The Worst NBA Draft Class

Worst NBA Draft Class article feature image

Determining the worst NBA draft class in league history has been a matter of strong debate among historians, analysts, and fans alike for many years. The following article will provide a basic analytical comparison among NBA drafts to determine the 10 worst of all time, starting with #10 and ending with the worst. Drafts will be assigned a score based on a point scale ranking the strength of draft classes.

Ranking Criteria For The Worst Draft

The ranking criteria will utilize 4 different metrics for assigning points to a draft class, members of the hall of fame, all-star appearances, 1st Team All-NBA selections, and 2nd Team All-NBA selections. Because the first all-star game was not held until the 1950-1951 regular season, the draft comparison will not factor the 1947-1949 drafts into the rankings but will start with the 1950 draft class.

Point System

5 Points – Each Hall of Fame Member in the class

3 Points – Every 1st Team All-NBA selection for the class

2 Points – Every 2nd Team All-NBA selection for the class

1 Point – Every all-star appearance for the class

Criteria Accuracy Factors

Some draft classes had members of the hall of fame that never played in the NBA or had limited careers and were inducted primarily as a result of their international basketball career. International players were only included as a hall of fame member if they made at least 1 all-star game in the NBA.

Additional complications arise due to the presence of the American Basketball Association (ABA), a rival professional basketball league to the NBA from 1967 to 1976. Players were routinely drafted by both leagues and would end up spending time in both the NBA and ABA.

ABA all-star and all-league accomplishments were included in most circumstances when determining an NBA draft class’s score. However, if a player mostly played in the ABA, their accomplishments were only included if they were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame or were named to at least 1 NBA all-star game or all-league team.

Finally, some players were inducted into the hall of fame as contributors or coaches, whose playing career alone was not enough to get them into the hall of fame. Only individuals who made the hall of fame because of their careers as basketball players were included as members of the hall of fame when determining the draft class score.

10 Worst NBA Draft Classes of All Time

  1. 1988 NBA DRAFT – 28 POINTS

The 1988 NBA draft was highlighted by the failures of its top 2 picks, Danning Manning and Rik Smits, to ever develop into the stars that their high draft status warranted. Manning, after a dominating collegiate career at Kansas, tore his ACL during his rookie year and was never the same player. Smits, although a good offensive player, was a poor defender and rebounder despite his imposing 7’4” frame. The draft class produced 1 hall of fame player, 15 all-star game appearances, and 4 2nd Team All-NBA selections.

  1. 1999 NBA DRAFT – 26 POINTS

The 1999 NBA draft produced several players, including the top 3 picks of Elton Brand, Steven Francis, and Baron Davis, that had early success in their careers, but failed to reach their potential due to personal problems or injuries. The draft was saved from total failure by some players taken later in the draft that would significantly overachieve their draft statuses, such as Shawn Marion, Manu Ginobili, and Ron Artest. The draft class produced 1 hall of fame player, 19 all-star game appearances, and 1 2nd Team All-NBA selection.

  1. 1991 NBA DRAFT – 25 POINTS

Larry Johnson was the featured player of the 1991 NBA draft after his impressive collegiate career at UNLV and quickly burst onto the scene in the NBA during his first 2 seasons in the league. However, he was unable to replicate his early dominance in the NBA and he slowly regressed into a role player. Dikembe Mutombo was one of the few bright spots of this draft, developing into one of the best defensive centers in NBA history. The draft class produced 1 hall of fame player, 16 all-star game appearances, and 2 2nd Team All-NBA selections.

T-6. 1986 NBA DRAFT – 22 POINTS

Forever linked with the tragic death of #2 pick Len Bias due to a drug overdose 2 days after his selection, the 1986 NBA draft saw many promising careers cut short due to injuries or drug problems. The most successful to come out of the draft was Dennis Rodman, who became one of the best rebounders and defenders in NBA history, despite his eccentric behavior on and off the court. The draft class produced 1 hall of fame player, 14 all-star game appearances, and 1 1st Team All-NBA selection.

T-6. 1980 NBA DRAFT – 22 POINTS

The day before the 1980 NBA draft, the Boston Celtics made one of the best trades in NBA history, trading their #1 and #13 picks to the Golden State Warriors for Robert Parish and the #3 pick, which they used to select Kevin McHale, the best player of the 1980 draft class. Although the deal seems foolish in hindsight, the projected #1 pick, Joe Barry Carroll, was projected to be a dominant, game-changing center. Unfortunately, Carroll was a major disappointment, as was the rest of the class, which produced just 1 hall of fame player, 14 all-star game appearances, and 1 1st Team All-NBA selection.

  1. 1957 NBA DRAFT – 19 POINTS

Incredibly, only 1 of the top 7 picks of the 1957 NBA draft would end up making an all-star game, with top pick Rod Hundley amassing 2 all-star appearances. The only player of note ended up being Sam Jones, who would end up playing a major role during the Celtics’ legendary championship run in the late-50s and 60s. The class produced 1 hall of fame player, 8 all-star game appearances, and 3 2nd Team All-NBA selections.

  1. 1961 NBA DRAFT – 12 POINTS

The 1961 NBA draft produced one of the most underrated and under appreciated centers in NBA history, #1 pick Walt Bellamy. Overshadowed by many other centers in his playing days such as Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Willis Reed, Bellamy put together an impressive hall of fame career that was one of the only bright spots of the draft class. The class produced 1 hall of fame player, 7 all-star game appearances, and is one of 3 draft classes that failed to produce a single 1st Team or 2nd Team All-NBA selection.

  1. 1952 NBA DRAFT – 11 POINTS

With 3 first-round picks that failed to appear in an NBA regular season or postseason game, the 1952 NBA draft was an exercise in futility. Clyde Lovellette enjoyed the most successful career of all draft picks, starring at the center position for 4 different teams over an 11-year career. The class produced 1 hall of fame player, 4 all-star game appearances, and 1 2nd Team All-NBA selection.

  1. 1951 NBA DRAFT – 5 POINTS

The 1951 NBA Draft is the only draft class in the 20th century to not produce a single hall of fame player. It is also one of 3 draft classes that failed to produce a single 1st Team or 2nd Team All-NBA selection among any of its members and saw one-third of its 1st and 2nd round selections fail to appear in a regular-season or postseason game. The only accomplishments credited to the 1951 NBA draft class are a meager 5 all-star game appearances made by Mel Hutchins and Don Sunderlage.

What was the Worst NBA Draft Class?

  1. 2000 NBA DRAFT – 3 POINTS

The 2000 NBA Draft class has the distinction of being the worst draft class in NBA history, widely recognized among fans and analysts alike for its shortcomings.

#1 overall pick Kenyon Martin, after an impressive senior year at Cincinnati, had a disappointing career relative to his high draft status, making only 1 all-star game appearance. No lottery picks other than Martin would end up making an all-star game appearance. The best player of the draft, Michael Redd, was hampered by injuries for most of his career.

The only accomplishments for the 2000 NBA draft class are 3 all-star game appearances. Because no player in the 2000 NBA draft class appears to be headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, this class will probably end up being the worst of all time indefinitely.

While many of the worst NBA draft classes of all time came during the 1950s in the league’s infancy, many other infamous drafts dot the landscape throughout the decades. Factors ranging from drug problems and personal issues to injuries and poor player development among incompetent franchises have all contributed to some of the most disappointing draft classes. The worst NBA draft class of all time is the 2000 draft, which has gained widespread attention for its paltry selection of talent.