For every Michael Jordan or LeBron James to win big in the NBA draft there is a Joe Smith or Chris Washburn.
Top NBA draft picks are not always the best choice. Sometimes future hall-of-famers are chosen as the No. 2 draft choice or even selected outside of the first round.
In our list we example 10 NBA draft picks who were chosen over better players. In many cases our choices completely puttered out. In other cases they managed a decent career that was simply overshadowed by other players from their draft year.
Joe Smith – Golden State Warriors
Joe Smith managed 16 seasons in the NBA but he never managed to live up to high expectations. Smith was chosen as the No. 1 overall pick during the 1995 NBA draft which was a huge accomplishment considering also in that years draft were Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse
Throughout his career he managed just 10 points-per-game, 6.4 rebounds-per-game, and a 1.0 APG.
Smith simply lacked the gritty gameplay that marked the careers of other men drafted the same year.
While Smith doesn’t hold any scoring records he did play for 12 teams, tied for the most all-time with Chucky Brown, Jim Jackson, and Tony Massenburg.
Olden Polynice – The Man Who Cost Seattle Scottie Pippen
For the fifth pick in the NBA draft the Seattle SuperSonics chose Scottie Pippen. However, they quickly turned around and traded Pippen to the SuperSonics in exchange for Polynice.
Olden did go on to become a decent rebounder but he never matched the success Scottie Pippen had with the Chicago Bulls.
Sure Pippen had Michael Jordan backing him up but he still managed a decent career of his own.
Polynice spent 19 years playing throughout the NBA, ABA, CBA, and USBL. He managed just 7.8 points-per-game with 6.7 RPB, and a 0.6 BPG.
Glenn Robinson – A Decent Career But No Jason Kidd Or Grant Hill
In 1994 Glenn Robinson was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. While he had a decent career he was no Grant Hill or Jason Kidd, yet he beat both of those men in the draft.
The Milwaukee Bucks signed Robinson to a 10-year, $68 million contract. Robinson by singing that deal received the most lucrative rookie contract in NBA history.
The former Purdue player ended his career with 20.7 points-per-game alongside 6.1 rebounds, and a 2.7 APG.
Jon Koncak – A Bad Choice Over Karl Malone
In 1985 the Atlanta Hawks choice Jon Koncak as the No. 5 overall NBA draft pick. Koncak was chosen over future greats Karl Malone, Joe Dumars, Chris Mullin.
Sadly players picked in the second round were likely to beat out Koncak’s final career numbers. From 1985 through 1996 Koncak managed just 4.5 points-per-game, 4.9 rebounds, and a 1.0 BPG.
$13 million over a six-year period was not money well spent. During that time he was making more than Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
Pervis Ellison – Tim Hardaway Gets The Last Laugh
In 1989 the Sacramento Kings could have taken Shawn Kemp, Tim Hardaway, or Glen Rice as the No. 1 overall pick. Instead the team choice Pervis Ellison.
At Louisville Ellison clutched big games and earned the nickname “Never Nervous Pervis.” In the NBA he was constantly disabled and earned the name “Out of Service Pervis.” Knee and toe injuries ultimately slowed his rise in the NBA.
Pervis ended his career with 9.5 points-per-game, 6.7 rebounds, and a 1.6 BPG.
Shawn Bradley – He Was No Penny Hardaway
The Philadelphia 76ers chose Shawn Bradley in the 1993 draft. Bradley was chosen as the No. 2 overall pick, ahead of Penny Hardaway, Allan Houston, and Jamal Mashburn.
Almost immediately Bradley struggled on offensive and he was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 1997.
While he flashed moments of brilliance during his NBA career he was ultimately very inconsistent and puttered out.
Bradley simply wouldn’t play the aggressive game required to be an NBA All-Star
Bradley racked up 8.1 points-per-game, 6.3 rebounds, and a 2.5 BPG.
In 1984 the Los Angeles Clippers overlooked John Stockton and chose Lancaster Gordon as the No. 8 draft pick. The team also passed over Otis Thorpe and Kevin Willis.
The former Louisville player was yet another in a long lineup of Louisville players who were drafted high in the draft but failed to impress in the NBA.
At the end of his short lived career Gordon racked up a measly 5.6 points-per-game, 1.3 rebounds, and a 1.5 APG.
Chris Washburn Was Definitely No Dennis Rodman
Chris Washburn was chosen as the No. 3 overall draft pick in 1986. The Golden State Warriors, exhibiting their historically bad draft decisions chose Washburn over Ron Harper, Mark Price, and a guy named Dennis Rodman.
Rodman would go on to become one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history. Washburn would be defined as overrated, lazy, and immature.
At the end of his career Chris racked up a yawn inspiring 3.1 points-per-game, 2.4 rebounds, and a 0.2 BPG. That career lasted only two seasons in the NBA.
Dennis Hopson Chosen Over Scottie Pippen And Other All-Stars
In 1987 Dennis Hopson was coming off a promising career at Ohio State and that led to the No. 3 overall pick. Hopson was chosen instead of Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller, and Kevin Johnson.
The New Jersey Nets in 1987 chosen six guards in a seven round draft series.
While not the worst on our list Hopson still ended his career with a rather average 10.9 points-per-game, 2.8 rebounds, and a 1.6 APG.
Kwame Brown – Draft By Michael Jordan And A Complete NBA Failure
It was 2001 and Michael Jordan was in charge of the Washington Wizards. While he may be the greatest player of all-time Jordan sucked when it came to NBA draft choices.
Jordan’s franchise chose Brown as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The team could have chosen Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, or Zach Randolph.
Brown was an unproven talent who was drafted right out of the Glynn Academy.
During an 11-year period Kwame Brown became the NBA’s best known leech. Brown failed to perform for any franchise and racked up just 6.6 points-per-game with 0.6 rebounds, and a 0.6 BPG.
Fun fact: Kwame Brown during a pre-draft workout told Wizards coach Doug Collins “If you draft me, you’ll never regret it.” It looks like he was right.
There are other notable NBA draft choices that overlooked top NBA players but these particular choices have left many NBA fans and analysts’ scratching their head in wonder.
What other bad NBA draft choices would you add to this list when examining better players that were drafted lower in the same draft year?