Ranking the NBA's 20 Worst Offenses of All Time
Figuring out the exact putridity of the worst offenses in NBA history isn't a particularly easy task, especially when you're stacking modern-day units up against the less-talented offense of the 1950s and '60s.
Just looking at points scored doesn't do the trick, because that doesn't allow pace to come into play. For that reason, offensive rating—a pace-neutral metric that shows how many points a team scores per 100 possessions—is a much better gauge to measure prowess on that end of the court.
But when attempting to rank teams historically, as we're doing here, that's still not good enough. After all, not every team with identical offensive ratings is on the same level.
If two teams scored 95 points per 100 possessions, which is worse—Team A, which did so during a year in which defenses rose to the top of the heap, or Team B, which did so when everyone was scoring points like the video game sliders were all the way up?
Team B should be the easy answer, because context is crucially important. That, in a nutshell, is why ORtng+, or adjusted offensive rating, is the best inter-era metric for comparing offensive performances.
Calculating it isn't particularly troublesome: Just divide the team's offensive rating by the league-average offensive rating from the year in question, then multiply the result by 100. If a team scores 10 percent more than the average squad that year, it'll have a 110 ORtng+. If it scores 10 percent fewer points per 100 possessions, it'll have a 90 ORtng+.
A score of 100 means the offense was perfectly average. That does tend to happen fairly often, given that we're working with the 1,315 teams throughout league history for which we have data.
When determining the 20 worst scoring units throughout the NBA's many seasons, the style of play doesn't factor into the equation. Neither does points scored per game. Nor does memorability, subjectivity or the team's win-loss records.
ORtng+ is all that comes into play. Analyses like this have been run before, notably by Hardwood Paroxysm's Andrew Lynch and Ian Levy, but this is taking it to a whole new level by running things before and after the 1976 ABA/NBA merger.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com. This introduction is an adapted form of what was used when ranking the top 20 offenses in NBA history, as well as the top 20 defenses throughout the same period.
20. 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers: 93.18 ORtng+
Offensive Rating: 90.2
League-Average Offensive Rating: 96.8
Win-Loss Record: 9-73
The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers played extremely uptempo basketball, but they flat-out couldn't shoot the rock.
Despite taking more shots from the field than 15 of the 16 other teams in the NBA at that point, the Sixers connected at just a 42 percent clip. That would leave them in dead last for field-goal percentage, thoroughly negating any advantage they gained from playing quick ball and letting it fly with such a quick trigger finger.
Dale Schlueter was the only player to top 50 percent from the field; however, he took only 4.1 attempts per game. Dave Sorenson (45.6 percent) was next, but he took just 5.2 looks during the average contest. No one else was higher than 44.1 percent.
Also hindering this Philadelphia squad was a complete inability to pass the ball. No team had fewer assists per game than the Sixers' 20.6, which is awfully problematic when playing with the league's No. 2 pace.
A 36-year-old Hal Greer, 32-year-old Bill Bridges and a collection of fairly nondescript talents just wasn't going to get the job done.
Honorable Mentions: 2002-03 Miami Heat (93.34 ORtng+), 1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers (93.44), 2007-08 Seattle SuperSonics (93.49), 2007-08 Miami Heat (93.49), 2009-10 New Jersey Nets (93.49)
19. 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers: 93.16
Offensive Rating: 99.4
League-Average Offensive Rating: 106.7
Win-Loss Record: 19-63
Forty-one years later, the Philadelphia 76ers were still struggling to score points.
Of course, the franchise had enjoyed some terrific stretches between the 1972-73 squad and the iteration that most recently played NBA basketball, but we're concerned with the worst of the worst here. And last year's Sixers definitely qualified as such, even if they boasted the Rookie of the Year and a few other intriguing talents.
"You have six NBA players and then you have a bunch of guys who are fighting for spots and want to be seen and need opportunity," Philadelphia's first-year head coach Brett Brown told Keith Pompey of Philly.com heading into the season.
The Sixers didn't make any pretenses about playing competitive basketball and avoiding those oft-discussed tanking strategies, even trading away some of their best talents before the deadline was upon them. However, the portion of the season in which Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner were still on the roster didn't go particularly well, as this was a squad that couldn't shoot, rebound, hold onto the ball and generate free-throw opportunities.
As you might have guessed, that's a pretty deadly combination. And in this case, "deadly" doesn't refer to how the unit is viewed by the opposition.
18. 1989-90 New Jersey Nets: 93.15
Offensive Rating: 100.7
League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.1
Win-Loss Record: 17-65
Believe it or not, the 1989-90 New Jersey Nets had some name recognition working in their advantage, and they actually boasted the services of seven players who averaged double figures: Dennis Hopson (15.8 points per game), Roy Hinson (15.0), Chris Morris (14.8), Sam Bowie (14.7), Purvis Short (13.1), Derrick Gervin (12.0 over the course of just 21 games) and Mookie Blaylock (10.1).
Raw points were never the problem for this team, though. Instead, the number of shots needed to generate those averages held them back rather significantly.
During the 1989-90 season, there were still only 27 teams in the league. Well, the Nets had the worst effective field-goal percentage of those 27, knocking down only 43.7 percent of their two-point attempts and 27.7 percent of their looks from beyond the arc. Things didn't get much better at the charity stripe, where New Jersey was better than only seven other teams.
If there was a single game that represented the overall futility of this offense, it was a Nov. 27 game against the Utah Jazz, one in which the Nets were outscored 105-68.
Joe Barry Carroll and Bowie were the only players in double figures, and the squad as a whole shot 25-of-98 from the field, 1-of-7 from deep and 17-of-17 from the free-throw line. Just imagine how much worse things could've been if that perfection wasn't attained from the stripe.
17. 2002-03 Cleveland Cavaliers: 93.15
Offensive Rating: 96.5
League-Average Offensive Rating: 103.6
Win-Loss Record: 17-65
This worked out pretty nicely for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
By finishing with a 17-65 record—due far more to their putrid offense than a defense that was significantly closer to the league-average mark—the Cavs ended up securing the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft, and with it, the eventual services of hometown hero LeBron James.
But this isn't about James. It's about Ricky Davis, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Carlos Boozer, Darius Miles, Dajuan Wagner and the rest of these overmatched Cavaliers.
To their credit, they were actually quite adept at creating second-chance opportunities. Problem was, they couldn't do anything with those chances—or the first tries, for that matter. In a 29-team league, Cleveland finished No. 27 in effective field-goal percentage and No. 28 in turnover percentage. It couldn't shoot or hold onto the ball, which doesn't exactly bode well for offensive success.
In their first 20 games, the Cavaliers only hit triple figures on two separate occasions: scoring a flat 100 against the Washington Wizards and somehow dropping 111 against the Chicago Bulls. It was a putrid start to the season, and there would be no recovery as the year progressed.
16. 1991-92 Denver Nuggets: 93.09
Offensive Rating: 100.7
League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.2
Win-Loss Record: 24-58
It's not really a good thing when Dikembe Mutombo is one of your team's leading scorers.
As great as the big man was at swatting shots and wagging his finger, he wasn't exactly an offensive stalwart, even in his prime. Nonetheless, Mutombo and Reggie Williams paced the 1991-92 Denver Nuggets by scoring 16.6 and 18.2 points per game, respectively.
Problem was, that was about all the offense this team could generate. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Greg Anderson, Winston Garland and Mark Macon all averaged in double figures, but none contributed even a dozen points during the average contest, and Macon was especially inefficient.
Even during a year filled with offensive explosions—the league-average 108.2 offensive rating trails only 1986-87, 1994-95 and 2008-09—the Nuggets struggled to put up gaudy figures. Along with the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks, they were one of the only teams in the league to average fewer than 100 points per game.
Except while the Pistons and Mavs played some of the slowest basketball in the Association, intentionally minimizing possessions on a nightly basis, the Nuggets were one of the more uptempo clubs. No matter how fast they played, it just didn't work.
15. 1980-81 Detroit Pistons: 92.99
Offensive Rating: 98.1
League-Average Offensive Rating: 105.5
Win-Loss Record: 21-61
At least the Detroit Pistons had those awesome jerseys working in their favor.
When breaking down the success of an offense, or lack thereof, the four offensive factors often come into play. We've already hinted at them a few times, but here are the four presented in their full forms—effective field-goal percentage (how well a team shoots), turnover percentage (how well a team holds onto the ball), offensive rebounding percentage (how well a team creates second-chance opportunities) and free throws per field-goal attempt (how often a team gets to the line).
Even the worst offenses are generally good in one of those four areas, but the Pistons were not.
Despite there only being 23 teams in the league during the 1980-81 season, Detroit finished No. 23 in both effective field-goal percentage and turnover percentage, No. 13 in offensive rebounding percentage and No. 14 in free throws per field-goal attempt.
That's a horrific combination.
Though Terry Tyler, Phil Hubbard and Keith Herron were actually decent offensive contributors that year, there were just too many negative players on the roster. Sixteen players suited up for Detroit throughout the campaign, and seven of them managed to finish with less than zero offensive win shares.
Larry Drew and Ron Lee each finished on the wrong side of minus-1.5.
14. 1985-86 New York Knicks: 92.82
Offensive Rating: 99.5
League-Average Offensive Rating: 107.2
Win-Loss Record: 23-59
It's almost unfathomable that the New York Knicks could be this bad at scoring points with Patrick Ewing on the roster, but this was a strange season. Not only was it filled with plenty of nagging injuries, including maladies that limited the eventual Hall of Famer to only 50 games, but the level of talent around him was lackluster at best.
In fact, New York's most common starting lineup during the 1985-86 season was used only 12 times: James Bailey, Ewing, Louis Orr, Rory Sparrow and Gerald Wilkins. Not exactly a collection of household names.
Additionally, Ewing was only 23 years old and playing out his rookie season for the Knicks. It wasn't as though he'd fully adjusted to the NBA, though he still managed to average 20 points per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field.
The entire New York roster struggled with its shooting, finishing dead last in effective field-goal percentage. It also got to the line less effectively than any other team in the league, and offensive rebounding was a huge struggle as well. There just wasn't much redeeming value on the more glamorous end of the floor.
For what it's worth, Trent Tucker actually paced the team in offensive win shares, earning 2.3 on his lonesome. And for perspective, Adrian Dantley led the league with 10.4 that season, producing far more offensive win shares by himself than the cumulative 1.5 put together by the whole Knicks roster.
13. 1976-77 New York Nets: 92.66
Offensive Rating: 92.2
League-Average Offensive Rating: 99.5
Win-Loss Record: 22-60
We're going to stay in New York for one more spot in the countdown, but this is an entirely different franchise.
The New York Nets, who would become the New Jersey Nets the very next year, were in their first year calling the NBA home. Though they'd found great success in the ABA, even winning the 1976 championship right before the two leagues merged, they couldn't maintain that level of play against a much tougher slate of competition.
Of course, losing Julius Erving also hurt.
That was a long and drawn-out saga, involving a reneged salary promise, a relocation fee that the Nets had to pay the New York Knicks for invading their territory and a holdout from a frustrated Erving, who would eventually be bought out by the Philadelphia 76ers. But the full story isn't important here; merely the fact that it happened and left the Nets in quite the lurch is relevant enough.
Without Erving, New York was severely overmatched.
It won its first NBA game, a 104-103 outing against the Golden State Warriors, and then managed to hit 104 once more the next contest, this time in a 10-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
But then the wheels came off. The Nets would score in triple figures only twice in the next 15 games, as the combined offensive punch of John Williamson, Tiny Archibald (28 years old this season), Robert Hawkins and Mike Bantom just wasn't enough to carry the Erving-less squad.
12. 1982-83 Houston Rockets: 92.65
Offensive Rating: 97.0
League-Average Offensive Rating: 104.7
Win-Loss Record: 14-68
Elvin Hayes, Calvin Murphy and Caldwell Jones were all fantastic players in their primes, but they were well past them during their communal 1982-83 season for the Houston Rockets. After all, they were 37, 34 and 32, respectively.
Meanwhile, Terry Teagle was in his rookie season and incapable of making extremely high-level contributions, though his teammates relied on him quite often. It was Allen Leavell and James Bailey who did the heavy lifting as scorers, but neither of them—nor anyone else on the roster—managed to average even 15 points per game.
Houston was actually one of the league's bottom three teams in effective field-goal percentage, free throws per field-goal attempt and offensive rebounding percentage, which didn't allow it to do much when it had the ball. Plus, the Rockets weren't exactly stalwarts when it came to taking care of the rock and maximizing the already limited value of each possession.
On three separate occasions during the 1982-83 season, the Rockets failed to score even 80 points. Four times more, they couldn't hit the 85-point benchmark. The rest of the 23-team league produced 79 points or fewer only 18 times throughout the entire campaign, which happened to be a fairly high-scoring one.
11. 1951-52 Milwaukee Hawks: 92.52
Offensive Rating: 80.4
League-Average Offensive Rating: 85.1
Win-Loss Record: 17-49
Not only is the data fairly limited for the 1951-52 Milwaukee Hawks, but there isn't even a single photograph of them readily available. The best I can do is show you Mel Hutchins, pictured on the far left a few seasons later, when the franchise had moved to Fort Wayne. The big man would go on to make four All-Star squads, but the season in question was his rookie year, and he spent it averaging only 9.2 points per game on 36.5 percent shooting.
Even still, he was the sixth-leading scorer on the team, topped by only Don Boven (9.9 points per game), Walt Kirk (10.1), Dick Mehen (10.8), Dike Eddleman (12.8) and Don Otten (13.0). Despite his poor numbers, he earned 0.7 offensive win shares, which was actually the No. 2 mark on the team, trailing only Otten's 4.0.
If there's anything that can emphasize just how bad these Hawks were in the franchise's third season, it's the combined total of offensive win shares. Even with Otten's fairly solid season, the team's cumulative number was minus-0.8.
Seriously, the team as a whole—which scored in triple figures once and failed to top 60 on eight separate occasions—had negative offensive win shares.
10. 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks: 92.13
Offensive Rating: 99.5
League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.0
Win-Loss Record: 11-71
Despite playing at the No. 6 pace throughout the NBA in 1992-93, the Dallas Mavericks still managed to score more points per game than only the Minnesota Timberwolves, who had entered the league only a few years earlier.
It was bad enough that Richie Adubato, who had begun the season as the head coach, was fired only 29 games into the campaign. His Mavericks had gone 2-27 over that time, and they wouldn't be much better under Gar Heard, who steered the team to a 9-44 mark over the remaining games.
These Mavericks were just a horrific shooting squad, which was awfully problematic during one of the league's best offensive seasons. They connected on only 44.8 percent of their two-point attempts and 33.8 percent of their looks from beyond the arc, which combined to give them the Association's worst effective field-goal percentage.
Derek Harper (18.2 points per game) and Jim Jackson (16.3) were the two leading scorers on the roster. Problem was, they shot just 41.9 and 39.5 percent from the field, respectively. Jackson, despite his huge role in the offense, actually contributed minus-1.8 offensive win shares—the worst mark on the team.
Additionally, there was virtually no ball movement. Dallas generated only 20.5 assists per game (keep that quick pace in mind), which was lower than any other team average among the 27 squads in the NBA.
9. 1989-90 Miami Heat: 91.86
Offensive Rating: 99.3
League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.1
Win-Loss Record: 18-64
It isn't easy being an expansion team.
The Miami Heat had joined the league only one year earlier, and they were still operating with a significant talent deficit during the 1989-90 season.
Kevin Edwards was the team's leading scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting from the field. Behind him was Rory Sparrow (12.5 points per game), while Grant Long, Rony Seikaly, Billy Thompson and Jon Sundvold joined them in double figures. None of them were truly capable of leading an NBA offense at the time, and it showed.
Edwards, despite his team-best scoring numbers, contributed minus-2.3 offensive win shares. Only Seikaly was worse, providing minus-2.7 of his own. Those two players alone nearly cancelled out all the positive production that Miami enjoyed.
The Heat started the season out with a 1-21 record, and though they'd begin winning games at a quicker rate, that was largely because the defense figured some things out. In fact, they scored fewer than 90 points on 18 separate occasions, and 11 of those outings came after that putrid opening salvo.
At least they managed to drop 131 points on the Denver Nuggets in the middle of March! Then again, two overtime periods were needed in that contest, as both teams had scored 109 at the end of regulation.
8. 1997-98 Golden State Warriors: 91.24
Offensive Rating: 95.8
League-Average Offensive Rating: 105.0
Win-Loss Record: 19-63
Perhaps the 1997-98 Golden State Warriors might have fared significantly better if Latrell Sprewell had been able to keep his hands to himself.
The 27-year-old was averaging 20.1 points per game through the first 14 outings of the season, shooting 39.7 percent from the field but helping to make up for his inefficiency by providing nice contributions at the charity stripe and dishing out 4.9 assists per contest.
But on Dec. 1, he decided to choke P.J. Carlesimo, his head coach, during practice. He was dismissed from the team, cutting his season short. And as Kelly Dwyer writes for Yahoo Sports, it's a moment that will always be connected with him:
Sprewell, who walked away from the game after regretfully declining a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005, rarely gives interviews about the altercation, and we don't blame the guy. It was a figurative black eye in the midst of an impressive career that saw the All-Star consistently come through with a determined, inspired brand of basketball for three different NBA teams. But even if Latrell isn't on the record, it's on his record.
Through 14 games, the Warriors were horrific, winning just one contest (in overtime, no less) and averaging just 90.29 points per outing. In the very first game after Sprewell was dismissed from the team, the Dubs produced only a 67-spot against the Cleveland Cavaliers, shooting just 29 of 74 from the field.
The team just never got it together, averaging only 87.84 points per game during the post-Sprewell portion of the campaign. There were just no legitimate candidate to take his place, and Jim Jackson, Joe Smith, Donyell Marshall, Erick Dampier and the rest of the Golden State crew were unable to fill in the void.
7. 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats: 91.01
Offensive Rating: 95.2
League-Average Offensive Rating: 104.6
Win-Loss Record: 7-59
The 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats were just a special kind of awful.
This wasn't an expansion team, nor was it reeling from the loss of a true superstar. It was just a terrible squad filled with lackluster talents. Sure, Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson had departed that offseason, the former leaving after providing Charlotte with its first—and still only—All-Star representative.
But this was about more than that pair finding new pastures. It was about Paul Silas struggling to make any sort of adjustments, the Bobcats playing as though they had no belief in themselves and Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin, a 32-year-old version of Corey Maggette and rookie Kemba Walker trying to carry this squad.
It didn't work.
Charlotte was awful at shooting (league-worst effective field-goal percentage of 43.9 percent), and it couldn't do much else beside brick contested jumpers on the offensive end. In fact, that effective field-goal percentage is so bad that 23 teams in the NBA had a better field-goal percentage that season, even without factoring in the added weight for three-point attempts.
The Bobcats actually started off fairly well, winning their opening contest against the Milwaukee Bucks and scoring in triple figures during two of their first six games. But they got worse as the season progressed, culminating in their infamous 23-game skid to end the year.
During those 23 outings, Charlotte averaged a miserable 86.04 points per contest. Throughout the prior 43 games of the lockout-shortened campaign, that number was at least slightly more respectable—87.44.
Then again, that really isn't very good either.
6. 1988-89 Miami Heat: 90.72
Offensive Rating: 97.8
League-Average Offensive Rating: 107.8
Win-Loss Record: 15-67
The Miami Heat have already made this countdown, checking in at No. 9 during the second season of their existence. But they were even worse during their inaugural go-round in the Association, struggling to produce any sort of consistency, still figuring out their system and operating with a significant talent deficit.
Remember those four factors?
Miami finished at the bottom of the pile in three of them; a fifth-place finish in offensive rebounding percentage was the only saving grace, which can largely be credited to Billy Thompson, Grant Long and Rony Seikaly. Then again, Seikaly shouldn't get too much credit, as turnovers and ineffective shooting helped him generate a team-worst minus-2.7 offensive win shares.
Unbelievably, this Heat squad actually had more players (10) earn negative offensive win shares than it had positive contributors (six). Rory Sparrow was right at zero, so he doesn't count in either category.
Let's put it another way, though.
Throughout the entire NBA, there were 105 players who produced more than a pair of offensive win shares for their squads during the 1988-89 season. None of them played for the Heat. Not even one, as Long's 2.0 gave him top billing on the expansion squad.
5. 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies: 90.71
Offensive Rating: 97.6
League-Average Offensive Rating: 107.6
Win-Loss Record: 15-67
From one expansion team to another.
The Vancouver Grizzlies began their NBA tenure in strong fashion, using a starting lineup of Greg Anthony, Benoit Benjamin, Blue Edwards, Kenny Gattison and Chris King to win their opener over the Portland Trail Blazers. Then they followed that up with an overtime victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, though they scored only 100 points even with the extra time.
Then things got bad.
Vancouver reeled off 19 losses in a row before pulling off an overtime win against the Portland Trail Blazers to get off the schneid. During that stretch of futility, the Grizz managed to break into triple figures only three times.
In fact, throughout the entire season, which came during an offensive boom for the NBA, Memphis got to 100 points in regulation only 10 times. There simply wasn't enough talent on the roster for the Grizzlies to compete against virtually any squad in the Association, though this was a team willing to gamble on defense, rack up steals and earn some transition opportunities that could shift the momentum of any one game.
4. 1999-00 Chicago Bulls: 90.49
Offensive Rating: 94.2
League-Average Offensive Rating: 104.1
Win-Loss Record: 17-65
No Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen? No problem.
Well, not exactly.
Jordan had taken his last shot for the Chicago Bulls during the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, and he was currently retired for the second time when the 1999-00 season was in full swing. Pippen, on the other hand, had already jumped from the Bulls to the Houston Rockets to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Chicago was still reeling from the absence of two superstars, and one season lapsing wasn't enough to fix the problems. Instead, the 1999-00 Bulls were led by Toni Kukoc and a pair of talented rookies—Elton Brand and Ron Artest.
Brand, to his credit, was fantastic during his first season out of Duke. He averaged 20.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, shooting 48.2 percent from the field en route to earning a player efficiency rating of 20.6 and 4.2 offensive win shares.
However, no one else was up to the challenge of playing quality offensive basketball. Hersey Hawkins, then 33 years old, helped out a bit, as did Fred Hoiberg during the 31 games in which he saw action. But Artest struggled with his shot, Kukoc only played a few dozen games before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and not much was brought back in return.
In the multi-team swap, the Bulls received a draft pick that was later used on Chris Mihm, John Starks (who only played four games in the Windy City before signing with the Utah Jazz that offseason) and Bruce Bowen (who was waived two days after he was acquired).
3. 1998-99 Chicago Bulls: 90.41
Offensive Rating: 92.4
League-Average Offensive Rating: 102.2
Win-Loss Record: 13-37
While the Chicago Bulls had trouble scoring two years after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen departed, they were even worse during the year directly following the loss of their two franchise centerpieces.
This was a team that wanted to play slow basketball, grind out every possession and only take the best shots that were available to it. Problem was, the players under Tim Floyd's supervision had trouble shooting, leading to a league-worst effective field-goal percentage of just 42.4 percent.
Toni Kukoc was Mr. Everything for the Bulls during this lockout-shortened season, averaging 18.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.3 dimes per game while shooting 42 percent from the field. But beyond Kukoc, Dickey Simpkins, Kornel David, Brent Barry and Mark Bryant were the only players to make positive offensive contributions for these shorthanded Bulls.
It took Chicago 18 games to score at least 100 points for the first time, something it would do only three times all season. And it's not as though this team was getting better as the season progressed.
During an April 10 outing against the Miami Heat, Chicago mustered up only 49 points, 13 of which were scored by David. The team shot a jaw-droppingly awful 18-of-77 from the field, went 0-of-9 from beyond the arc, missed 11 of its 24 free-throw attempts and recorded six more turnovers than assists.
In fact, that game serves as a microcosm for the entire season. And it just so happens to be the very worst scoring performance of the three-point era, as every other game since the start of the 1979-80 season has seen both teams score at least 53 points.
2. 1987-88 Los Angeles Clippers: 90.16
Offensive Rating: 97.4
League-Average Offensive Rating: 108.0
Win-Loss Record: 17-65
Let's play the offensive-win-shares game once more.
Michael Cage (2.9), Mike Woodson (1.1), Eric White (0.6), Larry Drew (0.1), Quintin Dailey (0.1) and Tod Murphy (0.1) were the only positive contributors on this roster throughout the 1987-88 season. Meanwhile, 13 players produced negative offensive win shares, led by Reggie Williams (minus-1.8), Benoit Benjamin (minus-1.4) and Joe Wolf (minus-1.1)
All in all, the Los Angeles Clippers earned a cumulative minus-4.2 offensive win shares during the season in question.
But let's step out and view the forest instead of the trees.
The big picture isn't particularly kind to LAC, as Gene Shue's troops finished the year with the league's worst effective field-goal percentage, second-worst turnover percentage and free throws per field-goal attempt and fifth-worst offensive rebounding percentage.
Even while playing with one of the league's quicker paces, they scored fewer points per game than any team in the league. This was one of the NBA's most productive offensive seasons—in terms of efficiency, not raw points—but the Clippers still couldn't muster up many respectable performances.
1. 2002-03 Denver Nuggets: 89.00
Offensive Rating: 92.2
League-Average Offensive Rating: 103.6
Win-Loss Record: 17-65
The 2002-03 Denver Nuggets had the worst offense in the history of the NBA, and it wasn't even close.
While the 1987-88 Los Angeles Clippers were pretty awful, the Nuggets were 1.32 percent worse in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, which makes them the only team in NBA history to finish with a DRtng+ on the wrong side of 90.
Putting that in proper perspective, a DRtng+ 1.32 percent better than the Clippers' in the franchise's worst season would be 91.37, which would rank as the ninth-worst offense of all time. Think about that. There's as big a gap between the Clippers (No. 2 in the countdown) and the tail end of the top 10 as there is between the Clippers and these Nuggets.
Even with all 1,315 teams in NBA history ranked, that's the biggest percent change between any two spots on the list, with absolutely no exceptions. The '02-03 Nuggets were just that bad at scoring.
In a 29-team league, Denver finished No. 29 in effective field-goal percentage and turnover percentage. It also ranked No. 27 in free throws per field-goal attempt, though a top-five finish in offensive rebounding percentage did help provide a slim bit of redemption.
The only players with more than one offensive win share? Juwan Howard (2.7) and Nene (1.3), though Junior Harrington (minus-2.8), Nikoloz Tskitishvili (minus-2.3), Rodney White (minus-2.1) and Kenny Satterfield (minus-1.2) all finished with more than one negative offensive win share.
2002-03 was admittedly a down year for offense, but that makes these Nuggets even worse. They scored only 84.2 points per game, breaking into triple figures only seven times (once in overtime) throughout the entire season. Meanwhile, they failed to top 70 on just as many occasions.
Carmelo Anthony would soon join the franchise and help turn things around, but this was a low point unmatched by anything throughout the annals of NBA history.