Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worst NBA Draft Picks: 1990-1999

In the second of a three-part series, The Canon Review takes a look at the worst draft pick for each year in the 1990s. While teams always hope they have the next superstar coming out of the draft, that's not always going to be the case. For every Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki, there's a Todd Fuller or a Michael Olawakandi on the draft board, providing nothing but disappointment and grief to their team's fanbase. So, without further aideu, here are the worst NBA draft picks of the 1990s.

1990: Felton Spencer, Center, Minnesota Timberwolves, 6th Pick

Spencer was a teammate of 1989's worst pick, Pervis Ellison, at the University of Louisville. Because of Ellison's presence, Spencer only started one year at Louisville. But the Timberwolves needed a better center than Randy Breuer, so they picked the 7'0" Spencer with their pick. Spencer proved quite early that he wasn't going to be an offensive force, but he did average 7.9 rebounds in his rookie year. However, the Timberwolves weren't satisfied, so they picked Luc Longley the next year. Spencer spent the next two years primarily on the bench for Minnesota, then was traded to the Utah Jazz for Mike Brown.

1991: Doug Smith, Forward, Dallas Mavericks, 6th Pick

Some people might have Billy Owens in this slot, but he did have a few good years in Golden State and Miami, so I'll give him a pass. Instead Smith, a 6'10" inch forward out of Missouri, gets the nod here. Smith held out and didn't sign until just before the 1991 season started, and when he showed up, he was out of shape and struggled most of his rookie year. Smith averaged a career high 10.4 points in 1992-93 for the 12-70 Mavericks, but lost playing time the next year. After the 1995 season, Smith was selected by the Toronto Raptors in the expansion draft, but was released soon after. Smith then signed with the Celtics and played 17 games in 1995-96 before getting released, ending his NBA career.

1992: Todd Day, Guard-Forward, Milwaukee Bucks, 8th Pick

1992 was a rather strong draft, but the Bucks didn't get exactly what they wanted when they picked Day with the 8th pick in the draft. Day, who finished his collegiate career as Arkansas' all time leading scorer, Day got a lot of playing time with the Bucks during his first three seasons and averaged 14.0 points a game, but was an inconsistent shooter, shooting .just over 41 percent from the field during his stay in Milwaukee. So off he went to the Celtics, where Day once held the franchise record for points scored in a quarter. However, he also shot .387 from the field in his two seasons in Boston. Day spent the next few years as a backup for three different NBA teams and then finished his basketball career playing in various locales, including the new ABA and a stint on the Harlem Globetrotters.

1993: Shawn Bradley, Center, Philadelphia 76ers, 2nd Pick

Yes, Bradley played over 800 games and made nearly 70 million dollars during his career (if only I were 7'6"), but his career as a whole came up short. The 76ers decided to make the big man from BYU the centerpiece of their franchise, and picked him over Anfernee Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn. Bradley proved to be an excellent shot blocker, and his 2.5 blocks per game rank ninth in NBA history. However, offensively he was limited at best, and his rebounding was rather lackluster for a man that stands 7'6". In his two plus years in Philly, Bradley averaged 9.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and the Philadelphia fans and press turned on him. Traded to New Jersey, Bradley showed signs of competency, averaging 12.3 points and 8 rebounds a game. That's not great, but the Mavericks were impressed, and sent Jim Jackson, Sam Cassell, and others for a package centered around Bradley. Bradley would spend nine seasons in Dallas, but only averaged double figures in points for the first two seasons, gradually losing playing time and becoming little more than a better version of Jim McLlvaine. Bradley retired in 2005, finishing his career averaging 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, and also leaving behind a legacy of getting dunked on.

1994: Sharone Wright, Forward, Philadelphia 76ers, 6th Pick

Over the years, Clemson has produced some quality power forwards, like Larry Nance and Horace Grant, and Wright was supposed to be the next link in the chain. In his first year in the league, Wright was solid, averaging 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds a game and was named to the All NBA Rookie 2nd Team. The next year, his play seemed to slip, and when Philadelphia decided to start all over, Wright was traded to the Toronto Raptors. Wright finished the 1995-96 season strongly for the Raptors, averaging 16.5 points in 11 games. The next year, Wright spent most of the season as a backup, averaging only 16.8 minutes and 6.5 points per game. During the 1997 offseason, Wright was seriously injured in a car wreck, and was never the same player. After playing seven games with the Raptors in 1998, Wright continued his career in Europe, and is currently a coach for a Dutch team in Amsterdam.

1995: Bryant Reeves, Center, Vancouver Grizzlies, 6th Pick

Reeves, nicknamed Big Country, was the first ever pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies, and the 7'1, 275 lb was positioned to be the franchise player of the expansion Grizzlies. In his first three years, Reeves wasn't great, but he wasn't terrible either, averaging 15.2 points per game. The Grizzlies were encouraged by Reeves' play, so they signed him to a six year, 65 million dollar contract extension. It is contracts like these that is the cause of the upcoming lockout. The only thing that improved after the contract signing was Reeves' waist size, as he got overweight and the Grizzlies saw his ppg average go from 16.3 to 10.8 to 8.9. In 2001, Reeves averaged 8.3 points a game, and chronic back pain forced him to retire in 2002. Meanwhile, Reeves continued to reap the benefits of his contract until 2005, so good for him.

1996: Lorenzen Wright, Center, Los Angeles Clippers, 7th Pick

Wright was a journeyman center who wasn't an awful player, but when you're the seventh player in the draft and picked ahead of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, you're expected to be a little more than a big man that can provide 15-20 minutes off the bench each night. Coming out of Memphis, Wright was chosen by a Clippers team that needed help at the center position. But Wright wasn't the answer for the Clippers' problems, averaging 7.7. points and 7.4 rebounds during his three years in L.A. The Hawks saw some potential in Wright, so after the 1999 season, they traded two future first round picks for Wright and signed him to a six year, 42 million dollar contract. So imagine my frustration as a Hawks fan when Wright proceeds to average 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds a game next year. Wright improved in 2001 (12.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg), so it was time for the Hawks to make another stupid trade and send Wright along with the pick that would become Pau Gasol for Shareef-Abdur Rahim. Wright spent five seasons playing for his hometown Grizzlies, averaging 9.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in 336 games. After the 2006 season, Wright signed again with the Hawks as a backup center, and was eventually part of the deal that sent Mike Bibby to Atlanta. After 18 games in 2008-09 with the Cavaliers, Wright retired. Sadly, Wright was found dead in July 2010, and the investigation into his murder is still pending.

1997: Antonio Daniels, Guard, Vancouver Grizzlies, 4th Pick

The 1997 Draft was not very good at all, as you had Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, Chauncey Billups, and a whole bunch of guys that were either decent or something less than that. Daniels was the fourth pick in this draft out of Bowling Green, and unlike Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury, Daniels actually wanted to play in Vancouver. But after struggling in his rookie season (7.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, .416 field goal percentage), the Grizzlies drafted Mike Bibby the next year and sent Daniels to San Antonio for Carl Herrera and Felipe Lopez. In San Antonio, Daniels developed into a decent role player, but not the star he was projected to become. After three years in San Antonio, Daniels has been a backup in Portland, Seattle, Washington, and New Oreleans, and just this past season, Daniels played four games for the Philadelphia 76ers. While Daniels is a consummate pro, the fact is that he's only had one season where he averaged double figures in points (11.2 with the 2004-05 Supersonics) and his career averages of 7.6 points and 3.4 assists per game are not the marks one hopes for out of a number four pick, hence, his appearance on this list.

1998: Michael Olowokandi, Center, Los Angeles Clippers, 1st Pick

The Clippers could have chosen Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, or Paul Pierce with the pick. But in true Clippers fashion, they chose Olowokandi, a seven footer from Pacific who didn't start playing organized basketball until he was 17. To say that Olowokandi was raw would be an understatement, but in his first season, he wasn't terrible (8.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg). But Olowokandi didn't improve much after his rookie season, and his range was limited (.433 field goal percentage as a Clipper). After a 2002-03 season in which Olowokandi set a career high in ppg (12.3), and rpg (9.1, albeit in 36 games), the Timberwolves signed him as a free agent in the hopes that Olowokandi and Kevin Garnett would make an imposing front line. While Garnett lived up to his end of the bargain, Olowokandi struggled with injury and in his three years in Minnesota, he averaged a mere 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. After a trade to the Celtics in 2006, Olowokandi would last only one more season before finding himself out of the NBA after the 2006-07 season.

1999: Jonathan Bender, Forward, Toronto Raptors, 5th Pick 

The Raptors chose Bender straight out of high school in 1999, but didn't hold on to him long, as they traded him to the Pacers for Antonio Davis on Draft Night. That would prove to be a good decision for the Raptors. The Pacers, a team full of veterans, figured that they could wait a couple of years and allow Bender to develop and adjust to life in the NBA. At the time, it probably seemed like a good idea. But time makes fools of us all and Bender wasn't able to translate his athletic talent into a decent NBA career. He struggled shooting (career .417 field goal percentage) and while he was 6'11", he was too slim to bang with the power forwards of the league. Knee problems started to rob Bender of his elite athleticism, and the Pacers had to call it a day and release Bender at the end of the 2006 season. Remarkably, Bender came back and played for the Knicks in the 2009-10, but wasn't brought back after averaging 4.7 points in 25 games. For his career, Bender finished with averages of 5.5 points and 2.2 rebounds. However, he's only 30, so a comeback is theoretically possible.

Well, thanks for reading The Canon Review's Worst NBA Draft Picks of the 1990s. If you have any thoughts or disagreements about this list, then feel free to share those by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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