The No. 4 overall pick in the draft is the tip of the iceberg of selecting outside the superstar range. In some cases, there have been top talent available on the board, but the last 20 drafts have shown that the No. 4 overall pick is a death sentence.
Only one player since 2008 has been selected to an All-Star Game after being drafted with the No. 4 overall pick. When looking at the selections, there is a fair argument that at least seven of these picks have been considered major first-round busts. Outside of a few future Hall of Famers, an MVP candidate, and a few All-Stars, being the No. 4 overall pick has featured a minimal return in production.
Here it goes as we rank the last 20 No. 4 overall picks. We have also ranked the last 20 No. 1 overall picks, No. 2 overall picks, and No. 3 overall picks in our series.
20. Dragan Bender - 2016
5.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG
How many 23-year olds have you heard of bouncing out of the league at this age? Granted, much lower-tier second-round picks, as well as undrafted free agents are usually out of the league around this time. However, very rarely does a No. 4 overall pick fizzle out this early.
Bender was seen as an international-touted prospect out of Croatia by the Suns but never lived up to expectations. His best season came in Year 2, where he averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in over 25 minutes of game time. Bender played 16 games in his final season in 2019 and now plays in the Euroleague.
19. Wesley Johnson - 2010
7.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG
This was a tough year for the Timberwolves. Instead of drafting DeMarcus Cousins, Gordon Hayward, or Paul George, the Timberwolves selected Wesley Johnson with the No. 4 overall picks after one good season at Syracuse.
Johnson never averaged double-digits in his career but did manage to bounce around from 2010 to 2018, playing for the Suns, Lakers, Clippers, Pelicans, and Wizards in addition to Minnesota. At 33 years old, Johnson has not played in the NBA since 2018.
18. Josh Jackson - 2017
12.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG
One might have wondered why it took the Suns over 10 years to qualify for the playoffs despite drafting Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in recent years. Part of that is that a franchise must build a team around their star players. After drafting Bender in 2016, the Suns duped themselves again by drafting Jackson.
Jackson enjoyed a successful rookie campaign by averaging 13.1 points and 4.6 rebounds but never improved. He was quickly shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies in his second season. Now, the 24-year old is trying to revive his career with the last-place Detroit Pistons, where he is averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game.
17. Tyrus Thomas - 2006
7.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG
Thomas hung around the league from 2006 to 2014, but will always be remembered as the failed trade piece for the Chicago Bulls that sent LaMarcus Aldridge to the Portland Trail Blazers. Thomas enjoyed one good season, averaging 10.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in his third season; but it was nothing to what Aldridge enjoyed in his career.
Aldridge made six All-star appearances, while Thomas flaked out of the league by age 27. This will always be considered a bust of a pick by Chicago fans.
16. Patrick Williams - 2020
9.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Williams is following the suit of productive role players taken with the fourth pick. It’s only his rookie season, but Williams is enjoying a campaign averaging 9.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. At 19 years old, Bulls fans are willing to be patient to watch him grow.
Compared to other picks on this list, Williams has not proven as much, which is why his stock is low for now.
15. Dion Waiters - 2012
13.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Waiters played seven games for the Lakers last season and rode the train to a championship ring. It was a gift for the 29-year old, who was booted from the Miami Heat for bringing marijuana brownies on a plane ride to only have an anxiety attack. It’s like the last time we have seen Waiters in the league given his lack of interest by teams right now.
Despite averaging 15.9 points per game in his second season, Waiters never turned into that lockdown scorer like many thought he would become. Waiters did average between 12-15 points per game for the Heat from 2016-2018, but his lack of focus towards development has proven to teams that he is not worth the headache.
14. De’Andre Hunter - 2019
13.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Right now, Hunter is by far the pick that stands out with the highest potential to rise in the rankings. In his second season, Hunter has improved his points per game, rebounds, steals, and is shooting the ball nine percent better compared to last season.
Hunter’s stat line of 16.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 50.2% field-goal percentage is impressive. At 23 years old, he has plenty of room to grow and could form a tough trio with John Collins and Trae Young.
13. Cody Zeller - 2013
8.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.7 BPG
To an extent, Zeller has underachieved. After coming out of Indiana, many believed that Zeller was going to grow into a potential All-Star player. Instead, he has averaged a career line of 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. Zeller has never averaged a double-double but has been loyal to the team that drafted him in the Charlotte Hornets.
Zeller fits the mold of a traditional center. He has averaged 50% field goal shooting or better in each of the last six seasons.
13. Drew Gooden - 2002
11.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Gooden enjoyed a long, successful career that spanned from 2002 to 2015. For his career, Gooden averaged 11.0 points and 7.1 rebounds. That included playing for 10 different teams.
The journeyman was the ultimate role player and averaged over 20 minutes per game in each season from 2002 to 2011. While Gooden was never an All-Star, he checks all the boxes of a successful professional basketball player.
11. Jaren Jackson Jr. - 2018
15.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG
Jackson is on the trajectory towards having a career like Gooden but has a way higher ceiling. Jackson’s issue has been staying healthy. Jackson played in just 58 games during his rookie season and then 57 games last year. Jackson didn’t appear in his first game for this season until April.
If Jackson can stay healthy, the chemistry development between Ja Morant and Jackson could have a ceiling of Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol, who led the team to a Western Conference Finals in 2013.
10. Eddy Curry - 2001
12.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG
If Patrick Williams doesn't pan out, then the Bulls should never hope they own the No. 4 overall pick again. Taken fourth by the Bulls, Curry enjoyed two successful seasons, averaging as high as 16.1 points in 2004. However, Curry ultimately left for the Knicks, averaging as high as 19.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in his second season in New York.
Ultimately, Curry’s last four seasons in the league were plagued by injuries. In his final four seasons, Curry played just 26 games combined before leaving the league for good in 2012.
9. Tyreke Evans - 2009
15.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG
After winning Rookie of the Year in 2010, many fans in the Sacramento area felt this could be the turning point for the franchise. Instead, that was the only year that Evans averaged over 20 points and he was eventually shipped to the Pelicans in exchange for Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez.
Evans owns a career mark of 15.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists; however, the 31-year old has not played in the league since 2018.
8. Aaron Gordon - 2014
12.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Gordon was viewed as a type of player with a ceiling of Blake Griffin. While Gordon’s dunk capabilities match Griffin’s younger days, the consistent play on the basketball court has not lived up to those standards.
In Orlando, Gordon enjoyed a few playoff runs that ended in first-round playoff losses. He needed a change of scenery, which is why he is now with the Nuggets. Gordon is still in his prime and could pop off a few great seasons. In the end, he is not All-Star material, but a capable starter in this league.
7. Shaun Livingston - 2004
6.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Livingston has one of the best stories in his career. After being drafted out of Peoria High School, Livingston enjoyed three strong seasons with the Clippers. However, Livingston later desolates his left kneecap, resulting in his left leg snapping laterally. Livingston suffered a torn ACL, PCL, lateral meniscus, and badly sprained his MCL. He was told at one point that his leg would need to be amputated.
The recovery process was brutal. Livingston missed all of the 2007 season, then played a total of 48 games combined from 2008 to 2009. From 2008 to 2013, Livingston played for nine different teams. It wasn’t until he signed with the Golden State Warriors, became the backup floor general to Steph Curry, and helped the team win three NBA championships.
6. Tristan Thompson - 2011
9.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Thompson enjoyed a successful career with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2011 to 2020. Thompson went in and out of the starting lineup of the 2015-2016 NBA champions. Thompson owns a career average of 9.4 points and 8.7 rebounds. All in all, he has been a starting-caliber center in this league.
What set Thompson out from the rest was his ability to play defense inside. He never backed down from a challenge and was always ready for contact. Thompson and Livingston saw each other in the NBA Finals four straight seasons.
5. Kristaps Porzingis - 2015
18.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.9 BPG
Many of us are still waiting for Porzingis to take that next step, but he can’t stay healthy. Porzingis has not played over 60 games in a season since 2016 and that includes missing all of the 2018-2019 season with an injury.
When on the floor, Porzingis is an All-Star. The 7-foot-3 big man can play inside and out and is shooting above 35% from the three-point range.
4. Mike Conley Jr. - 2007
14.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG
It took until 2021 for Conley to make his first All-Star team. That feels surprising given that he is the franchise leader in points for the Memphis Grizzlies. However, Conley has enjoyed a great career to this date. Along with Marc Gasol, Conley led the Grizzlies to their first-ever appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 2013.
Today, Conley is an All-Star point guard for the Utah Jazz, who are contending for the No. 1 overall seed in the West. In a year of firsts, maybe making the NBA Finals will be added to his list.
3. Chris Bosh - 2003
19.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Bosh is a Hall of Famer despite having his career cut short in 2017. Due to life-threatening blood clots, Bosh had to step away from the game. His resume is Hall of Fame-worthy. It features 11 All-Star appearances, four trips to the NBA Finals, two NBA championships with the Heat, and he was once the Toronto Raptors leader in points.
In Miami, Bosh’s No. 1 jersey is hanging from the ceiling. He averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in his career, which included a string of five straight 20-point seasons.
2. Chris Paul - 2005
18.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 9.4 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.1 BPG
If Chris Paul can lead the Phoenix Suns to an NBA championship, then he will be the bonafide No. 1 overall No. 4 draft pick. Paul has helped the Pelicans, Clippers, Rockets, and Thunder be competitive in years past, and now has the Suns playing the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Finals.
As for his resume, Paul is an 11-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA selection, nine-time All-Defensive selection, four-time NBA assists leader, and six-time NBA steals leader. The only thing he is missing is a championship ring.
1. Russell Westbrook - 2008
23.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 8.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Up until the 2016-2017 season, only Oscar Robertson had averaged a triple-double in a season, dating back to the 1960s. Westbrook not only won an MVP in 2017 while accomplishing that feat, but he has averaged a triple-double two more times and is on the verge of doing it a fourth time. We have never seen greatness like this before and we are taking the 32-year old’s production for granted.
Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA selection, two-time scoring champion, and two-time NBA assists, leader. Westbrook needs just four triple-doubles to pass Robertson for most triple-doubles of all time. Robertson ended his career in 1973, which means the record has stood for nearly 50 years. The next person to surpass Westbrook will likely be about the same time frame from now.