Jabari Parker is in a very interesting situation. Is he an NBA Draft bust? Not in the way that Kwame Brown, Hasheem Thabeet, and Anthony Bennett were. But was he worth the second overall pick? Probably not, so he would then qualify as a “bust”, correct? In many ways, yes.
Injuries have hampered him throughout his career, yet his numbers are solid; he averages 15.3 points on 49% shooting for his career. He is a quality NBA player, although he has not come anywhere close to meeting expectations. Now, with his estrangement from the Chicago Bulls, the question of whether or not Parker is a bust is more relevant than ever. He is not the first player to be in this purgatorial position, and he certainly will not be the last. Here are five players who are “Jabari Parker-level busts” – decent to good players who just have not lived up to their draft billing.
5. Marcus Smart
Smart was drafted sixth overall in 2014, and his selection began Boston’s hoarding of quality guards. He is a good leader and an aggressive defender, but his offensive game has not developed as much as the Celtics envisioned. He is shooting just 38% from the field this season, which happens to be the highest mark of his career. His three-point shooting is not any better, as he connects on 33% of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Smart is certainly a solid player, one who is important to Boston’s play style. But is he worth the four-year $52 million contract he signed in the offseason? Based on his scoring ability, no. When a team is drafting in the high lottery, they look for players who will be foundation pieces who they cannot function without. The Celtics are better when he is on the court, but he is not indispensable. Shooting is becoming more and more important in today’s NBA, and Smart is simply not capable enough offensively to shed his label as a slight disappointment.
4. Justise Winslow
Another offensively challenged draft prospect, Winslow was selected with the 10th pick in 2015, with the hope that his athleticism and defense would offset the offensive growing pains that were sure to come. Come they did, as Winslow shot 42% from the field and 28% from three-point range during his rookie season, and then followed that by regressing during his sophomore campaign, with shooting clips of 36% and 20%. Winslow has appeared to have worked on his three-point shot quite a bit, as he is in the midst of his best deep shooting season, both by volume and efficiency; 38% on 3.6 attempts per game.
Winslow’s rebounding, defense, and passing is key to how the rest of the Miami team functions. His non-scoring contributions probably make him worth the two-year $26 million extension he signed. However, even though he is a solid player, he could be special if he had even a slightly above average offensive game.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Like Parker, Kidd-Gilchrist was drafted second overall. Now in his seventh season in the league, MKG is still what he has always been; an elite defender, and not much else. He is one of, if not the best perimeter defender in the league. He is the obvious choice to defend the Georges, Durants, and James of the NBA. However, as much as he improves Charlotte’s defense, he makes their offense much worse.
He provides absolutely zero floor spacing; he has attempted a total of 52 triples in his career, hitting only 13. Much like the Thunder with Andre Roberson, the Hornets have determined that the trade-off is worth it. If MKG had developed any semblance of a three-point shot, he would have multiple All-Star appearances by now. In spite of his excellent defense, when a team drafts a player with the second pick, they probably want him to be able to score, and Kidd-Gilchrist just cannot do that.
2. Cody Zeller
The second Hornet on this list, Zeller was drafted fourth overall in 2013. He has not developed into the All-Star that a team wants its high selection to become, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad. He is a solid, above average big man. Nothing special. He doesn’t have a three-point shot nor is he a skilled passer.
He’s more of throwback center who stays in the paint waiting for the ball. A one-dimenstional center is probably not worth a four-year $56 million contract, but that’s what he is currently playing on. Zeller is not a bad player by any stretch, but he’s not exactly the type that is worthy of the fourth pick in the draft.
1. Dion Waiters
Although he is a journeyman, Dion Waiters is still a very capable scorer. When the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him fourth overall in 2012, they envisioned him becoming Robin to Kyrie Irving’s Batman. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way. Irving and Waiters both needed the ball in their hands to be at their best, and even on a bad team, there just weren’t enough shots for the two of them to coexist peacefully. Waiters never shot better than 43% during his stint in Cleveland, and once LeBron James re-joined the Cavs, Waiters’ fate was sealed. He was publicly dissatisfied with his role and was shipped to Oklahoma City at the 2014-2015 trade deadline.
After being marginalized with the Thunder, Waiters found a home in Miami, and has developed into a good scorer. He still is not the most efficient player, and is not a good defender or passer, but he can score. He just isn’t the sidekick that the Cavaliers hoped he would be, and even though the players they received for him (J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert) were instrumental in bringing a championship to Cleveland, the Cavs have to be kicking themselves for taking Waiters over players like Andre Drummond and Damian Lillard.
These five players are all in very situations, yet they all have two things in common; they were high draft selections, and they haven’t lived up to their billing. While not busts in the traditional sense, they are still disappointments, and their teams must certainly wonder how things would be if they had simply gone in a different direction on draft night.