The NBA is home to some of the best athletes in the world. They are flying through the air in pursuit of a ball, diving for loose balls, driving in for layups, and grabbing rebounds. Every year, the NBA has a draft. It is the process where teams select high school and college players to fill out their rosters for the upcoming season. There are superstars like LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and others. But what about those who aren’t as talented?
For every success story there’s someone else that just doesn’t measure up. Some have been drafted by an NBA team but never played a single game due to injuries or other issues. Others were not even selected at all.
While it is good to see the success stories, I think it is equally valuable to look at the failures too. It can be very helpful when you’re trying to improve your own skill set. Who are some of the worst players in the NBA?
How I Chose My List Of Worst NBA Players
I’ve formed the list of players with a lackluster career on the basis of my personal opinion. Here are the factors that I took into consideration:
- Statistics – Players that had way below average statistics: points per game, rebounds, assists.
- Notoriety and attitude – It is not just the numbers that count. A person who does not treat others well consistently or has been involved in unlawful activities will not have a successful career in the NBA.
- Lack of playing time or a short tenure in the NBA – I do understand that this criteria and the next involves some element of luck. Someone who had very little playing time in their career or only had one or two seasons may have been injured. I will mention this where applicable.
- Draft batch mates – Were they picked ahead of other draftees that eventually became NBA stars? The amount of publicity and fame that comes with being a top pick puts extreme pressure on a player. There is also an element of luck involved. However, we can not deny that top picks will already have a solid basketball experience which puts them at an advantage. This is why I considered this as a factor.
List Of The Worst NBA Players
1. Javaris Crittenton
Javaris Crittenton was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007. He was a point guard and shooting guard. He played for the Lakers for two seasons before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies halfway through his second season. He was traded to the Washington Wizards the next season.
It was during his time with the Washington Wizards that he got into an altercation with teammate Gilbert Arenas. The incident resulted in both of them getting suspended. He was later released from the team while Arenas joined back.
Crittenton then tried his luck with the Charlotte Bobcats who signed him into a non-guaranteed contract. He was let go after three weeks. He had a brief stint in the Chinese Basketball League afterwards where he played for the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions. He did pretty well and averaged 25.8 points during the five games that he played for the team.
He went back to the United States and played for the Dakota Wizards in the NBA D-league. This was the final team that he played for in his basketball career.
Crittenton pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter charges and was sentenced to 23 years in prison in April 2015. He was initially charged with murder for the death of 22 year old Julian Jones in August 2011. Jones was accidentally killed while Crittenton was attempting to shoot a man who robbed him.
It’s hard to say whether or not his career would’ve turned out differently if he had never played professional basketball. But it seems like he made some bad decisions and now he might be paying the price.
His NBA career lasted two years. He played a total of 113 games. He averaged 5.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 44.2%.
2. Brian Scalabrine
Brian Scalabrine played in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets, Boston Celtics, and the Chicago Bulls. He was a second round pick by the New Jersey Nets in 2001. He was with the Nets for four seasons. The Nets made it to the NBA finals in the first two of those seasons that he was with them but was not really an outstanding player. He only had an average of 1.5 points in spite of playing 210 games.
He signed with the Boston Celtics and started playing for them in the 2005-2006 season. He stayed with the Celtics for five seasons. The team won the championship in 2008 and made it to the 2010 finals. He only averaged 1 point in the 264 games that he played with them.
The last team that he joined in the NBA was the Chicago Bulls who signed him in 2010. He played with them for two seasons before he switched careers as a broadcaster for the Boston Celtics.
Unfortunately for Brian, his career never really took off in spite of staying in the NBA for a long time. In his 11 years in the NBA, he played a total of 520 games. He averaged 3.1 points, 2 rebounds, and 0.8 assists. His field goal shooting percentage was 39%. He played in the power forward and center positions.
3. Cherokee Parks
A graduate of Duke University, Cherokee Parks was drafted 12th overall by the Dallas Mavericks back in 1995. He played in the NBA as a power forward and center for a total of nine seasons. He was part of seven teams in those nine seasons. You can just imagine how difficult it would have been bouncing from one team to another, learning and relearning plays, getting acquainted, etc.
Those seven teams include: Dallas Mavericks where he played one season. This was followed by two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After the Timberwolves, he played two seasons with the Vancouver Grizzlies. His sixth season (2000-2001) saw him with two teams: Washington Wizards where he played the first 14 games of the season after which he was switched to the Los Angeles Lakers and finished the season with them.
He was with three different teams in the last three years of his NBA career: San Antonio Spurs, followed by a return to the Los Angeles Lakers before rounding up his last season with the Golden State Warriors.
He played a total of 472 games. He averaged 4.4 points, 3,6 rebounds and 0.6 assists. His field goal percentage was 47%.
Parks is now back in the NBA but in a different role. He works in the Player Development department of the NBA after going through the Basketball Operations Associate Program. While he did not have a stellar career on-court, he is now making a difference to player’s lives off-court.
4. Keith Closs
Keith Closs was undrafted in the 1997 NBA Draft. He went on as a free agent and eventually got a break with the Los Angeles Clippers. The 7’3” center holds the NCAA record for most blocks at 5.87 blocked shots per game.
He only played three seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. He played in 130 games and averaged 3.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.3 assists. His field goal percentage was 47.1%.
He then dabbled in other leagues like the defunct United States Basketball League (USBL), the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), the American Basketball Association (ABA), the NBA G-league, and the Chinese Basketball Association. This is all within a span of five years.
A video of him in 2000 being beaten by several men went viral. His erratic behavior back then was most likely due to his drinking problem. Unfortunately, this kept him from ever reaching his full potential.
The last information available on Closs’ whereabouts is that he has sobered up. He serves as a counselor for recovering addicts and homeless men in California. A great step in the right direction if you ask me.
5. Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Nikoloz Tskitishvili was the 5th pick by the Denver Nuggets in the 2002 draft which saw Yao Ming as the first pick.
He played a total of six seasons. He moved around to four different teams during this period. He was traded to the Golden State Warriors in the middle of his third season. He signed as a free agent after that season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was traded mid-season to the Phoenix Suns. This was his last time to play in the NBA. He tried to join the Portland Trailblazers and New York Knicks but he got waived by both teams.
In his six seasons, he played a total of 172 games. He averaged 2.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.7 assists. He returned to Europe and played in the Spanish, Italian and Greek leagues. He went to Asia thereafter and played in the Iranian league and Lebanon’s Division A league.
He attempted to come back to the NBA to join the Los Angeles Clippers who later waived him after a month. He went back to Asia after this failed attempt and played in various basketball leagues.
He was picked four places ahead of Amar’e Stoudemire who was the 9th pick in that year. Stoudemire had a successful NBA career and gathered honors such as five time inclusion to the All-NBA team and six NBA All-Star Game appearances.
6. Sun Yue
Sun Yue was the 40th pick in the 2007 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He formally signed with the Lakers in 2008 and went on to play his only season in the NBA. He played a total of 10 games in his short career. He averaged 0.6 points, 0 rebounds and 0.2 assists. The Lakers became champions in his only season so he has the distinction of being one of two Chinese professional basketball players to have an NBA championship.
He started his basketball career at the age of 17 in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). He was part of the Beijing Olympians before joining the NBA. He returned to the CBA after his one season in the NBA.
I would say that his health had partly held him back from staying longer in the NBA. He suffered a viral infection and was hospitalized a few days after arriving in the US. This caused him to miss several games at the start of the 2008-2009 season. He also missed out a good part of the season with the Los Angeles D-fenders due to a sprain. The D-fenders are the Lakers’ D-League affiliate team where he was assigned to after his ten games.
7. Michael Ruffin
Michael Ruffin was a second round pick by the Chicago Bulls in 1999. He was in the NBA for a total of nine seasons. He played in 414 games and only averaged 1.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 0.6 assists.
He spent two seasons with the Bulls before moving to the Philadelphia 76ers where he would only play for one season. He joined the Spanish league for a year after his time with the 76ers. He went back to the NBA and played with the Utah Jazz for a season. His next team after the Jazz were the Washington Wizards. He was with them for three seasons. This was his longest stay in a single team within the NBA.
He then moved and joined the Milwaukee Bucks for one season and finally the Portland Trailblazers on this last season. He had very little playing time with the Trailblazers having appeared in only 11 games and was never a starter.
He is now an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns. This was after he held several coaching jobs which included assistant coach for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the G League and player development coach for the New Orleans Pelicans. He was also coach of the ABA’s Colorado Kings. Perhaps coaching basketball may be his true calling.
8. Bryant Reeves
Bryant Reeves aka “Big Country” was sixth pick in the 1995 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. He was a top player for Oklahoma State University in his collegiate years.
Reeves was different from previous players that I cited in this list. He was a starting player for the Grizzlies and averaged double digit points in his first four years. He stayed with only one team throughout his entire six year career.
His stellar performance in his first two seasons led to a contract extension of six years worth 65 million. Unfortunately, his fitness and health started to decline thereafter. He struggled with his weight and had persistent back pain. His playing time and points per game started to go down as a result. His back problem took a turn for the worse in 2001 which led to his permanent retirement from the league.
He played a total of 395 games. He averaged 12.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists. His field goal percentage was 47.5%.
9. Mark Madsen
Mark Madsen was one of the top players for Stanford University in his collegiate years. He was the 29th pick in the 2000 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. Madsen played a supporting role in the Lakers line-up. He usually comes off the bench as a reserved player and as a result, did not get a lot of playing time each game. He did have the honor of being a two-time NBA champion since the Lakers won in his first two seasons with the team. He stayed with the Lakers for three seasons before moving on to the Minnesota Timberwolves in his fourth season. He continued to be a role player with the Timberwolves.
Madsen stayed in the NBA for nine years. He played in 453 games where he averaged 2.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.4 assists.
While he may not have been a star player, Madsen found a second wind as a basketball coach. Right after his time as an NBA player, he was hired as an assistant coach for the Utah Flash team of the NBA D-League. This was followed by many other coaching jobs including: assistant coach at Stanford, head coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, and player development coach for the Lakers. He even became the assistant coach for the Lakers and coached some of his former teammates! He is presently a head coach for the Utah Valley Rangers.
10. Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett was the first pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was the same year when two time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka the “Greek Freak”) joined the league as the 15th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks.
He had an illustrious basketball career in high school where he was recognized as a top forward and seventh top player in the high school class of 2012.
He went on the play for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) where he showcased impressive stats in spite of being plagued by injuries. He spent only a year with UNLV before deciding to take a chance at the NBA draft.
Unfortunately, his great performance in his high school and college years did not translate to the NBA. He averaged only 4.2 points in his first year with Cleveland. Many say that his performance fell behind most first picks. He then went on to play for three different teams in three seasons: Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors and finally the Brooklyn Nets. His performance could be described as mediocre in all three teams.
He played in 151 games in his four seasons with the NBA. He averaged 4.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.5 assists.
He currently plays in the Taiwanese P League after playing in numerous other international basketball leagues, and the NBA G-league.
11. Rafael Araujo
An impressive performance during his collegiate years as part of the Brigham Young University team in Utah got many pro scouts interested in Rafael Araujo in his senior year. He was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in the 2004 NBA draft.
Araujo was the eighth pick, one place ahead of Andre Iguodala. Iguodala went on to become an NBA finals MVP in 2015, a two-time member of the United States National team, NBA All-Star team member, and NBA All-Defensive team among others.
For one reason or another, Araujo never got a lot of playing time with the Toronto Raptors. He averaged only 3.3 points in his first year and 2.3 points in his second. He was traded to the Utah Jazz for the final year of his rookie contract. It was a homecoming of sorts for him since he played in Utah during college.
Unfortunately, it still didn’t work out for him with the Jazz. He still did not get a lot of playing time in spite of his efforts. He lost the opportunity to sign with the Jazz when they signed-up another center, Kyrylo Fesenko.
He averaged 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in his three seasons with the NBA. He played in 139 games. His field goal percentage was 40.5%.
After his NBA career, Araujo joined Spartak St. Petersburg in Russia for a brief time before heading to Brazil where he played for various teams in the Brazilian professional basketball league.
12. Manute Bol
Manute Bol was originally from South Sudan. He came to the United States in 1982 with the help of Don Feeley. Feeley is a basketball coach who went to Sudan to train the Sudanese national team.
He did not get drafted in the NBA until 1985 due to various reasons including missing the 45 day advance declaration required for the 1983 NBA draft. He used this time to improve his English language and basketball skills. He enrolled at the University of Bridgeport for their English program and played on their basketball team.
He was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the second round as the 31st overall pick. He played with the Bullets for three seasons. It was in this team that he had the famous photo of himself with Muggsy Bogues. The photo showcased the contrast in height between the tallest (Bol) and shortest (Bogues) player in the NBA.
He became part of four teams in his ten seasons with the NBA. After the Washington Bullets, he joined the Golden State Warriors for two seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers for three seasons, one season with three teams: Miami Heat, Washington Bullets, and Philadelphia 76ers, and finally back to the Golden State Warriors for his final season.
He played in 624 games where he averaged 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.3 assists. The most compelling number in his stat sheet though is the number of blocks. He averaged 3.3 blocks which is higher than his average points scored. Bol is the tallest player to ever play in the NBA at 7’ 7”.
13. Chris Jent
Chris Jent is currently the assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks.While he would undeniably have the basketball skills, he has met more success with being a coach than a professional basketball player.
He played for the Ohio State Buckeyes in his collegiate years before attempting to join the NBA. He was not drafted in the 1992 NBA draft. He got his chance with the CBA (Continental Basketball Association) instead. He played for the Rapid City Thrillers and Columbus Horizon in the CBA before getting a very brief stint in the NBA.
He played in only six games where he averaged 6.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists. His field goal percentage was 46.9%.
14. Elliot Williams
Elliot Williams had a flourishing basketball career that sadly did not take off due to a string of injuries..
He had a great start in high school where he was recognized as one of the top players for his age. He kept up the momentum to his collegiate years with two teams – the Duke Blue Devils and the Memphis TIgers.
He was the 22nd pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately, he had to miss his entire first season (2010-2011) due to a knee injury. In what seems to be an unlucky twist of fate, Williams kept getting one injury after another. He had a shoulder injury in his second season (2011-2012) which caused him to miss out most of the games. He again missed an entire season (2013-2014) due to an Achilles tendon injury.
He was finally able to get back in the 2013-2014 season where he played for the Philadelphia 76ers. After that, he was in and out of the NBA for the next two seasons. He had 10-day contracts with the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans in 2014-2015 and had a few rare game appearances. In between, he played in the NBA D-league for the Santa Cruz Warriors. He played five games for the Memphis Grizzlies in his final season (2015-2016) on a 10-day contract which was not renewed.
He played in 109 games where he averaged 4.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1%.
15. Brian Cardinal
A great collegiate basketball player, Brian was one of the top players during his time in Purdue University. He turned professional after being drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the 2000 NBA draft. He was the 44th overall pick. He plays the position of power forward and small forward.
He was with the Detroit Pistons for two seasons before being traded to the Washington Wizards. He appeared in only five games with the Wizards before being waived. He went to the Spanish league and played for the Pamesa Valencia for the rest of the season.
He returned to the NBA the following season (2003-2004) with the Golden State Warriors. This was his best year in the NBA where he averaged 9.6 points and even got nominated for Most Improved Player. He signed with the Memphis Grizzlies the year after and stayed with them for four seasons. He had pretty good numbers in his first year with the Grizzlies. He wasn’t able to sustain this though. His stats only went downwards after that.
He was traded to the Minnesota TImberwolves for the 2008-2009 season. He played with the Timberwolves for two seasons before signing with the Dallas Mavericks. He was with the Mavericks for two seasons before finally retiring in 2012. He did manage to get an NBA championship while with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
He had a pretty long career in the NBA, a total of 12 years. He played in 456 games and averaged 4.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assist. His field goal percentage was 40.8%.
16. Mengke Bateer
Mengke Bateer was in the NBA for three seasons. He played for a different team each time starting with the Denver Nuggets, followed by the San Antonio Spurs and finally the Toronto Raptors. He spent the majority of his professional basketball career in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) where he was a standout player.
His entry into the NBA was not through the NBA draft. He was directly signed by the Denver Nuggets for the 2001-2002 season to fill-in the center position after trading their big man. This gave him the opportunity to start in 10 of 27 games that he played with the Nuggets.
He went to the San Antonio Spurs the next year after impressing the Spurs head coach. The Spurs won the championship that year which makes him an NBA champion. His last year in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons where he played in only seven games. He briefly joined the NBA G-league before returning to the CBA.
He appeared in a total of 46 games where he averaged 3.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.6 assists. His field goal percentage was 39.1%.
17. Pete Chilcutt
Pete Chilcutt was the 27th pick in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. He spent his collegiate years with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). The same school had produced basketball greats such as Robert McAdoo, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter.
He stayed with the Kings for two seasons before moving to the Detroit Pistons in the middle of the 1993-1994 season. He went to the Houston Rockets the following season where he won an NBA championship. After one more year with the Rockets, he joined the Vancouver Grizzlies for three seasons. His final one with the NBA saw him playing with three teams: the Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers.
Chilcutt was a role player with the occasional explosive game during his time with the Rockets. He played in 584 games where he averaged 4.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 44.1%.
18. Michael Olowokandi
Being the first overall pick of the 1998 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, there was a lot expected from Michael Olowakandi by NBA fans and observers. He was picked ahead of successful players such as Vince Carter (fifth pick) and Dirk Nowitzki (ninth pick). His entry to the NBA was highly anticipated due to his height and wingspan. He had been a very successful star player for the University of the Pacific during his collegiate years.
He became part of three different teams in his 10 seasons with the NBA: Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Boston Celtics. His time in the league was peppered with unfortunate events, multiple injuries, and setbacks due to behavior issues.
His first season (1989-1999) was stalled by the lockout. He underwent knee surgery in May 1999 which limited his participation for the rest of the season. His knee would continue to plague him throughout his career. He was fined by the Clippers in April 2002 for inappropriate behavior, suspended by the Timberwolves in November 2004 after being arrested, and suspended in January 2005 by the NBA after a fight with another basketball player.
He played in 500 games where he averaged 8.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.7 assists. His field goal percentage was 43.5%.
19. DeSagana Diop
DeSagana Diop was the eighth pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2001 NBA Draft. He was drafted directly from high school.
He was part of four different teams in his 12 seasons with the NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, New Jersey Nets and finally the Charlotte Bobcats. He struggled to make an impact with the Cleveland Cavaliers despite staying with them for four seasons.
He signed thereafter with the Dallas Mavericks. It was in this period where he had the best moments of his career. He became known as a great defensive player with a strong shot blocking and rebounding ability. He was traded to the New Jersey Nets and played with them for a brief time before going back to the Mavericks and signing a multimillion dollar contract.
He didn’t stay long with the Mavericks as he was again traded. This time it was to the Charlotte Bobcats. Although he played well with the Bobcats, the team just didn’t do well enough in the league for him to make a significant impact. He retired from basketball thereafter and began a career in coaching. He is currently the assistant coach for the Houston Rockets.
He played in 601 games where he averaged 2.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.4 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.7%.
20. Hasheem Thabeet
Hasheem Thabeet was the second overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2009 NBA draft. He was picked ahead of future stars and MVPs: James Harden (third pick) and Stephen Curry (seventh pick). Thabeet played for the University of Connecticut in his collegiate years where he was a top defensive player.
Unfortunately, Thabeet did not live up to the expectations of him. The Memphis Grizzlies assigned him to the NBA D-League in his first season (2009-2010). He was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2011 where he was again assigned to the D-League. He was traded to the Portland Trailblazers in March 2012. He signed with Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2012-2013 season. He stayed with them for two seasons before going back to the D-league in 2014.
He had stints in the Japanese B League and the Taiwanese P League thereafter.
He played in 224 games where he averaged 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.1 assists. His field goal percentage was 56.7%.
Whether it was bad luck, not having the opportunity, not playing well with the team or other things of their own doing that resulted in their unsuccessful NBA stint, these players are still really good at basketball. To have been given a job in the world’s most famous basketball league is already an honor in itself.
For some of these players, they continued their careers with other leagues. A few found success working in a different area related to basketball, either as a coach, broadcaster or even in the NBA office. If you are aspiring to play in a professional league, it is good for you to also look at these stories of less successful players and learn from them.