If an NBA draft pick fails to meet expectations, he either falls into one of three categories.
The picked player performed well for his initial team, but left fans wanting more. Mike Conley Jr. falls into this category. Picked fourth in the 2007 NBA draft, Conley is a serviceable point guard, but I can pick 10 starting floor generals in the playoffs right now who I’d rather give the ball to in crunch time.
Kwame Brown territory. A guy who never came close to expectations, yet hangs around the league as a journeyman. Historical examples include Billy Owens and Kent Benson.
Extreme Bust, or the Flop
Someone who bombed out of the league in a very short period of time, like the aforementioned Adam Morrison.
This is where this slideshow focuses, picking the 25 best college basketball players since 1985 who turned out to be flops, regardless of whether or not they had high professional expectations.
I’d go back to 1946, but I can hear the collective mouse clicks of everyone flipping to the next slide as soon as I mention Art Heyman and Dick Schnittker. The 1984-85 season, the first year the NCAA tournament had 64 teams, seems like a good starting point.
Adam Morrison averaged 28.1 PPG in his junior year at Gonzaga, earning first-team All-America honors, before defecting to the NBA.
His first season in the NBA was disappointing, accruing 11.8 PPG on just 37 percent shooting, before injuries derailed his career. Morrison is not on an NBA team and has only played 83 total games since the 2006-07 season.
A two-time All-American (2006 first team, 2005 third team) and 2005 Final Four participant, Shelden Williams was known as the Landlord at Duke, patrolling the paint with relative ease.
He averaged double-doubles in his last two Duke seasons, but ultimately was not mobile enough and did not have enough (or any?) of an offensive arsenal to succeed on the NBA level.
Like Shelden Williams, Simien was a third-team All-American in his junior year (2004) before becoming a first-team All-American in his senior year.
Simien averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds in his senior year at Kansas, but the 2005 Jayhawks suffered one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history when the 14th-seeded Bucknell Bison beat them, 64-63.
Simien was drafted at the end of the first round by the Heat and played only 51 NBA games over two seasons.
The best Gonzaga point guard not named John Stockton, Dan Dickau averaged 21 PPG (making 117 three-pointers overall) en route to a first-team All-America selection in 2002. Once in the NBA, however, Dan Dickau played for six teams in six years before joining the D-League.
The 1999 McDonald’s All-American made first-team All-America in 2001 (18.1 PPG, 50.8 FG%) and second-team All-America in 2002 (21.9 PPG, 44.1 FG%).
Jacobsen was taken 22nd in the 2002 NBA draft but never averaged more than 6.5 PPG in four pro seasons.
Drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the 2002 NBA draft, Logan never came to a contractual agreement with the team, and in turn, never played in an NBA game.
While at Cincinnati, he averaged over 22 points and five assists as a senior, earning first-team All-American honors.
Mississippi State forward Lawrence Roberts averaged double-doubles for three straight seasons from 2002-2005 (he played for Baylor in 2002-2003 but was allowed to transfer to another Division I program without penalty following the Baylor murder scandal/cover-up).
Roberts made first-team All-America in 2004 and led the Bulldogs to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2004 and 2005, but he only played 87 games in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Joe Forte played more games in one college season than he did in his entire NBA career.
The 6’4″ shooting guard played two seasons for UNC—averaging 21 points and six rebounds per game in his first-team All-America sophomore campaign—before being drafted 21st overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2001 draft. He made only one field goal for Boston in eight games before being traded to Seattle for a cup of coffee. After 17 games, his NBA career unceremoniously ended.
Fizer was drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2001 following a 2001 All-American campaign in which he averaged 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for Iowa State.
Despite a 6’9″, 262-pound frame, Fizer was never a good rebounder on the NBA level and could not stay on the court, averaging 21 MPG for his six-season career.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Mateen Cleaves. I won the first March Madness pool I ever entered in 2000 because I picked Michigan State to win the national championship while most of my competitors took Stanford, who got bounced in the second round.
I haven’t won since.
Still, Cleaves, a three-time All-American (second team in 1998 and 2000 and first team in 1999), never made it in the NBA after being drafted by his home-state Detroit Pistons as the 14th pick. He could not win the starting job and never played more than 32 games per season after his rookie stint, bouncing around four different NBA cities.
The Mike Bibby-Miles Simon Arizona Wildcats disrupted a potential Kentucky Wildcats dynasty by defeating UK in the 1997 national championship. Both players went to the NBA.
Bibby is still playing today, while Simon played five more NBA games than you and me.
Don’t feel too bad for Simon though, as the Most Outstanding Player of the 1997 Final Four and 1998 first-team All-American is an ESPN college basketball analyst.
Growing up in Northern New Jersey in the mid-1990’s, you were either a Knicks fan or didn’t watch basketball. Maybe seven people rooted for the Nets in the Ed O’Bannon era, when they played in an arena named after Brendan Byrne, a former New Jersey governor who is most known for enacting the state’s first income tax.
Poor Ed O’Bannon was a symbol for the ineptitude. After being the big man on every campus following the 1994-95 season, in which he was named first-team All-American, the John Wooden Award winner and the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player in a national championship season for UCLA, he was picked ninth by the Nets in the NBA draft.
O’Bannon averaged over 20 points and eight rebounds in 1994-95 for UCLA but only mustered 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in 1995-96 for the Nets. That was his best year. After the 1996-97 season, he washed out of the league.
The 6’11”, 245-pound Rozier averaged a double-double in both of his seasons at Louisville, garnering All-American honors in 1993-94, during an era where college basketball talent was at its peak before plays starting defecting after freshman year to the NBA or eschewing college altogether.
Rozier had an OK rookie campaign for Golden State, averaging seven points and seven boards in 1994-95, but that was his best season in a four-year career that ended in an untimely fashion because of injuries.
Photo Courtesy of courier-journal.com
Baby Jordan was anything but during his four years in the NBA, but he did win the 1993 and 1995 Slam Dunk Contests. He was never a full-time starter in four NBA seasons—this after a junior season at USC in which he put up over 26 points and seven rebounds per game, earning first-team All-America recognition.
You may know Steve Alford as the guy who somehow coached New Mexico to a No. 3 seed in the 2010 NCAA tournament, but he was an excellent college basketball player who led Indiana to the 1987 national championship.
Following two first-team All-America seasons—and a collegiate career in which he averaged 19.5 PPG—the guard struggled to find his niche in the NBA, putting up only 4.4 career PPG.
Keith Lee is the only player in men’s college basketball history to make four All-American teams, doing so for Memphis from 1982-1985. The 6’10” forward/center made second teams in 1982 and 1983, a third team in 1984 and the first team in 1985, when he led Memphis to the Final Four.
In the NBA, Lee never played a full season in a three-year NBA career, averaging 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Cavaliers and Nets.
Courtesy of commercialappeal.com
At 7’3″ and 263 pounds, Hasheem Thabeet made second-team All-America en route to leading UConn to the 2009 Final Four after posting 14-point, 11-rebound and four-block averages.
In the NBA, the immobile Thabeet had trouble defending laterally and had no offensive game. With Marc Gasol making a name for himself, the Grizzlies traded Thabeet to Houston, but he spent time in the D-League this year. He averages fewer than three points and three rebounds per game so far.
Where art thou, Sean May? Turkey, it turns out.
How did this happen, after he averaged over 17 points and 10 rebounds in 2004-05?
May was a second-team All-American and the 2005 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player following a national title game win over one-loss Illinois, but after being picked in the lottery round by the Charlotte Bobcats, the out-of-shape May was never able to play more than 37 games in a season during his four-year career.
Among the terrible sports predictions I have made in my life—the latest being that St. John’s would make the Final Four—I believed LeBron James and Luke Jackson (picked 10th in the 2004 NBA draft) would form a partnership in Cleveland that would dominate the NBA. Ha!
LeBron played more NBA games this season than Jackson did in his career—a four-season, four-team stint which saw him average 3.5 PPG.
At Oregon, the 6’7″ forward was a 2004 second-team All-American who averaged over 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game in his senior year.
Troy Bell was picked 16th in the 2003 NBA draft, after a 2002-2003 season in which he led all power conference players in scoring with 25.2 PPG. He made second-team All-America twice (2001 and 2003) but only played six games for Memphis before heading to the D-League later in his career.
Before Colin Kaepernick, there was another University of Nevada superstar sending shockwaves across the country.
Nick Fazekas (left) was a two-time All-American (2006 third team, 2007 second team) who averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in a four-year career. The Wolf Pack even reached ninth in the Coaches Poll during his tenure there.
In the NBA, however, the 6’11”, 235-pound power forward was simply overmatched. He lasted only 26 games in one season.
Trajan Langdon co-led an excellent Duke Blue Devils team alongside Elton Brand to the 1999 national title game, but Richard Hamilton and UConn ended up victorious, 77-74. Langdon was a dead-eye shooter from beyond the arc, averaging 44.1 percent from three-point range twice in his four-year Duke career.
That shooting success did not carry over to the next level. The 6’3″ guard struggled shot only 41.6 percent from the field in 119 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who picked him 11th in the 1999 NBA draft.
Bo Kimble led Loyola Marymount to the Elite Eight following teammate Hank Gathers’ tragic on-court death during the West Coast Conference tournament in 1990. He averaged over 35 points per game (over a point a minute) that season in coach Paul Westhead’s up-tempo (maybe that’s even an understatement) offense where scoring under 100 points in a game was unacceptable.
After being selected as a second-team All-American, Kimble was taken eighth in the 1990 NBA draft by the Clippers. He lasted only two seasons in L.A. before playing nine games with the Knicks prior to ending his career. Overall, he averaged only 5.5 PPG on 38.6 percent shooting in the NBA.
Eric Montross was UNC’s best player when the Tar Heels beat Michigan and its Fab Five squad in the 1993 national championship. The seven-foot, 270-pound center averaged over 13 points and eight rebounds per game that season, capping off a two-year streak of second-team All-American nods.
Drafted ninth by the Boston Celtics in the 1994 NBA draft, though, Montross played poorly, never averaging more than five points per game after his second pro season.
Today, he is perhaps most well-known for his role on the Fab Five’s opposition in 1993 but also for being in the NBA while NBA Jam: Tournament Edition was the most popular sports video game on the market.
Writer’s Note: You will not spend 12 better minutes than by playing this Sporcle trivia game, guessing all 84 players who were in that NBA Jam version. That game was my life when I had the chicken pox for two weeks in 1994.
This would be the Jerome of the “send it in Jerome” fame, as you can see. He was half man, half wildebeest, making third-team All-American in 1987 and second-team All-American in 1988.
Averaging over 13 and 12 rebounds in both those seasons, Lane decided to ride that momentum into the NBA draft as a junior.
He was chosen by Denver with the 23rd pick of the 1988 draft but never made it there, though he had one decent season in which he put up 7.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. By 1993, he was out of the league.
Here are a couple of notable omissions.
Bobby Hurley and Shawn Respert
Both suffered life-threatening tragedies in their rookie years. Hurley was in a bad car accident that derailed his career, while Respert had stomach cancer. Doesn’t seem right to place them here.
Still holding out hope for Oden that he can stay healthy.
Wesley Johnson, Evan Turner
Both suffered horrible rookie campaigns, but it’s still too soon.
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