In the long history of the NBA, every team, no matter how good or bad they’ve been overall as a franchise, has had a star player who left a legacy behind in the team’s city and usually made his own Hall of Fame case in the process. Complete dumpster fires like those in Minnesota and New Orleans still managed to have guys like Kevin Garnett and Chris Paul, after all.
But even the greatest teams—storied franchises like the Celtics, Lakers, and Spurs, with a long history of continued excellence—have had some absolutely horrendous players.
And I don’t mean the 12th man at the end of the bench or the second-round draft pick who showed up, put up negative win shares in garbage time, and faded away. Those guys come into and out of the league on every team every year and are all but guaranteed to show up fairly often on teams who get the last few picks in any given draft.
I’m talking about guys who play for years but never put up productive stats. I’m talking first-overall picks who stink out the joint and never look back. I’m talking guys with $100 million contracts and five-cent stats.
In addition, I’m going to limit this to guys who played at least 400 games on their team. That’s roughly five full seasons, enough time to do real damage and usually a full free agent contract.
So join me as we look at the absolute trash that has come through the league and actually managed to do real damage on the basketball court, one team at a time. This will be a 3-part series, 10 franchises a day, over the course of this weekend, so stay tuned for that.
Atlanta Hawks: Jon Koncak
“Jon Contract” played 717 games in Atlanta, putting up puny per-36-minute numbers of just 7.9 points, 8.5 rebounds (for a 7-footer!), and 1.7 blocks, all while committing 5.4 fouls per 36.
Because of all those fouls, he rarely got the chance to play real minutes, and it reflects in his per-game numbers even as a starter. In the 1993-94 season, Koncak started 78 games, but he put up just 4.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 22.2 minutes per.
The guy managed .086 career WS/48 while playing a position where almost nobody slips below .100. I’ve said that Kevin Willis was the greatest lousy NBA player and even he managed .102 WS/48 for his career.
Koncak did all this while being hideously overpaid by the standards of the day, hence the nickname. In 1989-90, Koncak made $2.2 million. Dominique Wilkins and Moses Malone made just $2.1 million each on that team. As horrendous contracts go, that’s starting to crawl into territory that happened in 2016 when the NBA salary cap flew off the scale and guys like Ian Mahinmi and Timofey Mozgov got paid big bucks.
Koncak was a Dumpster fire, and the Hawks played him because the Hawks had to pay him. He was a franchise-destroying player.
Boston Celtics: Eric Williams
When the Celtics hit their low point as a franchise in the late ’90s, coach/GM/egomaniac Rick Pitino barfed out some truly awful roster decisions. When your second-best player is Antoine Walker and when Walter McCarty (no matter how much Tommy Heinsohn loved him on Celtics broadcasts) is playing rotation minutes, you have a problem.
But none of those guys truly stunk out the joint in epic, “my gods, look at those advanced stats” fashion quite like Williams, who may have spent most of his career as Paul Pierce‘s backup but actually managed to get starter’s minutes, first in 1996-97 before Pierce arrived, then again in 2002-03 as he laid the groundwork for the C’s finally getting sick of him and trading him to Cleveland a year later.
Even worse? The Celtics actually successfully got rid of him, foisting him off on the Denver Nuggets in 1997 (for two draft picks that turned into nothing of value), only to take him right back in 1999 as a throw-in for the trade that was basically Ron Mercer for Danny Fortson.
Williams was so bad that the Celtics willingly took Ricky Davis in exchange for him.
Williams couldn’t shoot (42.5 percent from the field, 32.4 percent from 3 in Boston), couldn’t defend (minus-0.5 DBPM), had just one full season over .100 WS/48 (that ’02-03 campaign), and ended up with minus-0.9 VORP in Boston (minus-1.5 overall), the worst ever by a Celtic in at least 400 games played.
Forget the 2002 trip to the Eastern Conference Finals that the Celtics got mostly because the East was a complete Superfund site during the Dark Ages. Or the ’03 second-round appearance. All the good basketball was played out west in those days. Williams was the third-best player on a terrible team that only looked as good as it did for a couple of years because of the competition.
The guy made about $16 million in his second go-round in Boston and didn’t earn a cent of it.
Brooklyn Nets: Jason Collins
Would you believe the Nets franchise has had only 12 players in its entire history play 400 games for them? The franchise leader is Buck Williams at 635. Nobody commits to a career with the Nets, not in Brooklyn, not in New Jersey, not anywhere.
But among those 12 guys, Collins truly stands out. In his seven full seasons in New Jersey, Collins had some of the absolute worst stats by a starter, both counting and advanced, in NBA history, not just Nets history.
In 2004-05, Collins started 80 games, played 31.8 minutes per game, and scored just 6.4 points while pulling down 6.1 rebounds a night.
And those were his career highs.
He couldn’t shoot to save his life, making just 41.1 percent of his shots, which would be terrible for a guard—and he was a center.
Was he a great defender? Absolutely. But even though over 95 percent of his career Win Shares were on the defensive side of the ball, the fact still remains he retired with 0.7 OWS and minus-6.6 VORP (minus-4.1 with the Nets, including a 22-game farewell in Brooklyn in 2013-14.) He put up a 3.0 PER in 2006-07 in 1,844 minutes…and sure, PER is basically an offensive counting stat metric, but 3.0 is putrid even for a garbage time guy.
The Nets played 4-on-5 every time they ventured upcourt with Collins on the floor, and no amount of great defense changes the fact that he stands out on any list of worst advanced-stat (or counting stat!) performances in the history of the league.
Charlotte Hornets: Bismack Biyombo
Still, Biyombo stands out, thanks mostly to minus-2.5 career VORP and just 9.1 points per 36 minutes.
He was bad on his rookie deal, picked seventh overall in 2011 even though he was a definite not-ready-for-prime-time project at the tender age of 19.
He started 41 games and played in 22 more off the bench for the worst team in the history of the league, that 2012 Bobcats squad that went 7-59 in the lockout season.
And after an exile in Toronto and Orlando, he’s back in Charlotte where he’s spent the last three seasons putting up microscopic counting stats and only deigning to shoot the ball when there’s nobody anywhere near him. At least he actually makes them (58.7 percent shooting on just 3.7 attempts per game in 20.4 minutes in 2020-21), but the shots he gets, any tall guy in America could probably make.
Unlike Collins before him, Biyombo is not an elite defender. He’s not an awful one—he wouldn’t still be in the league if so—but he doesn’t rack up the DWS required to put his overall WS/48 above .100; he’s at .093 overall and .084 with Charlotte.
On the bright side for Biyombo himself, he came up as a free agent in 2016 and cashed in a $68 million bonanza. Good for him.
Chicago Bulls: Will Perdue
The Bulls, during the heyday of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, never had a center who turned heads. Bill Cartwright was best-known for one of the absolute weirdest free throw shooting techniques the league has ever seen, Luc Longley was the affable Aussie anchor of the second three-peat, but Perdue…just kind of existed because the rules say you need five guys on the court and once you got past Horace Grant and B.J. Armstrong, that just left a hole at center.
Perdue averaged 11.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per 36 minutes in Chicago, but he didn’t play more than 1,007 minutes in a season until Jordan left.
All this wouldn’t necessarily be a true condemnation—“longtime bench guy pressed into service puts up minus-0.9 VORP in seven years” isn’t exactly “worst ever”, but he cemented his franchise legacy in 1999-2000 by spending 67 games and 1,012 minutes on a putrid Tim Floyd-coached Bulls team putting up minus-0.8 VORP and nearly doubling his deficit below a competent G-League-level player.
Even Jordan’s collection of coke fiends in 1984-85 weren’t that bad for that long.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson
Sometimes the worst thing you can be in this world is loyal. Thompson was caught up in the departure of LeBron James after the 2018 Finals debacle, but before he managed to extricate himself from Cleveland for a 2020-21 negative-VORP season in Boston, Thompson put up the second-worst VORP in franchise history (ahead of Phil Hubbard), but since Thompson played in a good 30 percent more contests and started 75 percent more than did Hubbard, Thompson could be said to have done more damage.
In fact, of Thompson’s 1.8 career VORP in Cleveland, 1.2 of them came during the 2015-16 championship run. That’s a frightening concentration of goodness in a sea of suck.
Plus, Hubbard didn’t make $100 million of Dan Gilbert’s money. Thompson was a salary cap hole, one reason the Cavs have had so much trouble digging out from the Lake Erie snowstorm that was LeBron ditching town.
It won’t be until 2023, when Kevin Love‘s contract finally runs out, that Cleveland will have any hope of either attracting a free agent (unlikely) or at the very least being able to re-sign any of their draft picks who pan out without ruining their finances (although with how bad the Cavs’ recent draftees have been, that’s a disaster waiting to happen.)
Dallas Mavericks: Erick Dampier
Another stiff of a center!
Dampier and J.J. Barea are tied for the worst cumulative VORP in Mavs franchise history (minimum 400 games) with 4.7. The difference between the two is that Barea is a career-long bench spark plug who has started just 93 of his 637 games in Dallas.
Dampier was the full-time starter for most of his six years with the team.
And like most of the centers on this list, he was a guy who couldn’t score but acted as a hoover-vac for rebounds because the guy standing closest to the basket when someone misses and who is taller than everyone else tends to end up with the ball.
He was actually a plus defender in Dallas, and 4.7 VORP isn’t the utter swamp rot that some of the other teams have gotten out of their 400-game players.
Honestly, if Erick Dampier is the worst you’ve ever had wear your uniform for an extended period of time, that’s probably a credit to your franchise for being able to get rid of guys before they reach that point if they aren’t any good.
So…umm…sorry, Mr. Dampier. You’re not actually that awful, sir.
Denver Nuggets: Blair Rasmussen
What is it with 7-footers and putrid careers?
Rasmussen was actually a competent scorer—17 points per 36 minutes.
Unlike most guys on this list, however, he was a merely decent (10.1 per 36) rebounder, and where things really start to fall apart is when you remember that counting stats can be deceptive when you’re playing on a team coached by Doug Moe and running an absolutely bananas fast pace.
Rasmussen’s numbers are why pace-adjusted rate stats exist.
They’re also why he’s in the Negative Career VORP Club (minus-2.4 in Denver, then another minus-1.0 in Atlanta), why the stats noticed he couldn’t guard a corpse, why he even managed a minus-2.2 OBPM and 13.9 PER in Denver despite what look on paper to be competent scoring and rebounding stats.
Blair Rasmussen is a cautionary tale about being wowed by high-scoring basketball games and the players who participate in them. Put him on Mike Fratello’s Cavs and he’s not cracking six points a game.
Detroit Pistons: Michael Curry
The Pistons’ ride through the early part of the Dark Ages, before they got good, featured a starting shooting guard who never shot the ball.
In 2001, ’02, and ’03, Curry started the bulk of the games at the 2 guard and attempted 4.7, 3.4, and 2.9 shots a game, scoring 5.2, 4.0, and 3.0 points.
He attempted fewer shots than Ben Wallace, a guy not known for his scoring, a guy whose shots came almost entirely on putbacks or help defense flubs that left him open in the post.
Which is just as well; Curry couldn’t shoot to save his life, making just 29.8 percent of his career 3-pointers and seeing his shooting percentage bottom out at 40.2 in his last season in Detroit, good for a cover-your-eyes .437 eFG%.
Curry was a decent (0.4 DBPM in Detroit) defender, and that was enough to keep him on the roster despite minus-2.7 VORP and just .072 WS/48. If that’s your fifth-best player, then maybe you’re one piece away from a title as guys like Ben and Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, and the rest of the 2004 Pistons won the chip the year after they shipped Curry off to Toronto for Lindsey Hunter.
Golden State Warriors: Adonal Foyle
Technically, Erick Dampier has the lowest VORP in Warriors franchise history (minimum 400 games.) He could, in theory, be the worst player for two franchises.
But that denies just how awful Foyle was. Plus, Golden State didn’t draft Dampier—Indiana did, 10th overall in 1996, when Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, and Steve Nash were all still on the board. That’s a whole separate discussion.
No, Golden State instead drafted Foyle 8th overall in 1997…one pick ahead of Tracy McGrady. Ouch.
Foyle stunk from the word go. He played 10 seasons, 641 games overall, in Oakland, and never cracked six points per game. He averaged 5.9 points and 7.0 rebounds in 25.1 minutes in 2001, and it should surprise nobody to learn that the Warriors played the third-fastest pace that year to inflate the counting stats of everyone on the team.
That “best year of his career” netted him .022 WS/48.
Granted, he later did crack .100 WS/48 twice, topping out at .106…but he’s a center. The worst center in the NBA by WS/48 in 2019, Marc Gasol, still managed .118.
Foyle’s 0.9 career VORP isn’t the worst in Warriors history (the guy was a stout defender, let’s give him that), but his impact as the starting center on a perpetually putrid squad puts him in the dumpster as the worst player Golden State ever paid $60 million for.
Coming tomorrow: Part 2. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!