I know what you're thinking. "Lamar Odom shouldn't be on he's had a solid career!" Indeed he has, but he could have had a legendary career. Yes, he's a two-time champion. Yes, he's a former Sixth Man of the Year. Yet for all his talent. LO has never even cracked an All Star game. Ask any NBA analyst worth his salt and they'll tell you LO had the skill set to be a top five player in this league.
Few players have ever had nearly as much versatility, especially at his size. That's a power forward with those handles. A walking triple double threat, Odom has lacked the necessary drive to sustain the intensity necessary to be truly great. While he's undoubtedly had himself a fine career, it could have been so, so much better.
Lamar's former Clippers running mate came into the league with considerable hype. A gifted athlete and explosive dunker, he and Odom combined to create one of the original League Pass Darling teams. Those Clipper teams were bad, but boy, were they entertaining. Unfortunately, entertainment value doesn't always translate into wins, and in the case of Darius, it didn't result in a very successful NBA career. He failed to increase his shooting range from outside the basket area and then a severe knee injury halted any chance of him ever developing into the player he could have been. He's lucky he got that huge contract from Portland.
You may have been expecting Kwame "Toaster Hands" Brown for this one, but did anyone outside of MJ really think he was worthy of a number one pick? Eddy Curry had the size to be a dominant big man. Unfortunately, he let that size continue to grow...and grow. It's still growing. He worked his way up to very respectable numbers (19 and 7 in '06-'07), but floundered after that. His weight issues, injuries, and disagreements with coaches all contributed to his selection in this list. Not to mention the bizarre sexual harassment accusations, "Come and touch it, Dave."
The story of Jay Williams is a sad one. After setting the college basketball world on fire by leading Duke to the 2001 NCAA Championship, his career was tragically ended by a motorcycle accident. To add insult to injury, riding a motorcycle violated his contract with the Bulls, so the team didn't have to uphold his lucrative contract. Williams attempted several comebacks but to no avail. This cruel event deprived the world of ever knowing if the 2001 Tournament's top scorer would be equally potent in the pros.
In one of the most talented drafts of all time, Joe Dumars and the Pistons decided it was a good idea to pass on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. Yeah, it's hard to defend this one. But again, at the time, I'm sure they had their reasons and I'm sure they were well thought - actually, there is no defending this. It's interesting to think about how formidable that Detroit team would have been if Darko had panned out. Ultimately, it worked out for them, as they went on to win the 2004 title without Melo, CB, or Wade.
D12 is the clear number one pick when examining the 2004 NBA Draft today. However, at the time, pundits were split on which big man Orlando should select. Okafor was more polished, they said. Even Bill Simmons famously wrote "Orlando will regret taking Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor." For a short time, it appeared Simmons was correct.
A quick glance at the stats of each player during their rookie season reveals that Okafor actually averaged more points and rebounds than Dwight. After that though, Howard continued to improve and Okafor regressed. It would have been a fun rivalry to watch if both had developed into perennial superstars but Okafor has panned out to be not much more than a serviceable big man.
With both Deron Williams and Chris Paul still on the board, the Atlanta Hawks selected Marvin Williams with the second pick of the 2005 Draft. The Hawks waited and waited for Williams to develop so they could justify their pick, but he never obliged them. He started to show signs, averaging 15 and 6 in '07-'08 but ultimately couldn't take his game to the next level. He's heavily regressed since then averaging a paltry 7 and 3 this season.
Adam Morrison was such a prolific scorer in college that he garnered Larry Bird comparisons. Such talk is blasphemy now of course, but in 2006 it was enough for MJ to draft him at number three. EA Sports believed the hype as well, releasing several humorous commercials starring the mustached Bobcat. Although a defensive liability from the start, Ammo put up pretty respectable numbers on the offensive end during his rookie season. Morrison then blew out his knee in a preseason game the next year and never regained form. He became timid and lacked the aggression required to compete on an NBA level. Morrison could have been a special scorer. Thanks to his "contributions" with the Lakers, he can at least rest his laurels on being an NBA champion.
Greg Oden came out of school being described as a mix of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. It's quite a shame Oden was born with glass bones. I recall attending the Lakers' 2007 season opener. One of the first possessions of the game, the ball was thrown into Bynum, guarded by Oden, in what should have been the first of many epic duels between the two centers. The arena buzzed in anticipation. Bynum sized him up, then delivered a quick spin, the crowd growing louder with each step toward the basket. Big Drew threw up a jump hook and proceeded to have his shot swatted by Oden. A collective "Oh Sh**" emanated from the crowd. I remember thinking, "Damn. This guy is gonna be good." Unfortunately for Greg, that was the peak of his success. In fact, he later injured himself in that very game, an ominous foreshadowing of things to come. Oden eventually suffered a devastating knee injury and has been unable to return to action since.
Michael Beasley has shown us he can be a premier scorer. It seems, however, that his mental fortitude hasn't caught up with his physical gifts. Since averaging 19 points two seasons ago, his numbers and minutes have plummeted. This can be attributed to his unwillingness to buy into his coaches' systems. If Beasley can grow up and mature a little more, he can easily earn his way off this list. If not, he will just be another player who was unable to live up to his potential.
Memphis knew Thabeet was a project when they drafted him at number two, but here we are four years later and the giant Tanzanian has yet to make any visible progress towards developing his game. With that size and athleticism, he has been blessed with genes that make him capable of dominating an NBA game, especially with true centers becoming such a rarity today. He's still young, so there's a chance he can turn things around and become a factor, but all indications so far are that all his potential is going down the drain.