Ranking the NBA's 20 Worst Defenses of All Time

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2014

Ranking the NBA's 20 Worst Defenses of All Time

0 of 20

    Glenn James/Getty Images

    Figuring out the exact level of awfulness for the worst defenses in NBA history isn't a particularly easy task, especially when you're stacking modern-day units up against the defenses of the 1950s and '60s. 

    Just looking at points allowed doesn't do the trick, because that doesn't give pace an opportunity to come into play. For that reason, defensive rating—a pace-neutral metric that shows how many points a team allows 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 defensive ratings is on the same level. 

    If two teams gave up 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 A should be the easy answer, because context is crucially important. That, in a nutshell, is why DRtng+, or adjusted defensive rating, is the best inter-era metric for comparing defensive performances. 

    Calculating it isn't particularly troublesome: Just divide the league-average defensive rating from the year in question by the team's defensive rating, then multiply the result by 100.

    A score of 100 means the defense was perfectly average that year. 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 defensive units throughout the NBA's many seasons, the style of play doesn't factor into the equation. Neither does points allowed per game. Nor does memorability, subjectivity or win-loss records. 

    DRtng+ 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 and bottom 20 offenses throughout the same period. 

20. 1953-54 Baltimore Bullets: 94.49 DRtng+

1 of 20

    The Stevenson Collection/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 92.6

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 87.5

    Win-Loss Record: 16-56

    Before he played with the Los Angeles Lakers later in his career (you can see him pictured up above wearing No. 14), Ray Felix suited up for the overmatched Baltimore Bullets during his rookie season, making the All-Star squad despite his team's putrid 16-56 record. 

    He and Max Zaslofsky were really the only huge contributors. Problem was, Zaslofsky was quite the slouch on the defensive end, leaving Felix alone to anchor the paint against a constant barrage of open attempts. 

    The game was a lot different back in the early 1950s, and during the season in question, the league-average field-goal percentage was a putrid 37.2 percent. Well, putrid by today's standards, at least, as we're coming off a year in which the average team shot 45.4 percent. 

    Despite the poor-shooting nature of the league, these Bullets still allowed 85.4 points per game, which was the worst mark in the league. They actually allowed the opposition to hit triple figures 11 times in 72 games, a remarkably high percentage back when teams had so much trouble finding the bottom of the net. 

    To put that in perspective, the rest of the nine-team league allowed 24 such performances. 

    Honorable Mentions: 1972-73 Kansas City-Omaha Kings (94.53 DRtng+), 1999-00 Los Angeles Clippers (94.55), 1989-90 Orlando Magic (94.58), 1997-98 Toronto Raptors (94.59), 2002-03 Golden State Warriors (94.61)

18 (tie). 1968-69 Phoenix Suns: 94.46

2 of 20

    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 101.1

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 95.5

    Win-Loss Record: 16-66

    The Phoenix Suns were an expansion team for the 1968-69 season, so it's understandable that they were so historically bad at preventing the other team from scoring. 

    Dick Van Arsdale was the leader of this team (5.6 win shares), and he was joined in the club of players who earned more than three win shares by only Dick Snyder (3.7), Gail Goodrich (3.6) and Jim Fox (3.3). Unfortunately, these were all players who did the vast majority of their work on the offensive end of the court. 

    Van Arsdale and Goodrich were the only players to earn even a single win share on defense. Meanwhile, Art Williams of the San Diego Rockets finished No. 20 in defensive win shares by accumulating 3.8 of them over the course of the 72-game season.

    Basketball-Reference.com's Play Finder shows that 93 players managed to top both Van Arsdale and Goodrich, giving the average team slightly more than seven players who were more impactful on the defensive end than Phoenix's best stopper. 


    Though the league admittedly played uptempo ball during the late 1960s, these Suns allowed 120.5 points per game, easily the worst mark in the Association. The Detroit Pistons were the second worst at 117.3. 

    If there's a crowning achievement for being bad at something, that would go to Phoenix for its miserable performance in mid-December, when it allowed the Philadelphia 76ers to score 145 and 143 points with only six days between the games. 

18 (tie). 1968-69 Cincinnati Royals: 94.46

3 of 20

    Gene Smith/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 101.1

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 95.5

    Win-Loss Record: 41-41

    The Cincinnati Royals were a much better team than the Phoenix Suns during the 1968-69 season, but only because Oscar Robertson, Tom Van Arsdale, Jerry Lucas and Connie Dierking were capable of playing offense. This team finished tied with the expansion Suns for the league's worst defensive rating, but it simultaneously led the league in offensive rating. 

    In fact, only 11 teams throughout NBA history have been more one-sided, as determined by the absolute value of the difference between ORtng+ and DRtng+. 

    But we're focusing on the defense here, and that doesn't bode well for the porous Royals. Only the Suns, Detroit Pistons and Seattle SuperSonics allowed more points per game during the 1968-69 season, and that's problematic because Cincinnati operated at one of the slower paces in the league. 

    Remember how only Dick Van Arsdale and Gail Goodrich were able to earn a single defensive win share for the Suns? Well, both players would have led these Royals. 

    Lucas earned more defensive win shares than anyone else, and his total of 0.8 ranked him No. 105 in the NBA that season. Robertson's total of 0.7 was the second-best mark on the team, and Dierking's 0.5 came in third. 

    Obviously, that's not going to cut it. 

17. 1997-98 Los Angeles Clippers: 94.42

4 of 20

    Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 111.2

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 105.0

    Win-Loss Record: 17-65

    Though the data is rather limited for the earlier teams in NBA history, we have information on all four of the defensive factors for the 1997-98 Los Angeles Clippers. Those would be effective field-goal percentage allowed, opponent's turnover percentage, defensive rebounding percentage and free throws allowed per field-goal attempt. 

    In layman's terms, they break down how well a team allowed its opponents to shoot from the field, how well it forced turnovers, how well it cleaned the defensive glass and how often it sent the opposition to the free-throw stripe. Even the worst defensive teams usually aren't bad in each of the four areas, as it's pretty darn difficult to finish at the bottom of the pack in every one. 

    Well, the Clippers didn't impress in any of them during the 1997-98 season. 

    Their best finish was in the last category, as their opponents got to the line less frequently than all but 15 teams throughout the Association. Unfortunately, LAC finished No. 23 in effective field-goal percentage allowed, No. 28 in opponent's turnover percentage and No. 27 in defensive rebounding percentage. That's not exactly a strong group of skills, especially because the league only had 29 teams at this point. 

    Twenty-two-year-old Lorenzen Wright, thanks to his rebounding and shot-blocking skills, was really the only halfway decent defender on the roster. 

16. 2008-09 Sacramento Kings: 94.42

5 of 20

    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 114.7

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 108.3

    Win-Loss Record: 17-65

    It's not particularly easy to earn negative defensive win shares, seeing as only 103 players have ever done so. Nick Van Exel and Kenny Sailors are the only ones in NBA history to earn minus-1.0 defensive win shares, doing so for the 1998-99 Denver Nuggets and 1949-50 Denver Nuggets, respectively. 

    Well, the 2008-09 Sacramento Kings have someone on the list. 

    Bobby Brown managed to rack up minus-0.2 defensive win shares this year while playing 14.4 minutes per game for his 47 appearances throughout the season. That was his rookie season, and he'd be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves later in the campaign, where he'd earn 0.1 defensive win shares, thereby redeeming himself ever so slightly. 

    But his work for the Kings was pretty awful. As bad as the team was at preventing points, it still allowed an additional 0.8 per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, per Basketball-Reference.com

    Picking on Brown is a bit unfair, though. Everyone on Sacramento struggled to stop the opposition; the team allowed 109.3 points per game (the No. 29 mark in the league) despite playing with a pace that was exceeded by six squads throughout the Association. Only the Golden State Warriors were more porous, but the Dubs also played quicker than any other squad.

    It's never a good thing when Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and Francisco Garcia are the team leaders in defensive win shares.  

15. 1959-60 Cincinnati Royals: 94.40

6 of 20

    Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 96.5

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 91.1

    Win-Loss Record: 19-56

    The 1959-60 Cincinnati Royals were a decent offensive team, but they were so bad at preventing the opposition from earning easy buckets that they still couldn't break past the 20-win barrier. Each of the other teams in the Association won at least 25 contests, with the 59-16 Boston Celtics leading the league. 

    The Royals just didn't have any talent. 

    Jack Twyman was essentially a one-man team, as his most impactful teammates were Hub Reed and Wayne Embry, the latter a future Hall of Famer who was only 22 years old and playing in his second professional season out of Miami University. 

    And even Twyman was somewhat of an offensive specialist, good as he was during his prime years. As a 25-year-old in 1959-60, he paced the Royals with 0.7 defensive win shares, which obviously isn't a particularly impressive figure. 

    Bill Russell led the NBA in defensive win shares that year, posting an impressive 8.9. Wilt Chamberlain was in second place with 8.0 for the Philadelphia Warriors. In fact, 63 of the 96 players who suited up in the NBA that season ranked ahead of Twyman, who, again, led this team.

14. 2005-06 Toronto Raptors: 94.23

7 of 20

    DARREN HAUCK/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 112.7

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 106.2

    Win-Loss Record: 27-55

    You have to feel bad for Chris Bosh, who was tasked with doing way too much for these Toronto Raptors at such an early stage of his impressive career. Due to injuries and changing roles, there was virtually no consistency in Sam Mitchell's rotation, nor was there much talent to throw out on the court for the opening tip. 

    Four different starting lineups were used more than five times throughout the 2005-05 season, and these are the people who populated them: Rafael Araujo, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon, Antonio Davis, Joey Graham, Mike James, Morris Peterson, Pape Sow and Charlie Villanueva.

    It's hard to find many quality defenders there. 

    The Raptors were actually a solid group of defensive rebounders and forced turnovers at a respectable rate.

    However, they couldn't keep the ball from going in the basket, allowing a league-worst effective field-goal percentage of 53 percent. Not only did Toronto fail to prevent two-point makes better than any team in the league, but it allowed a lot of three-point attempts while giving them up at a 37.3 percent clip—the No. 26 mark in the NBA. 

    Kobe Bryant might have had something to do with that. 

13. 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks: 94.16

8 of 20

    Fred Jewell/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 114.7

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 108.0

    Win-Loss Record: 11-71

    It's a brutal combination when you can't prevent the other team from making shots from the field and you send them to the charity stripe with ridiculous frequency. That was the primary problem for the Dallas Mavericks, who finished dead last in both of those portions of the four factors during the 1992-93 season. 

    Over the course of 82 games, Dallas actually allowed its opponents to make 297 more shots from the free-throw line than any other team in the NBA. Not 297 more attempts, but 297 more makes. The Mavericks' opponents took 360 more free throws than any other team in the Association. 

    During the 11-win campaign, Randy White (0.8 defensive win shares), Sean Rooks (0.7) and Doug Smith (0.7) were the only players on the team with more than 0.5 defensive win shares. Mike Iuzzolino (minus-0.3) and Derek Harper (minus-0.2) managed to finish in the negatives, with Iuzzolino checking in with the 41st-worst defensive season in NBA history. 

    None of that is even remotely positive. Especially Iuzzolino and Harper, who were literally negative. 

    In late December, the Mavericks allowed 139 points to the Sacramento Kings, a team that finished with the No. 19 offensive rating during the 1992-93 season. It was one of seven times that an opponent would hit the 130-point milestone against Dallas. 

12. 1990-91 Denver Nuggets: 94.07

9 of 20

    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 114.7

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 107.9

    Win-Loss Record: 20-62

    To give you an idea of how quickly and inefficiently the Denver Nuggets played, they managed to lead the league in points per game during the 1990-91 season, but they also finished No. 21 in offensive rating...and dead last in defensive rating. 

    Their pace—113.7 possessions per 48 minutes—was more than 10 possessions higher than every other team in the league. In fact, the league-average mark was 97.8 in 1990-91, and the running strategy backfired on a Denver team with limited talent. The Nuggets just created more possessions for their opponents to torch their porous defense, and it's not as though the offense could keep pace. 

    Denver's opponents—and this is not a joke—scored 130.8 points per game. No other team in the league allowed more than 115, and it's only the egregiously high pace that prevents that number from earning the Nuggets a top-10 spot among the worst defenses in NBA history. 

    This is a team that managed to allow the Phoenix Suns to score 173 points without an overtime period. Among the five games in NBA history that have seen a team hit 170, this is one of two to do so in regulation, and the other came all the way back in 1959. 

    The whole season was a horror story, with Blair Rasmussen struggling to anchor a ridiculous porous unit. Nine teams scored at least 150 points against Denver, none with the benefit of overtime, and the Nuggets' best defensive performance saw them hold the Charlotte Hornets—who finished No. 22 in offensive rating—to 104 points. 

    In 1990-91, nine teams held their opponents to fewer than 104 points on average. 

11. 1981-82 San Diego Clippers: 93.94

10 of 20

    NBA Photos/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 113.8

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 106.9

    Win-Loss Record: 17-65

    That shot by Jeff Lamp of the Portland Trail Blazers probably went in. 

    Not because Lamp was anything special, as he averaged just 4.6 points per game on 51 percent shooting during his rookie season with Rip City, but because the San Diego Clippers were so terrible at preventing the opposition from making its looks. 

    Opponents posted a 52.3 percent effective field-goal percentage against the mismatched Clippers, which narrowly beat out the Denver Nuggets for the worst mark in the league. It also didn't help that they struggled immensely when trying to force turnovers and fouled incessantly. 

    Tom Chambers and Jerome Whitehead both averaged more than four personal fouls per game, while Michael Brooks, Joe Bryant (yes, Kobe Bryant's father), Phil Smith and Swen Nater all chipped in with at least another three apiece. 

    Brooks was actually the only player to earn more than a single defensive win share, checking in with 1.2. During the 1981-82 season, that would leave him as the 154th most impactful defender in the NBA, which obviously isn't where you want your best defensive player.

10. 1952-53 Baltimore Bullets: 93.90

11 of 20

    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 93.4

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 87.7

    Win-Loss Record: 16-54

    That's Chick Reiser shooting the ball during his playing career, shortly before he'd go on to coach these 1952-53 Baltimore Bullets. It's impossible to find a picture of anyone on this team, which is either because a) we're working with pictures from more than 60 years ago, or b) this squad was so bad it destroyed all the photographic evidence of its ineffective exploits. 

    Then again, Reiser was fired three games into the season and replaced by Clair Bee, as he'd led his team to an 0-3 mark. And it was worse than that, as the Bullets allowed their opponents to average 86 points per game—a number that's brought down significantly by the 69-53 loss in the opener. 

    If Baltimore had allowed 86 points per game throughout the entire season, that still would have been the second-worst mark in the league. Things actually got worse under Bee, who would last only one more season, as the team finished the year giving up 90.9 points during the average contest. 

    Don Barksdale and Eddie Miller were the sole players on the roster to produce more than 0.5 defensive win shares throughout the entire campaign. 

9. 1981-82 Denver Nuggets: 93.85

12 of 20

    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 113.9

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 106.9

    Win-Loss Record: 46-36

    Here's another massively imbalanced team. 

    Alex English, Dan Issel, Kiki Vandeweghe and David Thompson were all phenomenal offensive players, but none of them did much on the defensive end of the court. In fact, Vandeweghe, Billy McKinney and John Roche all finished with minus-0.1 defensive win shares. 

    The 1981-82 Denver Nuggets managed to lead the league in offensive rating while simultaneously finishing in the bottom spot for defensive rating. The good outweighed the bad, given that 46-36 record, although it wasn't enough to get past the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs. 

    In fact, these Nuggets were such a one-sided team that the difference between their ORtng+ and DRtng+ is the fifth-largest mark of all time. Only the Boston Celtics (1963-64 and 1964-65), another version of the Nuggets (2002-03) and 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks managed to be more one-sided throughout all of NBA history. 

    That's an accomplishment in and of itself, right?

8. 1997-98 Vancouver Grizzlies: 93.75

13 of 20

    Andy Hayt/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 112.0

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 105.0

    Win-Loss Record: 19-63

    The Vancouver Grizzlies had been around for two seasons prior to their utter defensive futility during the 1997-98 campaign, but neither of the previous iterations came anywhere close to matching this one. In terms of DRtng+, the 1996-97 Grizz were 56 spots behind this version, and the expansion team of 1995-96 was actually a pretty average defensive squad. 

    In a 29-team league, Vancouver managed to finish No. 28 in effective field-goal percentage allowed, No. 26 in opponent's turnover percentage, No. 21 in defensive rebounding percentage and No. 14 in free throws allowed per field-goal attempt. 

    Not exactly a strong combination, but hey, at least the Grizzlies were able to avoid fouling excessively. 

    The biggest problem was three-point shooting.

    Vancouver allowed its opponents to take the seventh-most three-point attempts during the average game, but they connected 38.5 percent of the time. No team was worse at preventing the makes, and opponents quickly figured out they could take advantage of the Canadian franchise's inability to shut down the arc. 

    It's also worth noting that the Grizzlies lucked into having their opponents shoot below the league-average free-throw percentage. Imagine if that had been flipped around.

    As if this team didn't give up enough points already...

7. 1997-98 Denver Nuggets: 93.67

14 of 20

    Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 112.1

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 105.0

    Win-Loss Record: 11-71

    Remember how there were 102 players throughout NBA history who managed to record negative defensive win shares? Well, the vast majority of those came in the 1940s and early 1950s. If we limit the field to those who produced their totals in 1960 or later, the number of candidates shrinks to just 51. And if we limit it further, looking only at players who suited up in the three-point era, we're down to 49

    Among those, the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets have two players listed: Anthony Goldwire and Johnny Newman, both of whom produced minus-0.4 defensive win shares during the season in question. 

    That's not a good thing, and it's even worse when you realize that Dean Garrett's 1.1 defensive win shares actually paced the team. Behind him, we have Tony Battie (0.8), LaPhonso Ellis (0.7) and Bobby Jackson (0.7). 

    But let's not just focus on the trees and forget about the forest. 

    As a whole, the Nuggets finished No. 25 or worse in three of the four defensive factors. The only exception was their opponent's turnover percentage, which allowed them to check in at No. 16. Denver was particularly putrid when it came to allowing gaudy shooting percentages and keeping the opposition off the charity stripe, finishing at No. 27 and No. 28, respectively. 

    Amazingly, this was one of the rare Denver teams that played relatively slow basketball. It still didn't matter. 

6. 1960-61 Cincinnati Royals: 93.60

15 of 20

    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 98.4

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 92.1

    Win-Loss Record: 33-46

    As bad as the 1959-60 Cincinnati Royals were at holding the opposition to low point totals, checking in at No. 15 in this countdown toward the worst defense of all time, the next year's team was even worse. 

    Even though the league-average defensive rating rose only a single point from one season to the next, these Royals allowed an additional 1.9 points per 100 possessions, although a stronger offense allowed them to go 33-46 rather than repeating their 19-56 misery. 

    Once more, let's look at the team's top defensive win-share producers and see how they stack up throughout the entire league. 

    In 1960-61, Oscar Robertson actually led the Royals with only 0.2 defensive win shares. Nine different players—including Jack Twyman, Bob Boozer and Wayne Embry—finished with 0.1, and Win Wilfong and Phil Rollins checked in right at zero. 

    Ninety-three players stepped onto the court for one of the eight NBA teams during that season, and 74 of them earned more than Robertson. 

    Nothing more needs to be said. 

5. 1963-64 New York Knicks: 93.49

16 of 20

    The Stevenson Collection/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 101.2

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 94.6

    Win-Loss Record: 22-58

    The 1963-64 New York Knicks played at quite the fast pace—117.1 possessions per 48 minutes—but so did the rest of the league back then. Both the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers pushed the tempo to an even greater extent, which makes the Knicks' porous defense look even more, well, porous. 

    New York allowed 119 points per game, 2.5 more than the Sixers and everyone else in the NBA. Boston, meanwhile, despite that league-high pace, allowed only 105.1 points during the average contest. 

    Of course, Boston had Bill Russell. New York did not. 

    Instead, the Knicks boasted the services of Bob Boozer, Len Chappell and Bill McGill, none of whom were particularly stellar defenders. Not a single one of them—nor anyone else on the team, for that matter—was able to earn more than 0.2 defensive win shares during the 1963-64 season. Chappell, Art Heyman, Tom Gola and Johnny Green all tied for the team lead, checking in at that exact mark. 

    Without any true stoppers, the results weren't pretty.

    Throughout the entire season, New York held the opposition to double figures only twice—against the middling San Francisco Warriors and Detroit Pistons. Both those teams finished in the bottom three for offensive rating in 1963-64, which puts a damper on the Knicks' "accomplishment."  

4. 2003-04 Orlando Magic: 93.21

17 of 20

    PETER COSGROVE/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 110.4

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 102.9

    Win-Loss Record: 21-61

    The 2003-04 Orlando Magic sure picked a good time to be so bad at defense. 

    With no ability to hold down the opposition, they ended up securing the services of Dwight Howard with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NBA draft, thereby changing the course of this struggling franchise. And a defensive presence like the one offered by the prep-to-pro center was sorely needed, as things weren't working with Juwan Howard anchoring the paint and Tyronn Lue serving as a sieve on the perimeter. 

    Gordan Giricek and DeShawn Stevenson both managed to produce minus-0.2 defensive win shares in 2003-04, and they weren't even the worst defenders on the roster. That ignominious distinction would go to Lue, whose minus-0.6 defensive win shares give him the 12th-worst defensive season of all time. 

    In fact, only one post-1950 player has ever been worse. We'll get to him later. 

    Things weren't much better on the opposite end of the team's spectrum. 

    Drew Gooden (0.9) and Andrew DeClercq (0.6) earned the most defensive win shares for the Magic, and it's not as though you hear either of those players tossed around in conversation as high-quality defenders.

    It also didn't help that Gooden, then 22 years old, was still transitioning into the NBA as a sophomore, while DeClercq was 30 years old and already on the decline. 

3. 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers: 93.16

18 of 20

    Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 109.7

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 102.2

    Win-Loss Record: 9-41

    If it gives you any idea how much trouble the 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers were in, their most-used starting lineup was comprised of Sherman Douglas, Tyrone Nesby, Michael Olowokandi, Eric Piatkowski and Maurice Taylor. 

    That's not exactly a promising start. 

    The Clippers gambled a lot, and they were actually fairly decent at forcing turnovers. Then again, that's the only positive aspect of their defense, as they finished among the bottom three in opponent's effective field-goal percentage, defensive rebounding percentage and free throws allowed per field-goal attempt. 

    Los Angeles had a pretty middling pace during the year in question, so that didn't allow opponents to produce outlandish point totals, but that wasn't necessary. Everyone could slow things down against the Clippers, and they basically knew they'd end up getting a chance at a wide-open shot. 

    That's what happens when a single roster boasts the services of five players who earned negative defensive win shares: Piatkowski (minus-0.2), Darrick Martin (minus-0.2), Troy Hudson (minus-0.2), Douglas (minus-0.3) and Taylor (minus-0.5). 

    Amazingly enough, though, the Clippers didn't even have the NBA's worst defense during the 1998-99 season. 

2. 2005-06 Seattle SuperSonics: 92.83

19 of 20

    RON WURZER/Associated Press

    Defensive Rating: 114.4

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 106.2

    Win-Loss Record: 35-47

    Another of the most one-sided teams in NBA history (No. 8, to be more specific), the Seattle SuperSonics could score with the best of them, finishing with the No. 3 offensive rating in the NBA, but they couldn't prevent the other side from doing the very same thing. 

    In a late-January contest, the Sonics allowed the Phoenix Suns to post 149 points against them, though that game admittedly contained two overtime periods. But seven other times during the 2005-06 campaign, teams were able to score at least 120 points, and only two of those games went past regulation. 

    Oh, and this was happening despite the Sonics playing with the No. 12 pace in the NBA. It wasn't as though they were running so fast they were left breathless; they were just allowing opposing squads to be that efficient. 

    Opponents posted a 52.7 percent effective field-goal percentage when playing the Sonics, which was the second-worst mark in the league.

    The Toronto Raptors and these Sonics were basically in a class of their own there, and it wasn't a class most teams wanted to be in. However, the Sonics were also a horrific rebounding team, as Chris Wilcox's 5.7 defensive rebounds per game paced the outfit.

1. 1998-99 Denver Nuggets: 92.57

20 of 20

    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Defensive Rating: 110.4

    League-Average Defensive Rating: 102.2

    Win-Loss Record: 14-36

    Nick Van Exel really should be covering his face with his jersey. 

    Throughout all of NBA history, he and Kenny Sailors, who suited up for the 1949-50 Denver Nuggets rather than the iteration that came 49 years later, are the only two players to produce minus-1.0 defensive win shares. He was that bad. 

    In fact, of the 10 worst defensive seasons by an individual, Van Exel is the only one on the leaderboard who played after 1950. Seriously. The lone example. 

    And it gets worse for the 1998-99 Nuggets. 

    Of the bottom 25 seasons when sorting by defensive win shares, only six players were from the post-1950 portion of NBA history: 

    • Nick Van Exel, 1998-99 Denver Nuggets: minus-1.0
    • Tyronn Lue, 2003-04 Orlando Magic: minus-0.6
    • Chauncey Billups, 1998-99 Denver Nuggets: minus-0.5
    • Bryant Stith, 1998-99 Denver Nuggets: minus-0.5
    • Maurice Taylor, 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers: minus-0.5
    • Earl Boykins, 2002-03 Golden State Warriors: minus-0.4

    Notice a trend? 

    Three of the four worst defenders in the modern era were on this squad. And that's saying nothing of Eric Williams, who earned minus-0.2 defensive win shares, presumably in order to make Van Exel, Chauncey Billups and Bryant Stith feel better about themselves. 

    If it weren't for Antonio McDyess protecting the rim quite adequately, there's no telling what would have happened to this team. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.