Airball! The Eight Worst Number Two Picks in NBA Draft History
While there have been great number one overall picks in the NBA Draft, there have been plenty of misses. For every David Robinson, there’s a Kwame Brown. And for every Shaquille O’Neal there’s a Michael Olowokandi.
But what about the players who were taken number two? There have been great picks — Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Jason Kidd, to name a few — but sometimes things just didn’t work out. With the NBA Draft slated for Thursday, let’s take a look at the most ill-advised, unfortunate and disastrous number two picks of the last 25 years. Here’s looking at you, Timberwolves, who own this year’s second pick:
1986 – Len Bias
His death has been well-documented and opened up the flood gates about the issue of drugs and sports. The number two pick of the Boston Celtics, Bias died of a drug overdose two days later, sending shockwaves throughout the sports world. How great could he have been? No one will ever know, obviously, but a Celtics scout said before Bias’ death, “He’s maybe the closest thing to Michael Jordan to come out in a long time,” perhaps invoking for the first time a comparison that would go on to be made to a long list of players.
1987 – Armon Gilliam
He made the NBA All-Rookie Team with the Phoenix Suns and then – poof! – disappeared. Gilliam couldn’t stay in the same place for too long, playing for six franchises in a 13-year career. He averaged a hair under 14 points per game and seven rebounds a game, good numbers, to be sure. But he was never the impact player a lot of people projected.
1993 – Shawn Bradley
The seven-foot-six-inch product was an intriguing choice by the Philadelphia 76ers. Considered a project, he was a shot blocker, but when it came to an offensive game, let’s just say loose nails in walls have more of a presence in the paint. Many labeled Bradley too soft and he became more of a curiosity in the Manute Bol mold, although he did log over 2,000 blocks in his 12-year career before retiring to a quiet life as a ranch owner.
2000 – Stromile Swift
The Vancouver Grizzlies took a shot and, to be fair, Swift wasn’t awful. He played in the league until 2009, but was never a stud. He topped out in his second season, throwing down 11.8 points and 6.3 boards per game , which would both would turn out to be career highs. A number two pick shouldn’t wrap up his career with nearly eight-and-a-half points per game, though, and Swift did.
2002 – Jay Williams
Williams makes this list purely out of misfortune. After an uneven 2002-2003 rookie season with the Chicago Bulls, the Duke product’s career literally came crashing to a halt when he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident that almost killed him. He did attempt an unsuccessful comeback with the New Jersey Nets in 2006. Today, he works as a college basketball analyst for ESPN.
2003 – Darko Milicic
A career average of 6.1 points per game will land you on this list. He was used sparingly by the Detroit Pistons during his rookie year when they won the NBA title. Having the dubious honor of being selected after LeBron James in the draft, he never developed and once even questioned whether the Pistons should’ve selected him. After starting two games in three seasons, the Serbian native was shipped out to Orlando and has since gone on to play for three other teams. Ironically, this past season was his best, statistically speaking, thanks to the 8.8 points per game he averaged with a very bad Timberwolves team.
2009 – Hasheem Thabeet
Thabeet was awesome at the University of Connecticut, but his game has stagnated – and some would say regressed – since the Memphis Grizzlies selected him. The best stat about Thabeet? In February of his rookie year, he was sent to work on his game with the Dakota Wizards, making him the highest-drafted player ordered to report to the D-League. That’s like telling Steve Jobs to sell Commodore 64s.
2010 – Evan Turner
Okay, the jury is still out on this one. He was the national player of the year after his junior year at Ohio State and bolted for the association, where this past season he averaged 7.2 points per game for the Philadelphia 76ers. We’re not jumping the gun yet, but Turner has some work to do.