NBA: The 25 worst players to ever win Rookie of the Year

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) /
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NBA Rookie of the Year
NBA Rookie of the Year (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for TNT ) /

The NBA Rookie of the Year award is ultimately not worth anything. It’s rarely an indicator of meaningful impact, nor does it tend to reflect winning in any way. It’s usually a reward for the player who racks up the most combined points, rebounds and assists.

Then why does it matter? Because even though it seems meaningless, it’s actually been very accurate for identifying future success. Out of 71 players to win the award, 38 (53 percent) have either been named to the Hall of Fame or are on track to make it. Players who win the award are suddenly good bets to have superstar careers.

That being said, there are plenty of bad players, or at least those with mediocre careers. Players who were one-hit wonders, with their rookie seasons the best in their careers. Years where future Hall of Fame players had slow starts or injuries that opened the door for a player with a low ceiling to earn an award. These are the players who will populate a list of the worst to ever win the Rookie of the Year award.

Yet to get to 25, we had to eventually start picking from really good players. These are not Hall of Fame guys, but they are multi-time All-Stars and NBA champions. This illustrates the depth of this award’s winners. To make it off the list, you either had to be an active, young player with multiple All-Star selections, or have accrued over 100 win shares or at least five All-NBA selections. This award self-sorts and tends to hit more often than not.

For the purposes of this exercise, we are evaluating the entire career of a player, not their rookie season. Which players who won the Rookie of the Year award went on to have the worst careers? We did not include Ja Morant (2020) or the 2020 Draft class as it is too soon to make a call.
Elton Brand, Karl-Anthony Towns, Derrick Rose and Ben Simmons are our “first four out” for the list. Maurice Stokes, Dave Bing, Amar’e Stoudemire and Buck Williams are the next four out. That’s how good the list of players is that avoided this list. Now we begin our walk of shame with a Phoenix stalwart.