NBA fans are always debating the question: “Who is the best NBA player ever?” They then argue about MJ, Kobe, Wilt, Bill Russell, and the like. Me? I like to go against the grain and ask questions like, “Who are the worst NBA players?”
Rather than just focusing on draft day busts like Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown, I wanted to look at the question a little differently and evaluate the worst players who somehow managed to carve out established NBA careers. So who are the worst established NBA players in the last ten years?
To define the “worst” players I evaluated Player Efficiency Rating (PER) – a measure of the per-minute production standardized such that the league average is 15.0.
An “established” player in my book is a player who spent at least five years in the league averaging a minimum of 20 minutes per game. 82 games per year X 5 years X 20 minutes per game equals 8,200 minutes played. Here is my analysis of the worst established NBA players who played at least 8,200 minutes between 2002-2011:
1. Jason Collins – 7.3 PER. Sorry, New Jersey fans, you drafted and played the NBA’s worst established player from 2002 until you traded him halfway through 2008. Collins is still an active NBA player with the Atlanta Hawks in this his 11th season. The 7’0″ Collins has posted career averages of 3.8 PPG on 41.1% shooting, 4.0 RPG, and 0.5 BPG. Oh, yeah, he has also made over $31 million in salary during his career, proving once and for all that sometimes being really bad can be really good. Really, really good.
2. Quinton Ross – 7.8 PER. It seems almost fitting that the second-worst established NBA player would spend the first four years of his career with the Los Angeles Clippers. A journeyman during his seven-year career (2005-2011), Ross may have set an NBA standard for futility in 2010 when he played in 52 games for Dallas and Washington and averaged 1.8 PPG on 36% FG’s, 0.9 RPG, and 0.2 APG
3. Bruce Bowen – 8.1 PER. “But he’s a lockdown defender!” “But he could hit the corner three!” “But he was the Kobe Stopper in the playoffs!” But, but, but. But nothing. Bruce Bowen’s PER doesn’t lie. Bowen played 13 years in the NBA and finished with the following average stats – 6.1 PPG on 40.9% FG’s, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, and 0.8 SPG.
4. Trenton Hassell – 8.4 PER. Hassell actually had a decent rookie season in 2002 with the Chicago Bulls – 8.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 2.2 APG. It was also his highest PER season at 10.2. It was all downhill after his rookie season though, including his spectacularly bad 2008 season with Dallas and New Jersey when he played in 63 games and generated a PER of 4.2.
5. Jarron Collins – 9.4 PER. I guess this settles the Thanksgiving Day family argument about which Collins twin was better (or worse?). The answer – Jarron was better than his brother, but on the downside his PER was still worse than almost every other established NBA player over the last ten years. Unfortunately, the Collins boys shared a gene that seems to destroy PER from within. Jarron Collins was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2001. Keep this in mind because the Jazz draft picks from this era will become a running sub plot within this list, just watch.
6. Jared Jeffries – 9.7 PER. After being drafted 11th overall in 2002 by the Washington Wizards, Jared Jeffries has averaged just 5.0 PPG on 42.9% FG and 58.2% FT, 4.3 RPG, and 1.3 APG. Jeffries was drafted just after Nene, Amare Stoudemire, and Caron Butler. Players drafted after Jeffries included Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer, and Luis Scola. Ouch.
7. Keith Bogans – 9.9 PER. Bogans has played for seven teams in nine seasons, proving that when you are an NBA team and you can get a career 39.5% shooter, you’ve gotta take him.
8. Jacque Vaughn – 9.9 PER. Vaughn was drafted at the end of the first round by the Utah Jazz in 1997 as a potential heir to John Stockton. What the Jazz got instead was a player who ended up spending 12 years in the NBA and managed 4.5 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 2.5 APG. And yet, Vaughn somehow has $11 million in the bank and an NBA championship ring from the 2007 San Antonio Spurs. Not too shabby, Jacque.
9. Greg Buckner – 10.4 PER. Greg Buckner played for five teams in his ten-year NBA career. Quick – name one of them. You can’t? This should tell you enough about his career without even looking at his disastrous PER.
10. DeShawn Stevenson – 10.4 PER. DeShawn Stevenson was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2000, joining Jarron Collins (2001) and Jacque Vaughn (1997) among the Jazz draftees who make up some of the worst established players in the last ten years. Stevenson is a “shooting” guard who has shot 40.8% from the field in his career.
Note: All stats provided by pro-basketball-reference.com. Supporting data can be found here.)
Andrew Sweat is an NBA fan and graduate of BYU and the University of Arizona. More from this author:
NBA Tats & Stats: Player Ink Reveals More Than You Think
Five Most Memorable Mormons in NBA History