When it comes to selecting the worst and the best franchises of the last decade, it’s not just about winning and records, it’s about a combination of winning, consistency, as well as high organizational standards. These three things make franchises successful and viewed as winning.
A true test of a good organization is one that is consistently good; no good organization should be bad for longer than three years and within those three years they should look promising.
Philly and New York are two teams that definitely deserve to be on the worst list. There is really no semblance of success within the last decade. In the case of the Brooklyn Nets, changing the name and/or relocating doesn't make an organization great. Just look at New Orleans; when they became the Pelicans they got worse.
Five years from now, I expect the majority of the seven teams on the "Worst Franchise" side to still be on the list. In contrast, I think only three of the best franchises will be on the list. Winning today, doesn't make a great franchise and it doesn't ensure winning in the future.
15 BEST: Memphis Grizzlies
The Grinding Grizzlies are a very solid Franchise. They have made the playoffs for six consecutive years. They are a team that has been on the cusp of making the finals a few years.
Acquiring Marc Gasol was the second greatest decision the organization made; the first was when they hired legendary coach and basketball historian, Hubie Brown. The Grizzlies have been somewhat exceptional, considering they’ve dealt with Marc Gasol’s knee injury, and they’ve continued to be playoff contenders.
Now the window for the Grizzlies is closing, because of Marc Gasol’s age and his recent injuries. If the Grizzlies can make some moves and get Anthony Davis as the starting power forward, he could be the athletic big man that make Marc Gasol’s job easier, and vice versa. The tandem of Marc Gasol and Anthony Davis could be a more skilled and efficient version of Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.
14 WORST: Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic is a team that had a lot of promise about a decade ago, with Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and coach Stan Van Gundy. What a great situation. In 2007-08, the Magic were a team on the cusp of reaching the finals. In 2008-09, they reached the grandest stage in basketball. The superstar, Howard, didn't show up. Though the team was still a force to be reckoned with, the Magic found a way to mess up the chemistry and the structure.
The Magic invested in an indecisive superstar, Dwight Howard and got rid of their head coach Stan Van Gundy. The superstar they invested in left for LA, like a previous superstar big man did years before.
Choosing Dwight Howard over Stan Van Gundy was the death blow for the organization at the time. You don't choose an unproven superstar that struggles to ascend, over a top notch coach like Stan Van Gundy. If the Magic had stuck with Van Gundy, they could possibly be an NBA champion, as well as one of the best teams in the league. Instead they're bottom dwellers.
13 BEST: Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have been a team that’s consistently in the middle. The six of the last ten years have been solid years of playoff contention. I doubt the Trailblazers will be making the finals anytime soon, but I am certain they will continue to make the playoffs.
They have a solid B-level star, Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers can possibly attract more pieces and a superstar that could take the team to the next level. As good as Damian Lillard is, he doesn’t have the focus and know how, though he has the ability, to take the Trail Blazers to next level.
In the 2016 NBA playoffs, Damian led his team to a respectable but ultimately losing effort. In crunch time, he began playing the Warriors' style, which is reliance on the three point shot. The Trail Blazers nor any other team in the league are capable of playing the Warriors' style.
12 WORST: Brooklyn Nets
The only true legitimate basketball period for the Brooklyn Nets is the 2013-14 season when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were there. The Nets origins in Brooklyn of course, were bolstered by the promotion by Jay Z. You know you’re a bad franchise when your owners are desperate to sell their stake in the company.
Jay gave up his stake in the company first, now the majority owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, has been actively seeking a 3 billion dollar valuation -which is quite unrealistic- to sell the team for.
The Brooklyn Nets were an overhyped franchise that didn't have much to offer. Nothing ever worked out. The proposed economic impact was not quite what it was perceived to be.The Nets started off being emblematic of Jay Z’s business prowess. The focus was more entertainment not related to sports. The players acquired and retained never lived up to expectation: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brooke Lopez.
The Nets really should just premiere music videos during halftime of every game. That would be more interesting than Brooklyn Nets basketball. I don’t know the Nets' future, but I hope I can visit Barclays before it closes.
11 BEST: Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are a really sufficient team. They are well run, and at times are a good watch. They’re definitely a team you root for. The Raptors however have consistently been and will remain as long as LeBron is in the Eastern Conference, the team with the best shot to be runner up in the East.
But there’s much to be admired for a team that has consistently been a top five team in the conference for over ten years. This tells free agents that this franchise is a winning franchise that is probably missing one or two pieces to put it over the top.
The only deterrence I feel Toronto has from attracting best free agents is the location and the weather. Every away game is a significant road trip, while the Rockets playing the Spurs and Rockets is not a significant road trip, not to mention it’s very cold in Toronto.
The plus is that Toronto is one of the greatest and global cities in the world. They also have Drake as a spokesperson, so if that’s not enough to pique your interest, I don’t know what will.
10 WORST: Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have had one of the most disappointing decades of any franchise in the NBA. They ended the 2007 season by firing Jeff Van Gundy; the correct coach for the Rockets.
The problem was the money invested in one player, Tracy Mcgrady. After a few years of mediocrity, The Rockets acquired b-level player James Harden in 2012. A year later, the Rockets wasted over 50 million on a childish, semi-proven superstar, Dwight Howard.
This combination was a result of the touted analytics, which is supposed to be the more efficient way to select a team. The tandem was rarely worth watching. In the playoffs, the Rockets often were at their best when the two superstars were on the bench.
Now Howard is gone and the Rockets are doing fairly well, but the success is solely dependent on Harden. I predict that in June, I will once again be, a disappointed Houston sports fan.
9 BEST: Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers over the last five years have been one of a few teams that were considered the eventual NBA champions. In 2012, when the Clippers acquired Chris Paul, there fortunes changed. You got the best leader in the NBA, in his prime, with an athletic force to be reckon with, Blake Griffin.
I will say this about the Clippers, they’ve created some incredible moments for the franchise’s history over the last few years. In 2015, their playoff run was great and then not so great for them, but it was very great for the league. Game 6 and 7 of their first round series against the Spurs were among the top classics in NBA playoff history; they earned the win.
Their series against the Rockets in the second round was one of the greatest collapses in NBA playoff history. So above all, The Clippers have given some awesome playoff moments.
8 WORST: Philadelphia 76ers
Since Dr. J left the 76ers have never felt like a championship contender. With the exception of three years from 1999 to 2002, they never seemed like they could make an impact.
Before Charles Barkley left in 1992, he criticized the organization and wanted out. Chuck left and for the next four years, the 76ers were unwatchable. In 1996, Iverson came to town and was exciting. The problem was, they were not winning.
Since the 76ers made the finals in 2001, they have only made the playoffs 7 times and won only one playoff game. This is an organizational problem. It could be argued that the 76ers are the worst NBA franchise in the last twenty five years.
There have been moments this season when the 76ers look promising , but they're still losing. Out of all these worst teams on the list, the 76ers are the only who's future on the surface is unclear.
7 BEST: Miami Heat
The Miami Heat can still be considered a great franchise of the last decade because after they won their title in 2006, a couple of years later they suffered several injuries, but remained a contender until LeBron came to town and they became the odd on favorite four years in a row.
Since Bron Bron's departure, the Heat has been out of the playoffs one of the two years and could possibly make the playoffs this year; it's a tight race, but not necessarily a tough one in the East. The organization has made some poor decisions as of late, but that can't override the decade of success it's had.
With a few good moves, the Heat will be in contention again. They have three important things in their favor, GM Pat Riley, the weather and scenery of Miami and no state tax. By the way, D-Wade may be back soon because D-Wade knows he made a mistake.
6 WORST: Cleveland Cavaliers
All winning is not the same. Anyone with a discerning viewpoint would realize that The Cavs are not a great franchise. A great franchise is not totally beholden to one player or person. A great franchise is great management, that seeks the right coach, so that they recruit the right players to assemble a great team.
The Cavaliers management is and has consistently been poor, the coaching selections have been sub par, the only thing the Cavs did properly was to attain LeBron James. LeBron is a the great GM, who picked the right coach and the players to accommodate him temporarily. Understand, only because LeBron are they in playoff contention, let alone Championship contention.
When Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1993, the Bulls went from a 57 win team, to a 55 win team that were not only playoff contenders, but expected by many to make the finals. The Bulls organization was not dependent on Michael Jordan to be a successful franchise; though he helped significantly early on in his career. When LeBron left the Cavs in 2010, the team became inarguably the worst in the league; that's the sign of a terrible franchise.
Ask your self a question, which franchise is better Miami or Cleveland? Which franchise’s future is brighter without LeBron? Which of the two could attract top free agents without LeBron? Which of the two has a great reputation separate from LeBron? The answer to all these questions is the Miami Heat.
5 BEST: Oklahoma City Thunder
A decade ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder had cemented itself as a perennial team for the subsequent decade. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were and triple threat that worked well - extremely well! But not well enough for a title.
There were problems with the formula, so they traded James Harden. It didn’t hurt them, but that wasn’t the problem with the formula. OKC goes and gets two athletic big men, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, so now they should be set for another five years as a perennial franchise, but they get to the conference finals and the problem shows itself once again.
I don’t agree with Kevin Durant leaving OKC for Golden State, but the problem was and is Russell Westbrook. Now just what is the problem? The problem is he gives a hundred percent night in and night out, he’s fire from the time the ball is tipped, his passion bucket over flows…but he has no balance in regards to his approach to the game.
To clarify, Russell Westbrook’s problem is something you try to rectify, but you don’t complain about. Russell Westbrook is most likely not gonna win an NBA title, but if I get to see someone with that passion, in today’s game, I’m all in.
4 WORST: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers won two NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. Since 2011 the Lakers have descended to oblivion. No other team in the last decade except the Cavaliers have crumbled that drastically. Their poor management has helped to lower themselves as a terrible franchise. The unique thing about the Lakers is their crash began with the players, then management just took care of the rest of the organizational destruction.
How do you go from being at the time, the defending repeat champions, the current division champions and 2nd in the Western conference, to a team that just laid flat for a team not near your level in The Dallas Mavericks. From that point on, nearly every decision the Lakers made set them back; signing Swaggy P, signing Kobe to an exorbitant contract and worst of all wasting all that money on Dwight Howard.
Since 2011, the Lakers fans have been subject to the poorly selected coaches Mike Brown, and Mike D'antoni come and go, a poor multi-million dollar investment in Dwight Howard and the only thing the fans have got is free tacos and Swaggy P - that's not fair!
3 BEST: Golden State Warriors
Love them or hate them (especially since they acquired Durant), the Warriors are amazing to watch. Over the last six years, since Mark Jackson took over, the Warriors' mentality and overall play has improved immensely.
Mark Jackson brought a self awareness to a young team along with a defensive focus that made them a team to watch out for and when they made it to the playoffs in coach Jackson’s second season, they stunned some would say, others would say they rightfully dominated the Denver Nuggets in the first round and were a formidable adversary for the Spurs in the second round.
In 2014, when Steve Kerr took over as head coach, he opened things up and enabled his upstarts, Stephon Curry and Klay Thompson to play their way, while not getting away from the team element or without neglecting defense. So as much as I dislike the Warriors, outside of the excessive three pointers, I can’t criticize their play. They play team ball. It’s fun, and exciting to watch.
So the transformation of this franchise can be primarily attributed to Mark Jackson, GM Bob Meyers that quickly rectified what seemed like dysfunctional management, Steve Kerr, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.
2 WORST: New York Knicks
The Knicks make the list because... they're the Knicks. I’m curious about Jeanie Buss and Phil Jackson’s relationship. Phil has been the President of the Knicks for two years. He knows how terribly the organization is lead; he’s been apart of how terribly they are lead. So why would you let a woman go for money.
What does all this have to do with the franchise being bad? Everything! Money over love could be the theme for the Knicks. Carmelo’s love of money exceeded his love of the game, which stifled the Knicks ability to afford the right talent around him.
We know Carmelo is a ball stopper, a member of the all no defense team that no legit star wants to play with. So let's improve this situation by getting a high volume, low percentage not real point guard, D-Rose, that’s also a star that nobody wants to play with, along with an aged, physically beat-up, defensive maven in Joakim Noah. And you pay them over 100 million dollars collectively; locking yourself in for a few years, thereby stifling the team’s progress.
That’s the New York Knicks way. Money over love of the game.
1 BEST: San Antonio Spurs
What do you say about the San Antonio Spurs that hasn’t been said by any relevant sports reporter? The Spurs are excellence exemplified. Since 1997, when the Spurs acquired Tim Duncan, they’ve made the playoffs twenty years and they’ve been championship contenders at least seventeen of those years.
For eighteen years, Tim Duncan was the centerpiece. He helped David Robinson extend his career a few years, when Tony Parker and Ginobli arrived, he made their transition to the NBA smoothly and they were able to become all-star caliber players.
The Spurs have not only been consistently excellent, but also they’ve been consistently overlooked. In 2015, the Spurs acquired David West and Lamarcus Aldridge which made Tim Duncan’s job less difficult.
When Tim Duncan retired in 2016 the Spurs picked up where they left off, being overlooked as well as one of the top 3 teams in the league. Let’s look at the Spurs accomplishments over the last ten years: ten playoff appearances, six division titles, two conference titles, and one NBA title.