By: Jason Fleming
No person ever wants to be called a bust. It's a term most often used to refer to high draft picks who never fulfill expectations, but could just as easily be the guy in the cube next to you who everyone had high hopes for but instead spends his days weighing the options of his fantasy football team. Or his fantasy racing team. Or bass fishing. Or – well, you get the picture.
Even athletes who end up being called busts can't shoulder all the blame, though they usually do. Is it their fault a general manager somewhere thought they were better than they were? Are they guilty of fraud for convincing someone to spend x amount of dollars on their services, then producing only y results?
In the NBA first round picks are locked into two-year contracts at a minimum, with team options for the third and fourth year. If you recall this is a change – it used to be three years guaranteed with one team option – but in the last round of negotiations teams wanted more flexibility to get out from under bad draft choices. As we all know, that hasn't stopped the poor selections.
Unfortunately, there are no mulligans in the draft, so here is a short list of players around the league on rookie scale contracts who might qualify for the dreaded label as bust.
Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats
Morrison was drafted third overall by Michael Jordan and the Bobcats, but he wasn't nearly the player – so far – anyone expected him to be. Known as a jump shooter, his percentages were horrible (34% from three-point range, 38% overall) as a rookie and he couldn't guard a chair. Then he missed last season with a knee injury. Morrison needs to prove, this season, he deserves to stay in this league. If his performance is anything less than excellent, the Cats are going to be dishing him to anyone still interested.
Sergio Rodriguez, Portland Trail Blazers
Rodriguez definitely has a following, but Portland coach Nate McMillan doesn't seem to be among them. His penchant for making turnovers because he is out of control as well as his lack of defense are the biggest reasons – and as an NBA point guard you better be able to do one of those things well in addition to making passes and hitting jumpers. Rodriguez excites the crowd, but that's enough when on the next play he'll throw the ball to those same fans who cheered a fancy pass a minute earlier. In fact, Rodriguez is so in the doghouse his playing time dipped from 12.9 minutes per game as a rookie to 8.7 as a sophomore – and then Portland drafted guard Jerryd Bayless.
J.J. Redick, Orlando Magic
Redick is not happy in Orlando and Orlando is not happy with Redick. He can shoot to be sure, but a player needs to have more than one skill to be a player in this league, especially one drafted in the lottery. Shooters will always have a home in the NBA, but Redick won't find his until he is either traded to a team specifically wanting a shooter or the Magic waive him. Unfortunately for both sides he was drafted to be a starting shooting guard, and his lack of defense makes it almost impossible to justify playing time – he gives up as many or more than he would score. Look for Redick to resurface outside of Orlando sometime – a la Jason Kapono.
Johan Petro and Saer Sene, Oklahoma City
This franchise has been looking for second coming of Shawn Kemp for awhile now, but this is all they have to show for it. Combined these two first round picks – both big men who are not nearly strong enough to play the NBA post – put up these stats: 23.0 minutes, 28 starts, 85 games, 8.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.12 blocks. Hey, that blocks number is decent in 23.0 minutes. Combine these two with restricted free agent center Robert Swift – he of the 71 games played over four seasons – and that's quit the poor choice of big men in Seattle.
Sean May, Charlotte Bobcats
Like Morrison and Swift, May has been hurt. A lot. In three seasons May has played in only 58 games, including missing all of 2007-08 (this is another reason why it's so hard to gauge the 2008-09 Bobcats – no one has any idea what they will have on the floor), but has produced when healthy. 10.4 and 5.9 rebounds, with multiple double-doubles, is solid production in 21.3 minutes of floor time, but it's not enough for a lottery pick. Calling him a bust is harsh since he has been productive when not nursing one injury or another, but 58 games is 58 games.
Ike Diogu, Portland Trail Blazers
Maybe he's just cheap, but a lottery pick who has been traded twice in three seasons isn't someone their team thinks highly of enough to keep around. Maybe it's just bad luck. Maybe it's just that Diogu's contract has fit in nicely in two moves Golden State and Indiana had to make for the betterment of their franchises, but players drafted at the nine spot should be more valuable; Diogu hasn't proved much value. Over 158 games in three seasons he has earned himself 13.3 minutes a game and posted averages of 6.5 points and 3.3 rebounds. Apparently those critics of him before the 2005 NBA Draft who called him too undersized to play power forward at 6-8 may have been right.
Shelden Williams, Sacramento Kings
It all started so well for Williams in Atlanta. Drafted fifth overall in 2006 he even earned rookie awards early on, but his production trailed off the longer the season went on. Then the Hawks drafted Al Horford and Marvin Williams got healthy, and suddenly Williams wasn't even in the rotation. When they needed a few extra bucks to make the Mike Bibby acquisition happen, adding in Williams was a no-brainer. He actually played even less in Sacramento, a team with overpaid veterans who can't stay in the rotation or healthy, like Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. And then the Kings used their 2008 lottery pick on power forward Jason Thompson. Doesn't really seem like the Kings are that thrilled with what they saw in 28 games from Williams, does it?
Honorable mention goes to this following list of players their own team didn't wait around the full four years on: Yaroslav Korolev (L.A. Clippers), Gerald Green (Boston, then Minnesota), Julius Hodge (Denver, then Milwaukee), Wayne Simien (Miami, then Minnesota), Patrick O'Bryant (Golden State), and Shannon Brown (Cleveland, then Chicago).
That's just a short list – no doubt you, dear reader, have your own names to add to this list. Who would it be? Again, keep it to players on rookie contracts, which would be anyone drafted in 2005, 2006, or 2007. And no, no one from 2008 is eligible to be called a bust – wait until next summer to do that. Leave a comment…