Former No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett has been waived by the Toronto Raptors, according to The Vertical’s Shams Charania. Once a standout double-double machine during his lone year in college at UNLV, there’s now added clout to the argument that Bennett is the biggest draft bust in NBA history following his release from his second organization in less than a year.
After being selected with the top choice of the 2013 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers — albeit in an admittedly weak class — Bennett floundered his way to one of the worst rookie campaigns ever. Interestingly, though, Bennett’s disastrous rookie year isn’t the worst by a player drafted No. 1 overall during the shot-clock era (ranked by win shares).
Hot Rod Hundley in 1957-58 takes that rancid cake. But unlike Bennett, Hundley found success in the pros relative to his peers after the fact. He achieved All-Star recognition in 1960 and 1961 while averaging 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists during that two-season span. Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, and he shot below 36 percent from the field in each respective season, but at least Hundley can’t be deemed a complete bust.
The only other former No. 1 pick to post a rookie season as egregious as Bennett’s by the win shares stat is notorious bust LaRue Martin. The 6-foot-11 center played just four seasons in the NBA, averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 41.6 percent for his career.
As bad as Martin’s career numbers are, Bennett’s are actually worse.
Compared to Martin, who never moved the needle much for the Portland Trail Blazers, Bennett averages fewer points, rebounds and assists. He also converts a lower percentage of his field goals.
There’s a chance Bennett’s NBA career may now come to an unceremonious end. If it does, and his career stats reflect his three lackluster seasons, he’s definitely in the conversation for biggest No. 1 overall draft bust of all time. Expectations that stem from his draft position, his disastrous rookie showing, subsequent lack of improvement and release from multiple organizations all cement his standing.
Other disappointments who were selected with the top choice include Greg Oden, Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi. Oden suffered a rash of injuries that effectively derailed his playing career — an excuse Bennett can’t exactly lean on; save for rotator cuff surgery he underwent on his non-shooting shoulder before being drafted. Brown and Olowokandi were markedly mediocre, but they still combined to play 21 seasons as decent role players (though they were repeatedly asked to fill starting center spots for reasons that remain unclear).
Those big men moved the needle to miniscule degrees, but they did move it. By contrast, Bennett has exactly as many NBA win shares as you or myself: zero. On that basis, it’s fair to surmise Bennett is the most disappointing No. 1 pick ever (barring an unforeseen reinvention of himself as a player). But does his bust status claim the top spot among all players selected within the top five picks?
That discussion adds a bit more nuance. Should a “worse” player drafted at a lower slot be deemed a bigger bust? Does Bennett’s position as a No. 1 choice act as a trump card?
Adam Morrison, Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Paul Hogue, three former top-five picks who recorded negative win shares as rookies, also ended their careers with negative win shares. The trio finished Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on a list of the worst team-by-team busts I wrote back in October.
Their ability to transform from promising lottery picks to duds who actually cost their teams wins defines the term bust. Bennett may not currently be viewed as the biggest bust ever next to those guys, but his failure to catch on in Toronto doesn’t help his case.
If he never goes on to meaningfully contribute for another team, he’ll deservedly be a leading contender for the dubious title.