The Sixers showed the NBA that you don’t actually have to win in the NBA to give you a chance for future success. Philadelphia’s “trust the process” approach eventually found success with the progression of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. With the draft on its way after the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, it’s time to focus on the NBA’s future stars. I want to look at organizations that have continually had issues in rebuilding their teams through the draft. This list is for teams that continuously have stunk but can’t seem to figure out their rebuild.
I am going to focus on the players that were actually drafted, rather than who they missed out on. Sometimes players just don’t pan out. Missing out on players like Giannis shouldn’t hurt their grade here. No one saw that dominance coming.
Best: Karl Anthony Towns (2015), Zach Lavine (2014)
Worst: Derrick Williams (2011), Rashad McCants (2005), Kris Dunn (2016), Jonny Flynn (2009)
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a long history of being terrible in the draft. Their best move on draft day was trading OJ Mayo (#3 overall pick) for a package that included Kevin Love back in 2008. When it comes to actually drafting well Minnesota has made many questionable decisions over the last few years. Notably in 2009 Minnesota had four picks including three in the first round and two in the lottery. The Timberwolves chose three point guards in this draft Ricky Rubio (#6), Jonny Flynn (#7), and Ty Lawson (#18). Minnesota also picked shooting guard Wayne Ellington (#28). They took four guards and three of them played the same position. While Rubio put together some solid seasons in Minnesota he was never the player that was going to change the landscape of the organization. Jonny Flynn’s injuries made him an afterthought to most fans.
The Timberwolves continued to make questionable decisions drafting four forwards the year after drafting four guards. None of which worked out for the Wolves. While Karl Anthony-Towns has worked out their only other successful pick Zach Lavine spent most of his time playing a secondary role until he was moved to Chicago for a handful of nothing.
Then there is Derrick Williams. I don’t want to blame Minnesota for this pick but when you look at what was chosen around Williams it is hard to just ignore the mistake. The 2011 draft class included Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. The Wolves went with the raw projected talent of Williams. While this move may have made sense to the media at the time it clearly set the organization back for years. Wasting a #2 pick on a guy that never even sniffed an All-Star season.
With Karl Anthony-Towns clearly on the move due to his problems with management, Minnesota will again be starting over very soon.
Best: DeMarcus Cousins (2010), De’Aaron Fox (2017)
Worst: Nik Stauskas (2014), Spencer Hawes (2007), Marvin Bagley (2018), Willie Cauley-Stein (2015)
It’s been 14 seasons since the Sacramento Kings made it to the NBA playoffs. The Chris Webber/Vlade Divac/Mike Bibby Kings are a thing of the past. Sacramento partly have themselves to blame for their losing ways. Most notably the Kings spent their 2018 #2 overall pick on Duke forward Marvin Bagley, leaving potential franchise cornerstones Trae Young and Luka Doncic on the board. When playing, Bagley has shown potential, he has a problem if he can’t stay on the court. The Kings saw De’Aaron Fox as their future, putting a dynamic player next to him such as Doncic or Young would work in today’s NBA success model. I am a Bagley fan but this was a pick that will keep the Kings out of the playoffs for a long time.
While the recency of the Bagley pick is still on everyone’s mind we still can’t forget the mistakes made before that. The pick of Willie Cauley-Stein in 2015 to play with your star of the same position Boogie Cousins not only made no sense but actually hurt the development of the super athletic Cauley-Stein. The Kings have a way of going with the more recognizable name rather than going with the best prospect. They need to learn to open up their international scouting. It’s very confusing why they haven’t bought into the future landscape to the league with Vlade Divac’s in charge.
Best: Kemba Walker (2011)
Worst: Adam Morrison (2006), Cody Zeller (2013), Frank Kaminsky (2015), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012)
This team chose Adam Morrison with the #3 overall pick in 2006. To be fair the 2006 draft was as bad a draft as you could imagine. The only notable names from that draft chosen after Morrison were Brandon Roy, who had an injury shortened career, Kyle Lowry, Rajan Rondo and Paul Millsap. The latter three were not chosen until Rondo at #21. Despite the weakness of the draft Morrison at #3 was still a joke. While Morrison was a great NCAA player his tools never made the transition into the NBA.
After Morrison the mediocre core of picks continued to ravage the organization. In 2012 the Hornets (Bobcats) had the #2 pick and went with Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist passing on Bradley Beal, Damion Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond. Kidd-Gilchrist never became anything more than a role player on a bad team. The former Wildcat never averaged over 12.7 ppg in his career and that number came in 2015-2016 when he only played seven games. This is one of the more under the radar complete busts of all time.
Charlotte continued to make terrible selections when given a chance in the lottery taking Cody Zeller at #4 and Frank Kaminksy at #9 in 2013 and 2015. Both players never became anything more than role players as well, while they weren’t projected to be stars Kaminsky is no longer with the organization while Zellers PER (player efficiency rating) has been barely above league average.
The Hornets have had their chances at the top of the draft, they have swung and missed way too many times. They now are stuck in a place where they continually put themselves in a place where they are middle of the pack and can’t get a great lottery spot. We have seen Miles Bridges begin to develop along with for Kansas guard Devonte Graham but the Hornets are still in a place where they don’t really have a direction.
Chicago Bulls, saved by Derrick Rose (2008), Jimmy Butler (2011).
Washington Wizards, saved by John Wall (2010), Bradley Beal (2012).