#3 Biggest Bust of the 00's: Rodney White
This offseason, NBA FanHouse will address important questions about the league. It will be a Summer of Answers. First up: the biggest draft busts of the decade.
Joe Dumars is widely recognized as one of the top executives in the NBA, and while the Pistons have been unable to get over the hump since 2004, he's done an enviable job setting up his team to remain in contention through the draft, snatching up guys like Tayshaun Prince (2003), Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson (2005) and Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo (2007) after lottery teams had passed them over.
Of course, Dumars didn't always have such a deft hand at the draft -- and I'm not just talking about a certain Serbian center who went second overall in 2004. In 2000, Dumars selected hometown hero Mateen Cleaves 14th overall out of Michigan State, passing on the likes of Hedo Turkoglu, Desmond Mason, Quentin Richardson, Morris Peterson, DeShawn Stevenson, Marko Jaric, Eduardo Najera, Eddie House and (this one hurts the most) Michael Redd.
It didn't take long for Dumars to realize his mistake (Cleaves was dealt to Sacramento after one season), and as a consolation prize he was rewarded with another lottery pick. Unfortunately, he committed an even bigger blunder by taking Rodney White ninth overall. Rodney who? Exactly.
Just one pick after White, Joe Johnson went off the board, and Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas soon followed (not to mention a host of lesser names who have also enjoyed serviceable careers like Vladimir Radmanovic, Troy Murphy, Brendan Haywood, Jamaal Tinsley, Samuel Dalembert, Earl Watson and Jason Collins).
Dumars did salvage the draft by finding Mehmet Okur in the second round, but any one of those other guys I mentioned would have been a monumental improvement over White, who lasted just one year in Detroit and was out of the league completely within four years. Not many GMs can waste back-to-back lottery picks and live to draft again, but even with minimal contributions from White, the Pistons won 50 games in 2001-02 and haven't won fewer since.
Even the hardest of the hard-core Pistons fans tend to forget about what Detroit missed out on by selecting White considering that was the same summer it was one summer after (fixed) Dumars turned a gimpy Grant Hill into the franchise cornerstone Ben Wallace thanks to a sign-and-trade with the Magic. And the following year Dumars had his core in place by signing Chauncey Billups, trading for Rip Hamilton and drafting Prince. The team hasn't looked back since joining the league's elite, but still, hindsight being what it is, I can't help but wonder if this team could have squeezed more than one title out of its core if they'd passed on White and taken any of the star-caliber players drafted after him.
Other Busts of the 00's:
#2 Kwame Brown
#4 Rafael Araujo
#5 Nikoloz Tskitishvili