The Philadelphia Sixers are successfully on pace to be even worse then they were last year, but where would they rank with the all-time worst teams in the NBA? Tanking may be at new heights in the modern NBA era, but some teams in the past have successfully accomplished this difficult feat without even trying. In fact, you would be surprised at just how many bad teams there have historically been in the NBA.
And for good reason.
Tanking means that you will have more ping pong balls bounce in the draft lottery machine, ensuring that you have a higher probability of getting a better pick. This, of course, does not mean that you will get the #1 pick in the draft, but the percentages are in your favor. So, for teams that have zero shot in making the playoffs, why not just tank the season and think long term, instead of short term? Why hover around the .500 mark and end up being the 9th seed in the Western Conference, not make the playoffs, and then end up with a bad pick?
For many general managers who aren’t insecure about their jobs, it makes far more sense to tank the season and get a better draft pick. This inevitably results in a lot of bad teams, and not just bad teams, but historically bad teams. This, of course, is terrible for fans of that team who may not have the same long-term view in mind, especially if they are season ticket holders.
Additionally, this isn’t the best thing for television ratings, which the NBA gets a large chunk of their money from. The goal of the commissioner is to create more of a parity of power between the 30 teams in the NBA, but it looks like the NBA is quickly resembling the rest of our society, where the middle class is disappearing, the upper class is feasting, and the lower class is starving.
So, what are some of the worst teams in NBA history?
15 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers (9-41)
We now know the Los Angeles Clippers for their high-flying dunks above the rim, their State Farm commercials, and their KIA commercials, but in 1998-99, the Los Angeles Clippers had a winning percentage of 18%. Long before the Clippers became one of the premier championship contenders, they were the laughing stock of the NBA. The Clippers were so bad they averaged almost 16 turnovers a game and barely averaged 90 points per game. They were an absolute train wreck on the court.
14 1949-50 Denver Nuggets (11-51)
In 1949-50, the Denver Nuggets had a winning percentage of 17.7%. The NBA was not great about keeping all of the same types of statistics that we do today, but they did keep one glaring statistic about the Nuggets. These Nuggets only averaged 77.7 points per game, which may be the explanation for why they only won 11 games. This team was so bad, they had a field goal percentage of .334 and shot .678 from the free throw line.
13 1952-53 Philadelphia Warriors (12-57)
In 1953 the Philadelphia Warriors had a winning percentage of .174. They only averaged 80.2 points per game, so they struggled mightily on the offensive end. Tragically, the current Philadelphia Sixers are on pace to be even worse than this NBA team, which is scary because this Warriors team only averaged .334 from the field.
12 1996-97 Vancouver Grizzlies (14-68)
In 1997, the expansion team Vancouver Grizzlies had a sad winning percentage of .171. They were able to average 89.2 points per game, which is not bad at all compared to some of these teams. They did have a couple of solid players in Mike Bibby and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, but they were still too green in their careers to be franchise leaders for a team that had to win immediately to justify their existence in Canada.
11 1982-83 Houston Rockets (14-68)
In 1983, the Houston Rockets had a winning percentage of .171. They did average 99.3 points per game, but their main problem is that they averaged an incredible 19.2 turnovers per game, which is the opposite of playing winning basketball. Because of their incredible turnover rates, they allowed an average of 110.9 points per game. They were simply sloppy with the ball, which is a perfect way to end up on this list.
10 1998-89 Vancouver Grizzlies (8-42)
The reason why the Vancouver Grizzlies only won 8 games in 1999 is because this was during the lockout season. Had they played 32 more games of the regular season, they may have won as many as 10 to 11 games, which is about what they would have ended up with given their winning percentage of .160. It is no coincidence that basketball died in Vancouver shortly thereafter.
9 2004-05 Atlanta Hawks (13-69)
The Atlanta Hawks have had a rather steady win streak the past five years or so, but about 10 years ago, they were in a very dark place. The 2004-05 Hawks had a winning percentage of .159 and they only averaged a paltry 92.7 points per game. However, they would eventually turn things around shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, no matter how often the Hawks make the playoffs, they still sport one of the worst fan bases in the NBA. Go to a Hawks game and it would be hard to tell whether they are 13-69 or 69-13.
8 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks (13-69)
Before the days of Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks were one of the laughing stocks of the NBA. They had a winning percentage of .159, they averaged 95.1 points per game, and averaged an unacceptable 17.0 turnovers per game, which is obviously way too high. Due ot their sloppiness with the ball, they averaged 103.8 points a game, which is far from solid. Fortunately for the Mavs, they drafted a seven-foot German a few years later, which saved basketball in Dallas.
7 2009-10 New Jersey Nets (12-70)
The New Jersey Nets had a winning percentage of .146. During the Jason Kidd era, the New Jersey Nets were perennial championship contenders, but after his departure, the Nets reached some pretty sad lows. These Nets only averaged 92.4 points per game and 14.4 turnovers per game. The one good thing they did was fire head coach Lawrence Frank in the beginning of the season, so that he wouldn’t be the coach that was responsible for this horrendous team.
6 1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers (12-70)
The Los Angeles Clippers had a winning percentage of .146 in this sad season. What’s so shocking about their record is that they averaged 104.5 points per game, so offense was clearly not the problem for them. However, they were terrible at protecting the ball with an average of 18.2 turnovers per game and they allowed a shocking 115.9 points per game. This goes to show that no matter how much you score, you have to protect the ball.
5 1997-98 Denver Nuggets (11-71)
The Denver Nuggets had a winning percentage of .134 in 1998. Unlike some of the other teams on this list that could score, the Nuggets struggled to score, with only 89.0 points per game. They also averaged 16.0 turnovers per game. If you want to win 11 games a year, brick every shot you take, give the other team a minimum of 16 more shots per game than you, and it is the perfect recipe for a disastrous season.
4 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks (11-71)
In 1993, the Dallas Mavericks had a poor winning percentage of .134. The Mavs averaged 99.3 points per game, while averaging 17.8 turnovers per game. Tragically, they only improved by two more wins the following season (our #8 entry on this list). These were truly dark times for this great franchise. The ‘90’s were just a bad decade for the Mavs, which goes to show how important Mark Cuban, and his money, has been for this franchise.
3 1947-48 Providence Steam Rollers (6-42)
The Providence Steam Rollers no longer exist, but they were the only NBA team that Rhode Island has ever had. Sadly, they were also one of the worst teams ever in NBA history. They had a winning percentage of .125 and only averaged 69.1 points per game. The number that may be even more alarming is that they only averaged 7.2 assists per game. This team was the epitome of isolation basketball on offense. No wonder basketball has died in Rhode Island and will probably never resurrect ever again.
2 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers (9-73)
The 1973 Sixers had a winning percentage of .110, which is astoundingly bad. One thing they could do was score. They had a scoring average of 104.1 points per game, but their defense was horrendous. This goes to show that defense not only wins championships, but they also win games. If you think that this current Sixers team is bad, this team would make them look like the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000’s, the Chicago Bulls in the ‘90’s, and the Los Angeles Lakers in the ‘80’s combined into one.
1 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats (7-59)
In 2012, the Charlotte Bobcats had a winning percentage of .106. If there is ever a NBA team that could possibly lose to the best college team in the country, it may have been this team. Michael Jordan was receiving more and more criticism for being a terrible owner with his history of draft selections and the way that he ran the franchise. This team only averaged 87.0 points per game and averaged 14.5 turnovers per game. This led them to not only becoming a bad team, but the worst team in NBA history. Additionally, they were changing coaches faster than they were changing players. Last year, however, they had a breakthrough season, where they made the playoffs and revitalized the franchise. Furthermore, they have gone through a new facelift with the franchise by changing the name back to the Hornets.