The NBA's 6 Most Pathetic Franchises

Mike Walsh@WalshWritesCorrespondent INovember 1, 2012

The NBA's 6 Most Pathetic Franchises

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    Pathetic is a harsh word. When dealing with facts, however, it is sometimes necessary.

    These franchises have been bad and occasionally downright embarrassing over the course of their tenure. Excuses can be tossed around regarding the length of that tenure, but in the end it comes down to winning and winning consistently.

    There are three franchises in the NBA with a sub-.400 winning percentage. None of these franchises has won an NBA title either. These make up the bottom rung of the league's unspeakable cellar.

    The next level includes some teams with losing franchise records and the lack of a championship. Some of these franchises have been around for quite some time, meaning they are just as pathetic as their lower counterparts.

    When determining a franchise's pathetic level, numerous factors come into play. Obviously overall winning percentage allows us to even the playing field for younger franchises. Number of titles will always be an important qualification, but a franchise's playoff-percentage (postseason appearances per season) is the most significant factor.

    An interesting aspect I chose to look at was how many head coaches each franchise has gone through, which shows the average number of seasons a coach lasts with a program.

    Those who scored lowest all around, as harsh as it sounds, are pathetic.

Least Pathetic Teams

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    San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs as a franchise are middle-aged at just 37 years old. They do, however, boast the highest winning percentage of any franchise in the NBA. They have won games at a .607 clip in their tenure.

    San Antonio has also won four NBA titles, the fourth-most in league history. The Spurs have also made a stunning 32 postseasons in their 37 years, a rate of 86 percent.

    Boston Celtics

    The Celtics are an obvious candidate for best franchise whenever the NBA is discussed. Their 17 championships are still tops among teams in the league. 

    They are also one of the oldest franchises remaining. In 50 of the Celtics' 67 years of existence, the team has made a postseason appearance. They also boast an impressive .595 winning percentage.

    Los Angeles Lakers

    Falling right in line behind the Celtics is their long-time rival, the Los Angeles Lakers. Their 16 championships are second in the league, and by a wide margin. The next closest franchise to Los Angeles and Boston is Chicago with six titles.

    Los Angeles does top both Boston and San Antonio in winning percentage, however. The Lakers have won at a .620 clip in the franchise's 65-year tenure. They have made 59 postseason appearances.

Second-Tier Pathetic

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    Cleveland Cavaliers

    As much as it stings to put them here, Cleveland's franchise has LeBron James to thank for them being left off this list. The Cavaliers have done just enough to exclude them from the totally pathetic label and instead are only a slightly pathetic franchise.

    They have won 46 percent of their franchise's games, and though they boast no titles, James got them within shouting distance of a couple.

    Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have won games at a .485 clip in their 37-year NBA tenure. However, that has led to zero NBA titles. Still, their 23 postseason appearances and 2.4 years for an average coach pushes them out into the second-tier of pathetic teams.

    Indiana Pacers

    The Pacers won three ABA Championships, but unfortunately this list is for NBA success only. In 37 NBA seasons, the Pacers have a W-L percentage of .489, which is reasonably close to even. They also boast a 2.8-year average for head coaches, making Frank Vogel slightly more comfortable.

    New Orleans Hornets

    An example of a young franchise that has had some minor success, New Orleans has had a decent 25 years. 

    The Hornets franchise boasts a .486 W-L percentage, which is impressive for a short window, unlike some other young franchises. The Hornets also have 12 postseason appearances in their 25 years, which puts them at nearly 50 percent. Like Indiana, the Hornets also have a 2.8-year average for head coaches.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    When it comes to the lengthiest tenure of a pathetic NBA franchise, look no further than the Los Angeles Clippers.

    The Clippers have been fodder for wise-cracks for 43 years now. For nearly half a century, Los Angeles has been losing NBA games at a shocking rate. The franchise's winning percentage stands at a disgusting .367, which is just atrocious for a franchise that has been around this long.

    They boast only eight postseason appearances in 43 years of existence, good for just about 19 percent. They are also the second-worst franchise when it comes to coaching tenure. A Los Angeles Clippers head coach, according to historical data, has an average of just 1.8 years on the job before he either leaves or is terminated.

    Needless to say, the Clippers have not won any NBA titles, nor have they appeared in any.

    Currently, they appear to be in a good place. As long as Blake Griffin remains the star with a capable-to-great point guard, they should set off a string of playoff appearances and winning records. 

    Still, it is going to take many years and at least one title for this ship to be righted, after 43 years of pathetic basketball.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    This is as mean as it gets for a franchise that is still in the proverbial elementary school of its NBA tenure.

    So take this as a warning shot, Charlotte. The Bobcats' franchise is on the ropes, and after nine years of pathetic play, a turnaround is necessary.

    A franchise winning percentage of .358, easily the worst in the NBA, has the Bobcats on the fast track to becoming the Los Angeles Clippers. They have lost 411 games so far and don't figure to be turning it around this season.

    Charlotte has managed just one postseason appearance in its nine years, an embarrassing 11 percent mark.

    With Mike Dunlap being hired to replace Paul Silas in Year 10 of the franchise, the Bobcats hold an even two-year average tenure for head coaches. 

    The team appears to be headed in the right direction, with some high draft picks set to break out. However, even if they do it will be a couple years before the Bobcats start winning at a high enough clip to break out of this cellar.

    Seven-win seasons aren't going to be the norm for this franchise, but strictly according to the data, they qualify the Bobcats as a pathetic franchise.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Memphis Grizzlies have doubled the tenure of Charlotte's franchise, but that doesn't mean they have won at a higher percentage.

    While the Bobcats have a .358 W-L percentage in nine seasons, the Grizzlies have an even more embarrassing .365 in 18 years. They have won just 491 games, compared to 855 losses.

    The Grizzlies are also the not-so-proud owners of the worst coaching tenure in the NBA. The franchise's head coaches have only lasted an average of just 1.6 years each. So don't get too comfy, Lionel Hollins. 

    The still-young franchise never won more than 23 games in Vancouver, prompting a move just seven years into its existence. Since taking up residence in Memphis, the Grizzlies have turned things around and have five playoff appearances in 11 seasons, with another likely on the way in 2012-13.

    Still, the stench of Vancouver is incredibly difficult to wash away, and the Memphis Grizzlies have a lot of statistics backing up their candidacy for most pathetic NBA franchise.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    While it seems like I've been bagging on newer NBA franchises, the statistics do not lie. Minnesota is the home of another historically pathetic NBA franchise.

    The Timberwolves have been in existence for 24 years, yet still suffer a W-L percentage below .400, sitting at .398.  They have also gone through a head coach every 2.2 years, on average.

    Minnesota suffered through the growing pains of a typical NBA franchise that was created out of the blue. The T-Wolves won no more than 29 games over their first seven seasons. Then they drafted Kevin Garnett, and things turned around. Minnesota was fearsome for some time during the Garnett era, but it never broke through.

    During Garnett's MVP year in 2003-04, the Timberwolves won 58 games and lost in the Western Conference Finals. Had they been able to burst through that season, their low W-L percentage may have been able to be ignored. However, they didn't and this is a team with just eight playoff appearances in 23 seasons. 

    The T-Wolves have found the recipe to start climbing back to the NBA surface, but injuries are hampering them. They should post better than a .398 clip this season, but if they can't get over .500 and earn a playoff spot, this team will continue to toil in the land of pathetic NBA franchises.

Toronto Raptors

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    Another young NBA franchise that has not lit the world a-fire with its short tenure is the only one still residing outside the United States.

    In 18 seasons of NBA existence, the raptors have appeared in just five playoffs, just as many as Memphis. The good news is, Toronto has a slightly better W-L percentage, at .406, as well as a much better history of keeping coaches. The Raptors have kept their coaches for an average of 2.3 years, which is in line with the league average. 

    Still, with postseason appearances in just 28 percent of their seasons, a 547-799 overall record and a lack of any championships, that is enough to land you a pathetic label. 

    Like the majority of the teams on this list, Toronto is on the right track and could earn a postseason spot in 2012-13. But, it is going to take more than just an eight-seed in the Eastern Conference to start chipping away at this title.

    The Raptors need to use this year to build toward becoming a legitimate threat in the Atlantic Division year in and year out. Until that happens, they will remain among the NBA's historically pathetic franchises.

Brooklyn Nets

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    The artists formerly known as the New Jersey Nets have been around for quite some time with not much to show for it.

    For 37 years the Nets have been losing NBA games. This was once a storied ABA franchise, but since their transition into the NBA, they have not won a title, nor much of anything. Their NBA record stands at 1208-1696, which is good for a .416 winning percentage and is among the worst in NBA history. 

    The Nets have made the postseason in 43 percent of their NBA seasons, a number that figures to start increasing at a rapid rate now.

    After its transition to the NBA in 1976, New Jersey did not have a winning record until 1981-82. They followed that up with a string of first- and second-round exits from the playoffs. The resurgence with Jason Kidd and Vince Carter was great, but it was short-lived. 

    Had those Kidd-led teams been able to cash in on one of their two Finals appearances, the Brooklyn Nets franchise may have elevated itself out of this pathetic level of basketball history.

    That elevation is now what Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and crew are tasked with. They will try to start a new winning tradition in a new city, but with the same pathetic franchise.