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The 5: Biggest Arizona sports draft busts of 21st century

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart directs his offense against the Oakland Raiders during the first half on an exhibition NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

With the news that former Phoenix Sun and 2017 NBA fourth-overall pick Josh Jackson will start this season in the G-League, bust talk is circulating around the Valley.

Time to take a trip down memory lane and look back at the worst busts in Arizona sports since 2000.

Honorable mention: Jonathan Cooper, Arizona Cardinals, OL, 7th pick in 2013

Guard Jonathan Cooper seemed like a slam dunk pick out of North Carolina, where he was named a unanimous All-American.

Unfortunately, he broke his fibula in the preseason before his rookie year, which ended his season. He wasn’t able to stay healthy consistently for the Cardinals and he was traded before the 2016 season to New England.

The saving grace is that he was sent off with a second-round pick for defensive end Chandler Jones, who has been very effective in his Cardinals tenure.

Honorable mention: Barrett Loux, Diamondbacks, RHP, 6th pick in 2010

Barrett Loux was a talented pitcher at Texas A&M before Arizona selected him sixth in 2010.

He had some injury concerns, but the D-backs felt that he was worth the risk. Because of this, they left pitching prospects Matt Harvey (2013 All-Star) and Chris Sale (7-time All-Star) on the table.

Loux failed his physical and was never signed by Arizona, so the D-backs received a compensatory pick in 2011 which ended up being Archie Bradley. Not the worst outcome imaginable, but a missed opportunity.

Honorable mention: The D-backs’ handling of the 2015 top pick

The D-backs won 64 games in 2014 and earned the first overall pick in 2015. That excitement was quickly squandered, as general manager Dave Stewart traded selectee shortstop Dansby Swanson, along with outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitcher Aaron Blair, to Atlanta for pitcher Shelby Miller.

Miller finished his Arizona tenure with a 6.35 ERA.

The blow was softened over time as Nick Ahmed has performed better at short for Arizona than Swanson has for the Braves. But that trade was still a low point in D-backs history.

5. Dragan Bender, Suns, PF, 4th pick in 2016

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The 2016 draft for Phoenix was a tough one to swallow. The Suns left with two top-10 picks, neither of which are still on the team.

Marquise Chriss and Dragan Bender both massively underperformed and failed to give Devin Booker the supporting cast he needed to help get the Suns out of the gutter.

Chriss averaged 8.5 points per game with 4.8 rebounds as a Sun. Bender put up 5.3 points with 3.8 rebounds per contest. Both shot poorly from three despite being drafted as stretch-fours, but Chriss showed better athleticism and put up superior numbers.

4. Josh Jackson, Suns, SF, 4th pick in 2017

(AP Photo/John Locher)

What could have been? The Suns were awarded the fourth-overall pick in 2017 after a lowly 24-win season and had a decision to make. Point guard De’Aaron Fox was on the board as was Jackson, a small forward.

Fox was receiving top-three prospect buzz but the Suns already had an established point guard in Eric Bledsoe. Jackson was an anemic shooter, but he had good athleticism and the Suns desperately needed a wing player to pair with Booker.

Early into Jackson’s rookie year, Bledsoe forced his way out of Phoenix, creating a gaping hole at point guard.

Two years later, Jackson is reportedly going to start the 2019-20 season in the G-League while Fox is the NBA’s reigning most improved player.

3. Bobby Borchering, Diamondbacks, 3B, 16th pick in 2009

The 2009 MLB draft is the year of Mike Trout and everyone who people cannot believe was picked ahead of him.

The D-backs had two selections before Trout was taken 25th, but they used them on outfielder A.J. Pollock and infielder Bobby Borchering. Pollock at least performed well in the desert for seven years before he left for the Dodgers.

Borchering never quite cracked the major leagues. He only played in 51 Double-A games. He spent the better part of seven seasons bouncing from Rookie League to Single-A and back down again.

2. Blake Wheeler, Coyotes, RW, 5th pick in 2004

(John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

Blake Wheeler developed into a future All-Star and a constant goal scorer for over a decade in the NHL.

He just did not do that for the Coyotes.

He played college hockey at Minnesota after being drafted and refused to sign with Phoenix after he graduated. Even after the Coyotes offered him a maximum entry-level deal, he refused. In 2008 he became an unrestricted free agent and signed with Boston.

Now, he is the captain of the Winnipeg Jets and he scored 91 points in each of the past two seasons.

1. Matt Leinart, Cardinals, QB, 10th pick in 2006

Matt Leinart won a National Championship, a Heisman trophy and was given the 2004 Manning award for the best quarterback in the country while at USC. He won enough hardware to last a lifetime, and he did not win any more in Arizona.

The Cardinals drafted him to be their franchise quarterback and he rewarded them with 20 interceptions in 17 starts.

What did not help was a fractured collarbone he suffered in his second season. That opened the door for head coach Ken Whisenhunt to insert Kurt Warner into the starting lineup.

The veteran played too well to go back to Leinart once healthy and eventually Warner took the Cards to the Super Bowl.

After Warner retired in 2010, Leinart had a clear path to the starter’s job. But he was beaten to it by Derek Anderson in training camp and he was released.

At least the Cardinals got a second-rounder for Josh Rosen.


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