not have a lot of star talent as No. 1 pick Brad Daugherty was only a solid player who retired after 8 seasons due to back injuries. Jeff Hornacek and Ron Harper were two of the most prolific scorers in this class. Dennis Rodman was an incredible defender and rebounder but offensively challenged.

The No. 60 pick, Dražen Petrović from Croatia, had a chance to be the breakout scoring star of this class after playing overseas. He averaged 22.3 points per game with the Nets in 1992-93 and was a 43.7% 3-point shooter in his career, but he passed away after the season from a car accident at 28 years old. He was a big influence on other European players joining the league in the years to come.

1989: Two Rounds, Too Many Busts

The 1989 NBA draft saw the format shrink from 3 rounds to 2 rounds. But the stink of this class is in the top 10 where you could argue 80% of the players were busts, including No. 1 pick Pervis Ellison, who averaged 9.5 points per game.

You know it was a rough draft when most of the value was in the second half of the first round, including Tim Hardaway (14th), Shawn Kemp (17th), and Vlade Divac (26th). Clifford Robinson and Glen Rice were two more players who played over 1,000 NBA games in their careers, but neither was ever really considered elite.

2000: The Worst NBA Draft Class Ever?

If you are looking for the worst NBA draft class in modern history, you may have found it with 2000. Only 3-of-58 picks made an All-Star game, and none of the players are going to be remembered fondly by history: No. 1 pick Kenyon Martin, Jamaal Magloire, and Michael Redd. None of them made an All-Star team twice, and only Redd ever made an All-NBA team (3rd team in 2003-04).

No. 8 pick Jamal Crawford was the most prolific scorer in the class with 19,419 points as he won the Sixth Man of the Year award three times, a bit of a dubious honor but still perfect for this underwhelming class. No one from the 2000 draft will even sniff the Hall of Fame.

2006: Goodbye to High Schoolers

After the success of several NBA stars who never attended college, the 2006 draft changed course and prohibited players from going straight from high school to the NBA. The first draft after that produced an underwhelming class with teams taking too many chances on foreign players, including No. 1 pick Andrea Bargnani, Mouhamed Sene, Thabo Sefolosha, and Oleksiy Pecherov.

This was also a draft where some very popular NCAA players proved to be less than stellar at the NBA level, including No. 3 pick Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), No. 4 pick Tyrus Thomas (LSU), No. 5 pick Shelden Williams (Duke), and No. 11 pick J.J. Redick (Duke).

It was not a draft without talent as LaMarcus Aldridge, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Rudy Gay, and Rajon Rondo were all decent players in the league. Brandon Roy in Portland was an early preview of Damian Lillard, but injury derailed his career.

2013: Thank God for Giannis

If not for Giannis Antetokounmpo developing into one of the best players in NBA history, the 2013 draft might be the worst draft class of them all. It would have a strong argument at the top with Anthony Bennett being one of the worst No. 1 picks in NBA history. A colossal bust for Cleveland, Bennett averaged 4,4 points per game and was done after 151 games in his career.

But the rest of the draft was not doing well either as the first top 10 pick to really work out was CJ McCollum at No. 10 to Portland. Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 pick, has his moments but he also gets hurt often and bounces around to many teams.

The selection of Giannis at 15 kicked off a run on international players, but he proved to be the best of the bunch by a wide margin. The only other notable player is Rudy Gobert, the No. 27 pick, who has won Defensive Player of the Year three times despite carrying a reputation for being soft.

In a perfect world with hindsight, Cleveland drafts Giannis in 2013 to pair with Kyrie Irving, then once he is ready to break out, LeBron James rejoins the team, making those matchups with Golden State even more interesting.

But the NBA draft is anything but an exact science.

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