Draftbusters: What makes up a bust and who is likely to be one

Coming into a draft, there’s so much hope. Hope to land the next big thing. Hope to fill a major need. Hope to find that diamond in the rough. Hope that this player can turn it all around or maybe make a good thing better.

Every team has their picks and every team has the highest of hopes for the guy they take. But the inevitable happens every year. Players bust.

They don’t live up to their potential. They never contribute. They don’t find the success that they were supposed to. Like Ricky Barnes at Bethpage, they just fold.

The thing is, everybody has different definitions for bust. Maybe it’s a guy that was taken in the top 10 and never averaged more than 20 minutes a game in his NBA career (Kwame Brown) Maybe it’s a guy that came into the league with a ton of hype, had a fairly productive career but yet didn’t live up to the expectations placed on him (Joe Smith). Maybe it’s an international player that never makes it over the United States (Yotam Halperin, among many). Maybe it’s a talented guy that gets plagued by injuries and can’t produce (Michael Olowokandi). Or maybe even it’s just a nice college player taken in the late first round that never makes any kind contribution. It all just depends on how you look at the player.

Obviously, the highly regarded and highly drafted players that bust are the most visible. Those disappointments are unavoidably going to come up around this time of year. The Darko’s, the Robert Swift’s, the Michael Olowokandi’s. A guy like Andrea Bargnani is a nice NBA player but since he was the top pick in the 2006 draft, he could potentially be tagged as a bust. The expectations on the No. 1 overall guy are higher than anybody else. Really that’s true for any top five pick. They are supposed to be game changers. Guys that may need some grooming, but will surely have a positive impact on the team they are on.

One thing to remember is you have to stay relative with each pick. Maybe a guy averaged six points, four rebounds and 16 minutes a game for his NBA career. Bust right? But maybe he was taken with the 18th of the first round and is set to play behind an established star for 10 years, does his job and plays great minutes off the bench. But he does his job and does it well. He’s no bust. He was just a piece to the puzzle.

Some guys like Sam Bowie are forever a huge flop because of their unfortunate circumstances. Bowie battled injuries his entire career and had the misfortune of some guy named Michael Jordan behind picked one slot behind him. People forget that Hakeem Olajuwon was taken No. 1 overall in that 1984 draft. But he’s no flop because you know, he’s a Hall of Fame player. But he also wasn’t Michael Jordan. Bowie goes down as the ultimate draft failure not because of what his career didn’t amount to, but because of who Portland could’ve taken.

That same situation is staring Portland in the face again with Greg Oden. Maybe Oden is a decent player and produces fairly well a la Bargnani, but if Kevin Durant goes on to superstardom, Oden is a major bust because he was taken in front of Durant. Don’t you think we’d be talking about what a major bust Kenyon Martin was if say, LeBron James was taken behind him? But since really nobody of value came from that draft, it’s almost like Martin was validated as the top pick. Probably the best player out of the 2006 draft is Brandon Roy. He was taken sixth. If he went right behind Bargnani, don’t you think we might be talking a little more about Bargnani’s busty-ness. Kind of a funny thing.

Come Friday morning every team and every fan of that team will have a a new player on their roster. And while they may not agree with the pick, most everyone will be excited and have high hopes for it. But the reality is, only five or six of these guys will probably be big-time contributors. Maybe two or three will be All-Stars. In five years, what guys will we be looking at and laughing that they went in the top 10? Sure there’s tell-tale signs and things we could peg, but you’ve also got the can’t-miss players. The guys that there’s no way they’ll bust. But it happens. Even though people can scout, do tons of homework, interview players and whatever else, in the end some of it comes down to luck. You can’t really know how a player will pan out. Right now, we all say Blake Griffin is a lock for stardom. It’s a no-brainer. But in four or five years, will we be laughing at the fact he went in front of Jordan Hill? It may sound crazy now, but it’s entirely possible.

It’s too early to tell with last year’s draft. We’re still waiting for some of these guys to pan out, to find their spot on a team and to contribute how they will. But the flops of the 2007 draft are beginning to take shape. Yi Jianlian, Greg Oden, Morris Almond, Acie Law, Julian Wright – all guys with solid resumes and reasons to be successful. But all guys that have definitely not lived up to expectation. Someone like Acie Law was a great leader in college, a big shot taker and maker, an excellent point guard with great passing skills and a top-notch defender. But the most he’s done in two seasons in the league is ride the pine and watch Mike Bibby lead the team to the playoffs twice. Now it’s not all over for a guy like Law, but all signs point to bust right now.

The thing is, the reason some of those guys could be “busts” is because of the expectations we had for them out of college. Corey Brewer was an excellent college player and he was taken in the top 10 of the draft. He’s been a nice player, but some expected him to be an absolute stud. And since he hasn’t panned out that way, he could be considered a bust. That’s not necessarily fair because it’s not his fault he was taken in the top 10 and was labeled the way he was. He’s just a good player that happened to be drafted ahead of 50 other guys. Doesn’t mean he’s totally a bust.

But right now, as we sit here looking at this draft class, you don’t see guys necessarily for potential busts. You see all the upside and potential a guy could have. But in just two years we may be going, “What were the Warriors thinking taking Stephen Curry so high? The most he’s played is eight minutes in two seasons.” But there really weren’t that many warning signs to see it coming. Just like Acie Law. Some guys show all the signs (*cough* Hasheem Thabeet *cough*). But in the end, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Will we be laughing about Ricky Rubio? Pointing at DeMar DeRozan? Could James Harden be the next draft bust poster child? We don’t know now, but we will in a few years.

Joe took a look into this year’s class, hunting for potential busters. Now don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a list predicting busts. He’s not saying these players will bust. It’s simply trying to dip into that hindsight before the fact. It’s positives and negatives of each players and the offset presented a bust potential score. The more stars, the more ticks on your resume and the more reason to bust. But also realize that sometimes the guys with the most bust potential have the most upside. A guy like Dwight Howard was ripe with flop potential, but he also had a ton of actual untapped potential, which he obviously found. So just because someone gets four or five stars doesn’t mean it’s all over for the guy. It’s really just so Joe can say ‘I told you so’ three years from now if he’s right.

Blake Griffin * – Will likely play for the Clippers.

Ricky Rubio ***** – Contract/buyout issues, poor shooter, weird agent. Hasn’t or won’t work out for anybody. Potential?

James Harden * – Poor showing in the tourney. (Even though he didn’t score well in the tourney, he was the leading rebounder with 13, 2nd assist guy with 8 and leader in steals with 4 in the two games, and only shot 18 times.) A do it all guy.

Steph Curry ** – Not a true point, NBA defense, not as quick as other combo guards. Handled a huge load for team (38% of possessions) 8th in nation in assist rate; good thief.

Hasheem Thabeet ***** – Three in the key, soft, zero offense. Questionable work ethic. Doesn’t get back consistently. Didn’t get measured. Didn’t test at the combine. His workout schedule has been shrouded in secrecy. History of African 7-footers.

Jordan Hill *** – Has shown zero ability to defend. Looks like Chris Wilcox. Benefiting from weak draft. Dead last at combine in Agility. Poor free throw shooting. Doesn’t get to the line. Good rebounder.

Demar DeRozan **** – Where’s the all-world athleticism? Hasn’t shot the three. Hype. Not dominant in college. Isn’t in the top 25 in any statistic. Poor free throw shooter. Short for the small forward position. Not good enough shooter for the shooting guard position. Mid-range game a plus.

Brandon Jennings *** – Immaturity. Delusions of grandeur/cockiness. Didn’t get measured. Hasn’t played well in Europe. Hasn’t found his shot. Lack of strength. Creativity. Good thief. Doesn’t turn it over much. Very, very quick.

DeJuan Blair *** – Knee issues. Undersized. No face up game. Poor free throw shooter. Long arms. Explosive. Strong. Best offensive rebounder in NCAA in eight years. Great overall rebounder. Strong finisher. Very efficient offensively. Toned up. Wowing scouts in workouts. Warrior mentality.

Jonny Flynn ** – Size. Hasn’t hit the three. Shaky jump shot. Turnovers. Defense. Gets to the rim. Gets to the line.

Tyreke Evans ** – Not a point guard. Turns it over. Shoots a lot. Inability to hit the three. Wowing them in workouts. Projects as an all around shooting guard. Good size and athleticism.

Ty Lawson * – Toe problem. Short body, short arms. Great scoring efficiency. Most pro-ready point guard on the board.

Jrue Holiday **** – Never did anything in college. Immaturity. Hype. Westbrook factor. Not impressing in workouts.

Earl Clark *** – Tweener forward. Turnover prone. Inefficient scorer. I’m not sure what he’s good at.

Eric Maynor *** – Good scorer and assist guy. A bit shaky with turns. Size? Defense? Small college.

B.J. Mullens **** – Never did anything in college. Seven feet of stiff stigma. Athletic. Will likely go to a decent team and have time to mature and gain skill and experience.

Austin Daye **** – Super skinny (15-20 pounds lighter than KD). Doesn’t get to the line. Foul prone. Who can he guard? Doesn’t like contact. Got punk’d by Omri Casspi. Can block some shots and rebound defensively. Not a strong finisher. Good 3-point shooting.

Chase Budinger *** – Seems uninterested. Can he defend? Short arms. Good shooter. Good athlete. Looks like Luke Walton’s clone.

James Johnson *** – Not good free throw shooter or 3-point shooter. Fairly efficient scorer.

Gerald Henderson *** – Nothing special about this guy. Two-point FGA is lowest among shooting guards. Not exceptional at the three. Why is he in the first round?  A bit short for NBA shooting guard.

Jeff Teague *** – Small for shooting guard, can’t play point guard. Great scorer.

Josh Heytvelt *** – Not a strong rebounder. Likes to play on the perimeter. Off court issues in the past.

Terrrance Williams ** – Doesn’t shoot well. Great size for shooting guard. Great passer.

Omri Casspi ** – Skinny. Scrappy. Good shooter.

Wayne Ellington *** – Poor workouts. Can’t create his own offense. Good shooter from anywhere. Winner. Played in pro style program.

Jeff Pendergraph * – Very basic offensive moves. The most efficient big man in the country. Knows his limitations. A hustler and worker.

Tyler Hansbrough ** – Can he score in the NBA? Seems like a role player.

Taj Gibson **** – Skinny. Blocks shots and rebounds. Long arms. Skinny.

Darren Collison *** – Small. Decent scoring potential. Leadership.

Patty Mills ****– 40% on his two-point FGA’s, doesn’t rebound, not a strong assist guy. Shot selection. Doesn’t get to the line. Is he a point guard?