The 2021 NBA Draft was held on July 29 and the Detroit Pistons took Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham with the first pick. Only time will tell if he will be a solid player, a Hall of Famer or an all-time bust.
However, even if his career does not pan out, he has to seriously underperform, make poor life choices or choose a different path to make this list. Here are the five worst No. 1 overall draft picks in NBA history.
5. Clifton McNeely, G , Texas Wesleyan
1947 Basketball Association of America (BAA) Draft – Pittsburgh Ironmen
The NBA includes the BAA draft as part of its history so McNeely is the first top pick in league history. He is also one of two No. 1 picks to never play pro basketball. McNeely chose to become head basketball coach at Pampa High School in Pampa, Texas, where he won four state titles. It was a noble choice indeed, but it does not exclude him from this list.
4. Andy Tonkovich, PG, Marshall
1948 BAA Draft – Providence Steamrollers
The second No. 1 pick actually signed with his team and played… in 17 games. After an injury cut short his rookie season, Tonkovich never had any success joining another BAA team and played a little minor league basketball before calling it a career.
3. Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
2013 Draft – Cleveland Cavaliers
The first Canadian to ever be drafted No. 1 played for four different teams in four seasons and averaged 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game. Bennett now plays in Puerto Rico.
2. LaRue Martin, C, Loyola (Illinois)
1972 Draft – Portland Trail Blazers
Martin rose to national prominence when he played against Bill Walton in a 1972 game against UCLA. The Blazers chose to sign him before the draft since they feared North Carolina center Bob McAdoo would opt to go to the American Basketball Association. After Martin averaged less than five points or rebounds a game in his first two seasons, Portland drafted Walton in 1974 and Martin was out of the league two years later.
1. Gene Melchiorre, PG, Bradley
1951 Draft – Baltimore Bullets
Melchiorre tops this list because of actions that tarnished the sport. On April 25, 1951, the Bullets drafted Melchiorre with the first pick. Then on July 24, 1951, Melchiorre admitted to taking bribes to keep the scores down in two Bradley games. He was one of 32 players from seven schools who admitted to point shaving in the infamous City College of New York (CCNY) scandal. Melchiorre received a misdemeanor and a suspended sentence, but NBA president Maurice Podoloff banned him and all the other players involved in the CCNY scandal for life. He and McNeely are the only two No. 1 picks to never play an NBA game.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Anthony Bennett photo courtesy of Getty Images)