Before the Golden State Warriors became a modern-day dynasty, the franchise was cursed with a plethora of poor decisions, especially on draft night.
Those bad decisions led to decades of underachieving and years of ridicule until drafting the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green ended the long streak of head-scratching decisions of several inept front office regimes.
While this list could easily extend to 10 or 15 players, but we will pick the top five NBA Draft busts in Warriors history — for the sanity of their fans:
5. Joe Smith
Drafted: No. 1 overall in 1995 NBA Draft
Warriors could have drafted: Antonio McDyess (No. 2), Jerry Stackhouse (No. 3), Rasheed Wallace (No. 4), Kevin Garnett (No. 5)
Stats: 17.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks per game in 2.5 seasons with the Warriors (10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds for his 16-year career)
In all fairness, Joe Smith had the best numbers of his career during his short stint with the Warriors. Golden State was looking for a big man and took who they felt was best out of a top-five that was heavy in big-man power.
They wound up choosing the worst of that list.
McDyess, Wallace, and Garnett made All-Star teams during their careers while Smith bounced around from team to team as a middling journeyman with no clear strong suit.
Smith played decently well for the Warriors but by no means lived up to being the top pick, only boasting the record for most teams played for, bouncing around 12 franchises throughout his 16-year career.
Another swing and a miss for a franchise that couldn’t catch a break in the mid-90s.
4. Todd Fuller
Drafted: No. 11 overall in 1996 NBA Draft
Warriors could have drafted: Kobe Bryant (No. 13), Peja Stojakovic (No. 14), Steve Nash (No. 15), Jermaine O’Neal (No. 18)
Stats: 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in two seasons (19 starts) with the Warriors
The name “Todd” isn’t the best indicator of a basketball player. This one was no exception.
Enamored by the double-doubles he put up during his time at North Carolina State, former Warriors general manager Dave Twardzik selected him with the 11th pick, passing up on plenty of talented players in one of the most virtuous drafts in NBA history.
By drafting Fuller, the soon-to-be-fired Twardzik passed up on five future All-Stars and two Hall of Famers. Fuller was unathletic, mechanical, slow of foot, and everything that makes the difference between a successful college player that is not good enough to cross over to the big leagues.
If matters couldn’t get any worse, Fuller, who lost his starting gig nine games into his rookie campaign, was traded to the Utah Jazz after only two seasons with Golden State.
3. Patrick O’Bryant
Drafted: No. 9 overall in 2006 NBA Draft
Warriors could have drafted: JJ Redick (No. 11), Rajon Rondo (No. 21), Kyle Lowry (No. 24)
Stats: 1.7 points, 1.3 rebounds in two seasons (40 games) with the Warriors
The Warriors were hoping to turn over a new leaf after years of losing, but they certainly didn’t help themselves in the draft. Do tell me once this sounds familiar: bottom-dwelling team falls in love with 7-footer, hoping it will change the path of the franchi… had enough?
O’Bryant was a classic example of TFN: tall for nothing. While he was a towering 7-foot, 220-pound big man, his wingspan couldn’t do all the work then-general-manager Chris Mullin was hoping he’d do in the paint.
The giant out of Bradley just lacked the oomph necessary to play the center position and only played two seasons with the Warriors before the organization gave up on him, declining to pick up his third-year option.
O’Bryant would last only two more seasons in the league before he went on to pursue overseas opportunities. Once hailed as one of the best big men of the 2006 NBA Draft, he played a mere 90 games during his short-lived NBA career.
2. Russell Cross
Drafted: No. 6 overall in 1983 NBA Draft
Warriors could have drafted: Dale Ellis (No. 9), Derek Harper (No. 11), Clyde Drexler (No. 14)
Stats: 3.7 points and 1.8 rebounds through 45 games with the Warriors
Cross was a lauded player coming out of Purdue under a genius coach in Gene Keady. The center was named Big Ten MVP in his junior year of college. His credentials were a mirage.
Upon landing in the NBA, the Warriors soon realized he wasn’t the limber 6-foot-10, 225-pound athlete that was advertised, but rather 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds. Proving to be slow of foot and a one-leg jumper, the Warriors quickly realized they landed a dud and waived him after 45 games.
He signed with the Denver Nuggets shortly after but never got to wear the jersey. Former coach Doug Moe summed up Cross simplistically with a three-word description: “He can’t play.”
Cross moved on to play in the CBA and European leagues, but he never returned to the NBA after getting the ax so soon into his professional career.
1. Chris Washburn
Drafted: No. 3 overall in 1986 NBA Draft
Warriors could have drafted: Ron Harper (No. 10), Dell Curry (No. 15), Arvydas Sabonis (No. 24)
Stats: 3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds per game in 43 games with the Warriors
This is undoubtedly the most pathetic of draft selections in Warriors history. The 1986 NBA Draft didn’t have many stars, but Golden State found fool’s gold in Washburn, who had shown potential flaws back from his college days.
Washburn’s bad rap started at North Carolina State, as he was arrested for stealing a stereo and sentenced to five years of probation. You guessed it — the issues didn’t end there.
Even before finishing his rookie season, Washburn became addicted to cocaine and was forced to check into a rehabilitation facility. Chris Mullin, who’d been drafted seventh overall the year before, was going through an alcohol addiction himself at the time.
The 1986 NBA Draft was fairly dry in terms of first-round talent. Most of the gems came in the second round like Mark Price (No. 25), Dennis Rodman (No. 27), and Jeff Hornacek (No. 46).
Washburn was traded to the Atlanta Hawks eight games into his second season and he lasted only 29 games there, receiving a lifetime NBA ban in 1989 after failing his third drug test in his first three years in the league.
The 6-foot-11 Washburn edged Cross for the title of biggest Warriors draft bust simply because he was just as bad on the court as he was off the court. Yikes!