Most Disappointing #1 Overall Picks in the History of the NBA Draft

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Following the culmination of the 2023 NBA Finals, the next stop on the calendar for the biggest basketball league in the world is their annual draft. The event takes place on June 22nd and there are several college standouts already vying for the coveted number one overall spot. Young stars such as Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, and Cam Whitmore are all considered contenders however, it is the first man in that list, Frenchman Wembanyama, who is the overwhelming favorite to be selected by the San Antonio Spurs.

The Draft has a tough act to follow considering the epic postseason playoffs fans have just been treated to. Miami Heat, the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, shocked everyone by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics en route to the championship game. However, Nikola Jokić’s Denver Nuggets had too much for them to handle in the finals, eventually triumphing by four games to one and if you’re someone that likes to check the freshest basketball odds, you will notice that they are the +450 favorites to retain the Larry O’Brien Trophy once again next season.

One of the most anticipated nights of the year for basketball lovers is the forthcoming NBA draft. Teams choose the upcoming major talents who will take their teams to glory on this night of hope and promise. However, not all first-round selections have met expectations. This article will examine the top overall selections in NBA draft history who ended up being the worst letdowns.

Anthony Bennett – Cleveland Cavaliers (2013)

Even though the 2013 NBA draft was not among the best in recent memory, the Cleveland Cavaliers nevertheless selected Anthony Bennett as a surprise. A power forward from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas named Bennett had previously displayed flashes of promise. However, he struggled to adapt to NBA play and ended up becoming one of the greatest busts in modern NBA history. Bennett played in 151 NBA games, although he only averaged 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

He was considered a versatile and athletic power forward with potential. Unfortunately for both him and the Cavs however struggled to show his skills on the court and never lived up to his draft position. Many people view him as one of the most disappointing number-one overall picks in NBA history as a result of his underwhelming performances and the fact that several other first-round picks that year ended up being more successful.

Kwame Brown – Washington Wizards (2001)

The Washington Wizards selected Kwame Brown first overall in the 2001 draft, but the high school athlete fell short of his potential. Despite a 12-year NBA career, he continually underperformed, scoring 6.6 points and grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game on average. Kwame had all the makings of success with his height and natural talent, but tragically, he never quite found his groove. His rookie season became a struggle, and he continued to battle with consistency and lack of drive throughout his NBA tenure.

Michael Olowokandi – Los Angeles Clippers (1998)

When talking about the worst overall selections, Michael Olowokandi’s name frequently comes up. When the Los Angeles Clippers selected the former center from the University of the Pacific in 1998, there were many people who had lofty expectations for him. Sadly, those expectations were never fulfilled.

The seven-footer battled injuries and inconsistent play throughout his career, never reaching his full potential. Both observers and fans were left wondering what may have been if he had been able to maintain his health and advance his abilities. After nine NBA seasons, he was intended to be the Clippers’ franchise center, but he only managed to average 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Greg Oden – Portland Trail Blazers (2007)

Greg Oden is one name that is constantly mentioned when discussing the biggest NBA draft flops in history. Oden was expected to change the Portland Trail Blazers franchise as the #1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He was a highly anticipated center out of Ohio State who was meant to be the answer to the Blazers’ center dilemmas.

Sadly, injuries ended his career before it ever began. He appeared in just 105 games overall over five seasons, scoring 8.0 points and grabbing 6.2 rebounds on average. He will always be regarded as one of the NBA’s greatest “what-if” stories.

Joe Smith – Golden State Warriors (1995)

When Joe Smith was chosen first overall in 1995, he was hailed as the next NBA superstar. Despite playing in more than 1,000 NBA games over the course of a 16-year career, his career didn’t quite turn out as planned.

Surprisingly and a bit sadly, Smith could never make an All-Star team and only averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds per game. Fans and analysts were left scratching their heads wondering where the potential they saw in him went. Smith is now remembered as one of the most disappointing number-one overall picks of the NBA draft’s history: a cautionary tale for future draft prospects and teams alike.

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