Today is "Biggest Disappointment Day" throughout the family of NBA blogs at SB Nation (#NBABust on Twitter if you want to follow the other blogs). And given that the Nuggets are the lone ABA holdover to never even appear in an NBA Finals, we certainly have our fair share of busts to choose from.
For the purposes of this column, I'm going to focus solely on draft busts in Nuggets history and let you, our fellow Stiffs, decide who the biggest bust of them all was. This list is in order based on the year they were drafted ...
James Earl Ray - 5th overall pick in 1980
In addition to having the dubious honor of sharing the same name as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassin, Ray rewarded the Nuggets selection of him with three forgettable seasons during which he appeared in just 103 games and averaged 3.2 ppg on 42.8% shooting. Ray couldn't even hit a free throw.
Compounding the problem, when the Nuggets drafted Ray they already had Alex English manning the small forward spot and made a draft day trade with Dallas to obtain another small forward named Kiki Vandeweghe (drafted 11th overall in a weak draft). And with David Thompson, Dan Issel, T.R. Dunn and Billy McKinney already on the roster, the Nuggets didn't have a lot of minutes available for more than one rookie.
After three seasons in Denver, Ray would never suit up in the NBA again.
Mo Martin and Mark Alarie - 16th and 18th overall picks in 1986
Coming off two straight seasons with exciting playoff runs, the Nuggets had two first round picks to deploy in 1986 ... and missed on both by selecting Martin (out of the NBA entirely after just two seasons) and Alarie (the first of many white Duke players who be disappointments in the NBA). To be fair, the latter part of the 1986 NBA Draft didn't exactly offer up a lot of talent, but the early second round saw Mark Price, Dennis Rodman, Johnny Newman, Nate McMillan and Kevin Duckworth get drafted.
Todd Lichti - 15th overall pick in 1989
With the Nuggets' second "Golden Era" of Alex English, Fat Lever, Doug Moe, etc. coming to an end, the Nuggets needed to pull off a steal with the 15th overall pick in 1989. Instead, they ended up drafting Lichti (one pick after the Warriors selected Tim Hardaway and two picks before the Sonics selected Shawn Kemp) who played hard for four seasons in Denver but never recovered from a tragic off-season car accident and was out of the NBA entirely after four years.
Mark Macon - 8th overall pick in 1991
After astutely drafting Dikembe Mutombo 4th overall, the Nuggets erred big time by selecting Macon at 8, passing over Stacey Augom, Bison Dele (who would become a Nugget eventually), Terrell Brandon, Greg Anthony and Dale Davis. Having tanked the 1990-91 season to land a top pick in the first place, the Nuggets had no margin of error in the 1991 NBA Draft. And by drafting Macon - who was out of Denver after two-and-a-half forgettable seasons - the Nuggets again set themselves backward.
Efthimios Rentzias - 23rd overall pick in 1996
Not only was Rentzias a bust (he never played for the Nuggets and played just a few obscure, meaningless minutes for the 76ers during the 2002-03 season) but the Nuggets - under the "stewardship" of Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Winner Bernie Bickerstaff - actually held the 10th overall pick in 1996 and traded down to select Rentzias, passing on a few players named Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash and Jermaine O'Neal.
Tony Battie - 5th overall pick in 1997
The Nuggets' historical curse with drafting 5th overall continued in 1997 by selecting Battie. Even though Battie has had a productive, 14-year NBA career (I never thought I'd write that) he was useless in Denver, starting 49 times as a rookie on a team that won 11 games. 11 games!!
Nikoloz Tskitishvili - 5th overall pick in 2002
With delusions of Dirk Nowitzki in his head, then-Nuggets president Kiki Vandeweghe selected "Skita" 5th overall, even though (allegedly) Skita only worked out against Vandeweghe's assistants and not against any NBA or NCAA caliber players. This would prove to be a colossal mistake as Skita turned in just two-and-a-half ineffective seasons in Denver and was out of the NBA entirely by 2006.
Making matters worse, Skita was drafted ahead of Amar'e Stoudemire and Caron Butler, and is thus regarded as one of - if not the - worst 5th overall picks in NBA history.