For young basketball players, making the NBA is dream number one. They’ll eat, sleep, and breathe basketball until that dream gets realized. The sheer motivation is spectacular, and it’s a blessing to witness. However, some of these players need to figure out that to keep the fantasy alive, you’ve got to keep working hard after going pro. Some young NBA athletes will fall off before they even score 20 points in a game. If someone has been in the league for three years with nothing to show for it, they’re considered a bust. Let’s take a look at the most recent disappointments in NBA history.
Markelle Fultz (2017 Draft)
The 2017 NBA draft had a boatload of talent. Teams could have put names in a hat and picked one while blindfolded and received a worse outcome than Markell Fultz. The Philadelphia 76ers traded up just so they could secure Fultz.
Between the obscure shoulder injury that no one has the decency to elaborate on and what fans saw from him in college, you have to be disappointed by what Fultz has produced. The 76ers gave up on him in 2019 and traded him to the Orlando Magic where he didn’t play a single game that season.
Jahlil Okafor (2015 Draft)
Immediately following a 76ers pick is another one, Jahlil Okafor. The 6’11” center played a single season of college ball at Duke and guided them to a National Championship. He was a stud at Duke, which helped him land the number three pick in 2015.
After three years of hoping that Okafor would perform like a lottery pick, the 76ers gave up hope and sent him to the Brooklyn Nets. There, he was pretty much nonexistent as well and now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Frank Kaminsky (2015 Draft)
Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky carried a lot of promise coming out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Then, the kind folks over in Charlotte were let down slowly but surely by his play. After selecting him with the ninth overall pick in 2015, Kaminsky never passed 11 points per game.
He hasn’t even reached an average of at least five rebounds per game during his NBA career (the guy is 7’0″). The Charlotte Hornets decided to let him walk in during the 2019 summer of Kawahi Leonard sweepstakes. He now has a chance to turn things around in Phoenix, but we’re not holding our breath.
Dragan Bender (2016 Draft)
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one wondering who on earth Dragan Bender is. Outside of the Phoenix faithful, probably ten percent of casual NBA fans know who this man is. For a number four pick in 2016, that speaks volumes.
After seeing the luck the New York Knicks had with Kristaps Porzingis, teams wanted to mirror that success. The Suns haven’t been good since the days of MVP Steve Nash, so a shot in the dark might’ve served them well. Not this time around. Bender’s career averages after three seasons are 5.3 points per game and 3.8 rebounds.
Mo Bamba (2018 Draft)
We understand it might be too early to call center Mo Bamba a bust, but the red flags are there. Drafted by the Orlando Magic with the sixth overall pick, Bamba found himself on a team that clawed its way into the playoffs his first year.
That’s always great for building character, so Bamba might bounce back his sophomore year. On the flip side, if you look at many of the picks selected after him, they all had above-average seasons. He did suffer a stress fracture in his leg, but for the most part, he was lifeless on the court.
Stanley Johnson (2015 Draft)
When you shut down workouts so that a specific team can draft you, for everyone’s sake, you had better become great. Stanley Johnson was a five-star recruit out of college, and he really wanted the Pistons to draft him.
He got his wish and Detroit got a new bag of chips half-filled with air. He has, however, built a reputation for being a “decent” defender, but nothing else has worked out for him. If you’re playing in Detroit and you can’t crack nine points per game, it’s only right that you get traded right before the deadline in 2019.
Kris Dunn (2016 Draft)
Drafted fifth overall in the 2016 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kris Dunn would only last one season there. Averaging 3.8 points per game in 17 minutes played isn’t what teams look for in their top-five pick.
Shipped over to Chicago in a significant trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Dunn found a semblance of a groove in the Windy City. He increased to double-figure scoring in 2018 and 2019 (13.4, 11.3), but he’s yet to make that leap towards being a reliable player every night.
Mario Hezonja (2015 Draft)
Mario Hezonja would fall under the category of failed foreign project. Since 2015, he’s never averaged more nine points per game. The Croatian pupil more than likely would have had a better career had he stayed overseas, but there’s more money to be made in the NBA.
When the 2018 season came to an end, the Orlando Magic decided it was time to part ways. Hezonja went to the Knicks, where much of the same continued for him.
Cameron Payne (2015 Draft)
We hate to say it, but it might already be over for the kid from Murray State University. The first-round pick of the 2015 draft, Cameron Payne is in a tight spot heading into the 2019 season.
The Thunder passed on Josh Richardson and Terry Rozier for a guy who’s claim to fame was special handshakes with Russell Westbrook. Now, he’s working with NBA legend Penny Hardaway in hopes that the veteran can help him land on a roster.
Marquese Chriss (2016 Draft)
In the current state of the NBA, we’d hate to be New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns fans. Things just aren’t going well for them, but the Suns added insult to injury during the 2016 draft. After picking a player we’ve already mentioned, they traded up to get Marquese Chriss.
The University of Washington player was a high-risk, high-reward type of guy and he’s given no rewards yet to any of the three team’s he’s been on. The 2019 season might’ve been his last in the NBA until he can figure it out.
Justin Jackson (2017 Draft)
Some guys aren’t able to make the transition from college ball to the NBA. It’s an entirely different pace, guys are much stronger, and there is more asked of you. Some do become late bloomers, but it’s hard seeing that for Justin Jackson.
The number ten pick of the 2017 draft was a three-year starter at UNC. Not only did he not bring a winning mentality or intangibles to the Kings, he probably made them worse off. He now finds himself scrapping for minutes on the Dallas Mavericks.
Georgios Papagiannis (2017 Draft)
Wow, we’re beginning to feel bad for teams that make such poor drafting choices on a consecutive basis. The Kings might have struck gold with athletic freak De’Aaron Fox, but mainly all their other picks have stunk up the place.
The Kings chose Georgios Papagiannis with the number 13 pick in 2017, and since then he’s only played a total of 39 games. One of those games he wore a Portland Trailblazers jersey because Sacramento had to let him go. Averaging 5.6 points per game one season and then 2.1 the following isn’t going to cut it anywhere.
Luke Kennard (2017 Draft)
At this point, you have to wonder who’s getting paid to scout these players for teams. Whoever in the Detroit front office thought they saw a rising star in Luke Kennard should have more self-awareness because they aren’t in the right field.
Oh, that’s right, he averages 40% from three over his career thus far. What good will that do you if you’re only putting up three three-point shots per game? We sure hope your percentage is high at such a low clip.
Jonathan Isaac (2017 Draft)
Being long and athletic in the NBA have long been desired traits that a team would lust after. Such was the case for one Jonathan Isaac, whom the Orlando Magic chose number eight overall in 2017. But it’s been a harsh reality for Isaac.
He did improve his scoring average from 5.4 to 9.6 points per game his sophomore year, so that’s not so bad. Can you imagine Jayson Tatum or Donovan Mitchell succumbing to those types of numbers?
Malik Monk (2017 Draft)
Say it isn’t so about Malik Monk. We hate to include the Kentucky product on this list, but it has to be done. Since landing on the Charlotte Hornets in 2017, Monk has been pretty much invisible.
His rookie year he averages 6.7 points per game and 1.4 assists. The following year those numbers budged about an inch to 8.9 and 1.6. For Monk’s sake, he had better hope he’s a late bloomer, or else he might find himself playing overseas.
Justise Winslow (2015 Draft)
Justice Winslow is an interesting athlete. You’ll see his highlights and watch him play throughout games and think he’s a solid player. Then, for a higher multitude of games, Winslow fades into the background, letting down the Miami Heat fanbase.
We hope playing alongside Dwyane Wade helped him as a professional. With Wade now out of the league, it’ll be interesting to see if he can give us reason to regret putting him on this list.
Jakob Pöltl (2017 Draft)
If you were forced to say something positive about Jakob Pöltl’s game, would that be the toughest thing you’ve ever had to do? If you look at career averages, they’re unsightly. The Toronto Raptors gave him two years to try and figure it out before letting him go play for the Spurs.
In San Antonio, he wasn’t much better. He played two fewer minutes a game compared to the year before and averaged one less point, 5.5 per game. We suppose Greg Poppavich managed to get something out him, as his rebounding numbers went up from 4.8 to 5.4 per game.
Juan Hernangómez (2016 Draft)
NBA executives are going to have to understand that not all foreign players are going to be the next Porziņģis. More calculated decision making needs to be going on. Juan Hernangómez is another failed experiment from Spain that the Denver Nuggets are holding onto.
Granted, he did miss nearly all of the 2018 season, but nothing he’s done since 2017 has jumped out as “I’m not a bust.” We’ll just have to wait and see how he turns out. The writing might be on the wall already, though.
Thon Maker (2016 Draft)
A team that continues to believe in Thon Maker’s “upside” (Detroit Pistons) needs to cut it out. For someone that tall to be on the court and be almost non-existent isn’t a good look. We’ve seen this movie before… has anyone heard of Hasheem Thabeet?
We’re not saying Maker is Thabeet, because Thabeet had flashes of brilliance at least. Maker is the same player that said he would step up to Giannis Antetekumpo, just to get posterized right after. Have some pride.
Emmanuel Mudiay (2015 Draft)
We didn’t think we’d be calling Emmanuel Mudiay a potential bust, but here we are. The seventh pick of the 2015 draft began his career with Denver and would stay there for at least four years. His rookie season was his best one with the Nuggets, but in 2017, he donned a New York Knicks Jersey.
He had a career year in 2019 with the Knicks, finally averaging more points per game than he did his first year in the league. Yet, Mudiay’s trajectory doesn’t seem to be headed in the right direction.