Nerdnumbers avatar

Redefining Draft "Busts"

In Patrick's last piece on tanking, he made the astute observation that the top of every draft class usually has a bust. You might not know who, you might not know why, but they fail to even touch the expectations heaped upon top draft picks. However, one line that Patrick wrote started an interesting discussion on Twitter: that one day, Derrick Rose may be regarded as a bust. And an astute reader was quick to comment:

It's actually hard to argue with this logic. Derrick Rose played very well his first three seasons. Perhaps he was a little overrated, and he was certainly a ridiculous MVP choice by voters that were tired of voting for LeBron, but Derrick Rose was still a stud from 2009 through 2011. And the Bulls signed Rose to an extension right after he won MVP, and before injuries ever touched him. And that's actually the key.

The way a rookie contract works is as follows: when you draft a player, you get their rights for two seasons. If you like them you get a team option on their third year, and then another option on their fourth year. The Bulls did everything right here: they got two good years out of Rose, then picked up his third season, then his fourth season, and finally took advantage of his Bird Rights to sign him to a long term deal. They did all of these moves at "the right time."

I really can't qualify Rose as a bust, then. But as Patrick points out, history may remember otherwise. This brings up a new kind of bust: players that fail to live up to their first extension. The Bulls seem to be kings of this. In 2003 they drafted Kirk Hinrich with the 7th pick. Over his rookie contract he played very well. He then signed a five year $50 million contract and proceeded to play below average. In 2004 they signed Luol Deng, who looked like a future all-time great. They signed him to six-year, $71 million contract, and he's been a good but not great player. And of course, they signed Rose to a long term deal and designated him their franchise player. And thanks to the rule that bares his name, he's eligible for the best contract possible. And of course, his injuries are making him look more like Greg Oden than Kevin Durant. 

That brings me to my questions for you, the reader: what do you call a player that "lives up" to their rookie contract but "busts" on their big extension? Which players qualify? And, if, hypothetically, Rose never plays again, or never plays like a star again after all the injuries, is he a bust? Was three years of great play "worth" a #1 pick?

Thanks in advance!