So as I’m surfing the net this morning I stumble upon a former NBA basketball player named Robert Swift. Robert Swift was a highly touted 7 footer who was drafted by the then Seattle SuperSonics fresh out of high school in 2004. He was expected to commit to the University of Southern California, but bypassed it to enter the 2004 NBA Draft. The latest news on this draft bust (picked #12 overall) is that he does not want to leave his foreclosed home that has already been purchased by another person. A video with said article also showed the condition of the home, and man it looks like a college dorm room. Empty Four Loko cans all over the property, an El Camino with no hood and plates from 2010, and buckets and buckets of water that looks like it’s been sitting there for years. They show a shot of how it looked previously and it seriously looks like a child lived there with no supervision.
This is what made me think, what were some of the best/worst draft busts since the likes of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant made big splashes in ‘95 and ‘96? I got my Google on and found a top 10 site of the worst draft busts. This list dates back to 2007 and the “where are they now?” info is a little out dated, but I did a little more research and this is what the top 10 list looks like.
10. C.J. Miles, drafted in 2005 by the Utah Jazz, #34 overall
-C.J., like Swift, committed to the University of Texas and said he would forego college only if he was drafted in the first round. He was drafted in the 2nd, but Utah offered him a guaranteed 2-year contract, something that only late first rounders would receive at the time. He is 1 out of 3 players on this list that still play in the NBA, currently in his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Career NBA Stats: 19.5 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.3 apg
9. Ricky Sanchez, drafted in 2005 by the Portland Trailblazers, #35 overall
-When you see this name, the average NBA fan most likely says, “Ricky who?” Ricky Sanchez was drafted by the Blazers but traded on draft day to the Nuggets for Jarrett Jack. He was then traded to Philly in 2007 and the “international rights” to Sanchez have bounced back and forth through the A simply to clear roster space. He’s been a staple in the BSN league in Puerto Rico where he is a 4x all-star and a champion.
Career NBA Stats: None
8. James Lang, drafted in 2003 by the New Orleans Hornets, #48 overall
-Lang was drafted in 2003 but didn’t play a single NBA game until 2006 for the Washington Wizards. No websites show any career NBA numbers for him, but since ‘04 he’s played all over the globe, from Oklahoma to Israel. In 2009, Lang suffered a stroke that has left him partially paralyzed.
Career NBA Stats: Played 57 seconds in 2006 against the Atlanta Hawks, no stats
7. Korleone Young, drafted in 1998 by the Detroit Pistons, #40 overall
-When Young declared for the NBA draft, his coach was quoted as saying that it was a ”total surprise”. More often than not that’s a bad thing. He played 3 total games in the NBA, and is now retired at the age of 34. His career saw him play in the now defunct IBL, the CBA, Australia, Russia, and China.
Career NBA Stats: 3 games played, 4.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg
6. Ndudi Ebi, drafted in 2003 by the Minnesota Timberwolves, #26 overall
-I was a big fan of the Timberwolves when Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury was on the team, so naturally I always kept an eye on the team, when both superstars left. I also used to use them in basketball video games such as NBA Live and NBA 2K franchises. Whenever Ebi would check into the game in the video games, I was able to utilize him like an undeveloped version of KG. In reality, he was a guy who reneged on his commitment to Arizona and went straight to the pros as a shot blocking prospect. The Wolves wanted to send Ebi to the D-League but he was ineligible in his 3rd season, even though he had only played 19 total games in 2 years. He was then cut by the Wolves, signed to a summer league contract with the Mavs, and was waived right before the season started. Since then he’s been overseas, playing for S.S. Felice Scandone in Italy this season.
Career NBA Stats: 4.5 mpg, 2.1 ppg, 1 rpg
5. Kwame Brown, drafted in 2001 by the Washington Wizards, #1 overall
– In my opinion he should be #1 on this list, simply because he was the first #1 pick to come out of high school. Michael Jordan saw something in him that no one else did, and to this day we still don’t see it. His best year saw him average 11 points and 8 rebounds per game, numbers that a top prospect in college would average. Surprisingly, he is still in the league, but just a journeyman on his 7th team in 11 years.
Career NBA Stats: 22.1 mpg, 6.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg
4. Darius Miles, drafted in 2000 by the Los Angeles Clippers, #3 overall
-One of my brother’s favorite players when he came into the league, Miles was expected to go to St. John’s University in Queens but was unable to pass the SAT. He made the jump to the Association and LAC took a chance with him at the #3 pick. He was on a team full of young players like Lamar Odom, Michael Olowokandi, and Quentin Richardson. Some people believe that if this core group of guys stayed with the addition of Corey Maggette, they would’ve made a serious run at a few elite teams in the league. This team was disbanded and Miles winded up with the Cavaliers two years later. He then went to the Blazers, but suffered a knee injury that was then thought to end his career. In ‘08 he returned for a brief stint with Celtics and Grizzlies but he wasn’t as good as he was expected to be in this point in his career.
Career NBA Stats: 26.3 mpg, 10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.1 bpg
3. Sebastian Telfair, drafted in 2004 by the Portland Trailblazer, #13 overall.
-I remember watching a documentary on Telfair in 2004 following him through his senior year of high school at Lincoln in Brooklyn and ending with him being drafted by the Blazers. The tears were flowing as the Telfair family witnessed all the hard work that Telfair has went through to get to where he was going. Being the cousin of Stephon Marbury also showed promise that he might be the next big thing coming out of high school. But the sad part is I remember that documentary from 9 years ago more than I remember his actual NBA career. The last of the trio that still plays in the league (#10 Miles, #5 Brown), he is playing on his 7th NBA team the Toronto Raptors and has been a back-up for the majority of his career.
Career NBA Stats: 21.8 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 1.6 rpg
2. Jonathan Bender, drafted in 1999 by the Toronto Raptors, #5 overall
-This was another guy that I enjoyed playing with in the early NBA Live/NBA 2K games, but his play in the virtual world didn’t translate to his play in the real world. The analysis on my reference website was saying that he was a victim of the times. He was in the realm when everyone was looking for the next Kevin Garnett, and the 7 foot 220 pound Bender look like a great pick and there was tons of hype around him. He was traded to Indiana on draft day. In his debut, he was the first high schooler to get a double-double. He had a lackluster career that saw him in his best year average only 7 points per game in 78 games. He then played for the Knicks for a year where he fell off the face of the earth, averaging 5 points per game.
Career NBA Stats: 14.7 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg
1. Leon Smith, drafted in 1999 by the San Antonio Spurs, #29 overall
-Leon Smith has to be the reason why David Stern put the age limit up to 19 years old or one year out of high school. He was picked by the Spurs and was immediately traded to the Mavericks. Smith never saw an NBA floor, and didn’t get along with his coaches from the get go. He denied a chance to get sent down to the NBDL, and tried to commit suicide by swallowing 250 aspirin pills. Smith is the epitome of draft bust without a doubt.
The sad part is that most of these guys should be either in the prime of their careers or on the verge of retirement, but 7 out of the 10 were out of the NBA in 3-4 years. Not all was bad, because during that time, guys like Lebron James and Dwight Howard came to the league and lived up to their high school hype. I, for one, am a fan of the one year out of high school plan, because a guy like Brandon Jennings who decided to play one year overseas is handling himself well as oppose to him forgoing college and going to the pros. Playing professionally overseas helped him mature as if he went to college. Who knows if there wasn’t that rule if guys like Durant, Hawes, Oden and Jennings would be decent to superstar players.