It’s often said that drafting players in any sport is more luck than science. Even this year, Kansas Center Joel Embiid was seen as the No. 1 overall pick before breaking his foot earlier this week, foreshadowing a potential drop to the lower half of the top 10 picks. Sometimes even the best preparation and intentions are ruined by a stroke of bad luck. The Utah Jazz organization has had its fair share of hits in the draft, from Stockton to Malone to D-Will, but plenty of busts have donned the music note jersey as well. Without including the franchise’s tenure in New Orleans, here’s a list of the top 10 worst first round draft picks in Utah Jazz history:
10. Dominique Wilkins (1982, 3rd overall)
His inclusion on this list isn’t because Wilkins is a bust after he went on to have a Hall of Fame career, but because of what might have been if he’d stayed in Utah. Wilkins was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks shortly after the draft for John Drew and Freeman Williams, who combined for four seasons in Utah while Wilkins went on to become a nine time all-star. To make matters worse, the next three Jazz first rounders were Thurl Bailey, John Stockton and Karl Malone, that with Wilkins would have made the Jazz a perennial championship contender.
9. Quincy Lewis/Scott Padgett (1999, 19th and 28th overall)
Some good came of the 1999 draft with the selection of Andrei Kirilenko 24th overall, but Lewis and Padgett were throw away picks. Lewis played in 74 games his first season in Utah, averaging just under four points per game, before playing in a combined 71 games the following two seasons. Padgett was slow to catch on, but played decently well off the bench in his third and fourth seasons, averaging 6.7 and 5.7 points per game respectively. Neither made much of an impact after Lewis was sent to Minnesota and Padgett to Houston in 2003. The Jazz also could have had Manu Ginobili with either selection, who went 57th overall to San Antonio.
8. John Duren (1980, 19th overall)
Duren played in only 40 games as a rookie for the Jazz, scoring only 71 points. His second season was better after the point guard played in all but three games of the regular season, but he started only nine and averaged only 3.4 points per game. After the following season with Indiana, Duren was out of the league entirely. His redeeming quality was that in general after the 19th pick, the 1980 draft was fairly weak.
7. Kirk Snyder (2004, 16th overall)
Snyder wasn’t a Jazz player for long, playing in only 68 games and starting only seven before he was traded. He averaged five points per game in his lone season with the Jazz. He fared better after a trade to the Hornets, starting 45 games in 2005 and averaging 8 points per game, but ultimately washed out of the league. He went on to play in China, Nova Scotia and Russia when the Jazz could have drafted Josh Smith, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Kevin Martin or Trevor Ariza.
6. Curtis Borchardt (2002, 18th overall)
Borchardt was originally selected by Orlando, but was traded to the Jazz on draft day. He promptly sat out his entire rookie season with an injury and played in only 16 games the following year, scoring 58 points. He was better in 2004, starting 23 games and playing in 67, but still only scored 3 points per game. Tayshaun Prince, Luis Scola and even Carlos Boozer were drafted after him.
5. Morris Almond (2007, 25th overall)
The Rice University product never remotely caught on in the NBA, scoring only 13 points in nine games as a rookie and only 92 the following season in 25 games. He was dominant in the D-League, but washed out in the league that matters, playing in Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Serbia and several other D-League teams up until last season. Aaron Afflalo, Tiago Splitter and Marc Gasol were still on the board when Almond was selected.
4. Jose Ortiz (1987, 15th overall)
Ortiz was doomed from the start, playing in only 51 games as a rookie and starting 15 for an average of 2.8 points per game. He was worse the following year, playing in only 13 games and scoring 42 points before the Jazz released him. He went on to play for a host of European teams, but was a wasted pick at a time when the Jazz had a talented young core of Malone and Stockton.
3. Raul Lopez (2001, 24th overall)
Lopez was a star point guard in the Spanish league and had been likened to Stockton, Steve Nash and Tony Parker when the Jazz selected him in 2001. Lopez stayed in Spain in 2001 and missed all of 2002 with a knee injury, before finally debuting in Utah in 2003. He played in all 82 games, but started only 11 as a backup to Carlos Arroyo, averaging nearly 7 points per game. However, the next season he played in only 31 games and was traded to Memphis in 2005. He still plays in Spain, but the Jazz missed out on Gerald Wallace and Tony Parker when the team took him.
2. Luther Wright (1993, 18th overall)
Wright was waived after one season when he played only 92 minutes over 15 games. He scored only 19 points in his lone season with the Jazz and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, bouncing out of the league and struggling with bouts of homelessness and drug addiction afterward in his home of New Jersey. Wright is a cautionary tale of undermining risk in favor of talent.
1. Larry Knight (1979, 20th overall)
Knight takes the top spot because unlike every other name on this list, he never played a single minute for the Jazz in the NBA. Knight was a rebounding specialist in college with virtually no offensive game. Even on a Jazz team that finished 24-58 the season he was drafted, Knight couldn’t crack the lineup. He was waived 11 days before the season ever started and became a footnote in Utah Jazz history.
Just missed the cut: Eric Maynor, Eric Leckner, Kosta Koufos