Each NBA Franchise's Worst Team Ever
Figuring out how modern-day offenses and defenses stack up against the units of the 1950s and '60s isn't exactly an easy task, but it's quite necessary when attempting to determine the worst teams in each of the 30 current franchises' histories.
Just looking at points scored and allowed doesn't do the trick because that doesn't give pace an opportunity to come into play. For that reason, defensive and offensive ratings—pace-neutral metrics that show how many points a team allows and scores per 100 possessions—are much better gauges to measure prowess on those ends 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. Nor is every team with an identical offensive rating equally competent at scoring the rock.
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.
The same holds true for ORtng+, or adjusted offensive efficiency.
Calculating these metrics isn't particularly troublesome: Just divide the league-average defensive rating from the year in question by the team's defensive rating and then multiply the result by 100 to achieve DRtng+. Similarly, ORtng+ is derived by dividing the team's offensive rating by the league average and then multiplying by 100.
A score of 100 means the defense or offense 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.
The final step in determining the strength of a team is averaging the two metrics. The result, called TeamRtng+, weighs offense and defense evenly to ascertain the overall effectiveness of any team in NBA history.
When determining the worst squads throughout the NBA's many seasons, the style of play doesn't factor into the equation. Neither does points scored/allowed per game nor memorability, subjectivity and win-loss records.
TeamRtng+ is all that comes into play. We'll be looking at the worst team in each franchise's history, counting down toward the very worst squad of all time. 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 calculating 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, bottom 20 defenses, bottom 20 offenses and best teams for each franchise throughout the same period.
30. 1984-85 Indiana Pacers: 97.27
Rank in NBA History: No. 151
Perhaps things would have been different for the Indiana Pacers if they had had a first-round pick in the loaded 1984 NBA draft, which produced so many Hall of Fame talents. Instead, they gave it up to the Portland Trail Blazers for Tom Owens, who had retired by the time the draft rolled around. Rip City used the pick on Sam Bowie, but the Pacers likely wouldn't have.
After all, Clark Kellogg (power forward) and Herb Williams (center) were two of the top talents on the squad, and there was a dearth of shooting guards. Yes, that means Michael Jordan could have ended up on the Pacers, thus changing the course of NBA history in a major way.
Instead, Owens got to play one year with the Pacers. Ouch.
With no star rookies joining Kellogg, Williams and Vern Fleming, the Pacers just struggled to score night in and night out. Playing the toughest schedule in the league didn't do them any favors, either.
Though Indiana was quite adept at getting to the free-throw line, finishing No. 10 in the NBA when it came to free throws per field-goal attempt, it finished in the bottom six for offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and effective field-goal percentage.
An ORtng+ that fails to rise above 95 isn't an easy mark to earn—only 70 teams have done so throughout all of NBA history—but it gets a lot easier when a team can't shoot, turns the ball over incessantly and fails to create many second-chance opportunities. Plus, the benefits of getting to the line were virtually lost, as the Pacers were one of the worst teams from the charity stripe in 1984-85.
Runner-up: 1982-83 Indiana Pacers, 97.42 (No. 171)
29. 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers: 97.07
Rank in NBA History: No. 128
This isn't the recency effect coming into play.
The 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers were simply the worst team throughout the lengthy history of this storied franchise. While the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers came close, no one could match the combination of a defense that didn't seem inclined to stop penetration at all—thanks, Mike D'Antoni!—and an offense that lacked talent in a big way.
Dwight Howard leaving for the Houston Rockets was a huge blow for a team that was capped out even after he departed, as the big man left a void that literally couldn't be filled by anything but internal candidates. And when Steve Nash and, even more significantly, Kobe Bryant went down with injuries, there just wasn't enough ability remaining on the roster.
Nash, even if he had stayed healthy, may not have made the biggest impact on this team, given his advancing age. But Bryant only played in six games, and it's hard to imagine him being content to lead the worst team in franchise history.
Without the two, the Lakers' most-used starting lineup featured Pau Gasol, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks, but it was only thrust into action on 11 different occasions. D'Antoni actually had to make use of 35 distinct five-man units at the opening of a game, due to the brutal combination of unestablished talents and constant injury woes.
Was it any wonder that there was no continuity throughout the season?
Runner-up: 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers, 97.14 (No. 137)
28. 2007-08 New York Knicks: 96.73
Rank in NBA History: No. 101
With the front office embroiled in the controversy surrounding a sexual harassment lawsuit, the New York Knicks had a tough time focusing on basketball. That was one factor, but so too was the extreme lack of quality players on the roster, especially when Stephon Marbury was missing action for 58 games.
David Lee (7.4) and Jamal Crawford (5.0) were the only players to earn at least five win shares for this squad, one that struggled on offense but was even worse at preventing the opposition from putting up gaudy totals. Sometimes, both sides of the court proved just about impossible, as was the case on Nov. 29.
During that fateful game, the Boston Celtics handed the Knicks a 104-59 loss, one that saw the Madison Square Garden residents shoot just 30.3 percent from the field. Nate Robinson paced the team with 11 points of the bench, but Ray Allen (21), Paul Pierce (21), Eddie House (15) and Glen Davis (13) all managed to top that total for the C's.
Granted, that was one of the best teams in NBA history squaring off against a squad that finished just outside the 100 worst, but the contest still serves as a microcosm for the season as a whole.
These Knicks just weren't good at putting the ball in the basket or keeping their opponents from doing the same. Not only did they finish No. 27 in effective field-goal percentage, but they also ranked 28th in effective field-goal percentage allowed.
Runner-up: 2005-06 New York Knicks, 96.80 (No. 106)
27. 1996-97 Boston Celtics: 96.58
Rank in NBA History: No. 89
It's always problematic when none of a team's top scorers is efficient.
Antoine Walker paced the 1997-98 Boston Celtics by averaging 17.5 points per game, but he did so while shooting 42.5 percent from the field and a putrid 32.7 percent from beyond the arc. David Wesley was next with his 16.8 points per contest, and he was actually the team's most efficient scorer, posting a 46.8 field-goal percentage and 36 three-point percentage.
After that duo come Rick Fox (15.4 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting), Eric Williams (15 and 45.6), Todd Day (14.5 and 39.8) and Dino Radja (14 and 44).
But the biggest problem of all?
The Celtics were better on offense than defense. Their rank in offensive rating was actually one spot worse in the 1997-98 standings, but that's due only to the distribution, as their defensive rating was further below the league average.
No team in the NBA allowed opponents to post a higher effective field-goal percentage throughout the 15-win season, and the C's weren't much better at grabbing defensive boards or keeping themselves from fouling. Apparently, playing with the fastest pace in the league was a bad idea.
Runner-up: 1978-79 Boston Celtics, 97.72 (No. 200)
26. 2013-14 Utah Jazz: 96.43
Rank in NBA History: No. 81
Losing Paul Millsap to the Atlanta Hawks and Al Jefferson to the Charlotte Bobcats forced the Utah Jazz to take a massive step backward. They were able to give more minutes to the myriad young talents on the roster, but there never seemed to be much care for remaining competitive.
Thoughts of tanking ran rampant throughout the NBA in 2013-14 (for all mediocre and subpar squads, not just the Jazz), and while the players played with passion, the front office in Salt Lake City never seemed to make any moves geared toward improving the chances of victory. Well, they played with passion on some nights, at least.
"They put their heart (in it)," Enes Kanter said about the Milwaukee Bucks after losing to the fellow bottom-feeders, per Jody Genessy of Deseret News. "They fight."
Problem was, even when Utah fought, it was outmatched.
Gordon Hayward was the clear-cut leader of this team, but without any offensive protection, he couldn't remain efficient while serving as the No. 1 option. Meanwhile, there were no true breakouts from the many up-and-coming talents, and defense was just a constant challenge.
Of the four factors—effective field-goal percentage, rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and free throws per field-goal attempt—the Jazz finished in the top half of the NBA in only one on either side of the ball. They ranked No. 14 in defensive rebounding percentage, and that was the lone success.
Runner-up: 1979-80 Utah Jazz, 97.17 (No. 139)
25. 1968-69 Phoenix Suns: 96.34
Rank in NBA History: No. 69
The Phoenix Suns were an expansion team in 1968-69, and their two biggest selections in the 1968 expansion draft were Gail Goodrich and Dick Van Arsdale. Both enjoyed fantastic seasons, particularly on the offensive end of the court, and they were rewarded for their efforts with All-Star berths.
However, they were some of the only high-quality players on the roster.
Van Arsdale paced the squad with 5.6 win shares, and even that wasn't a particularly impressive mark. Basketball-Reference.com's Play Finder shows that 39 players managed to rack up higher numbers during the 1968-69 season, with Wilt Chamberlain's 14.7 win shares leading the league.
In the desert, Dick Snyder was the second-most valuable player, posting 3.7 win shares. Goodrich (3.6) and Jim Fox (3.3) were the only other members of the roster on the right side of three. That means that the Suns' No. 2 contributor earned fewer win shares than 61 players in a 14-team league, which gives the average squad between four and five players who were more valuable than Snyder.
Losing streaks were not uncommon for the expansion Suns, who dropped 12 games in a row during late November and early December. There was another 10-contest skid as the calendar flipped from 1968 to 1969, and the end of the regular season mercifully drew a seven-game losing streak to a halt.
The longest winning stretch? Just three games.
Runner-up: 2012-13 Phoenix Suns, 96.76 (No. 104)
24. 2004-05 New Orleans Hornets: 96.24
Rank in NBA History: No. 60
In 2003-04, the New Orleans Hornets won as many games as they lost and advanced to the postseason, where they experienced a first-round defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat, whom they at least pushed to seven games. That season, the most-used starting lineup featured P.J. Brown, Baron Davis, George Lynch, Jamaal Magloire and David Wesley.
Well, all those starters returned for the 2004-05 season, but the team took a massive step backward.
Why? There were three primary reasons.
First, Byron Scott replaced Tim Floyd as the head coach, and the Hornets took a while to adjust to his stylings. In addition to that, New Orleans moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference, where it was saddled with a much tougher schedule.
But most importantly, injuries reared their ugly heads.
Davis was limited to only 18 games. Magloire played in only 23 contests throughout the season. David Wesley suited up just 26 times, and a young David West played less than half of the available games. No one could stay healthy, and that doomed this team from the start.
New Orleans could never recover from a 2-29 stretch to open the campaign.
Runner-up: 2011-12 New Orleans Hornets, 97.99 (No. 242)
23. 1993-94 Detroit Pistons: 96.23
Rank in NBA History: No. 59
Even though only three seasons had passed since the Bad Boys won their second championship, the 1993-94 Detroit Pistons were a completely different team. Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer were still on the roster, but they were too old to make the same impact they had in their respective primes.
Dumars, then 30 years old, averaged a team-high 20.4 points per game, but his declining defense kept him from being too valuable. He finished second to Terry Mills in win shares, earning only 4.4 throughout the season.
That was still better than both 32-year-old Thomas (0.2 win shares) and 36-year-old Laimbeer (0.5), though the latter played in only 11 games throughout the season before retiring at the end of the year.
Despite there being only 27 teams in the league during 1993-94, Detroit finished the year ranked No. 19 or worse in each of the four defensive factors. The best finish came in opponent's effective field-goal percentage, while turnover percentage (No. 24), defensive rebounding percentage (No. 24) and free throws per field-goal attempt (No. 22) all lagged even further behind.
It was quite clear the franchise's typical identity didn't matter this year.
Runner-up: 1979-80 Detroit Pistons, 96.44 (No. 82)
22. 1989-90 Orlando Magic: 96.22
Rank in NBA History: No. 58
It isn't easy being an expansion team.
Earning 18 wins throughout the entire season makes it quite difficult to rack up too many win shares, but it's still notable how evenly the few were distributed. There were just no clear-cut standouts on this roster but rather a huge collection of lackluster talents who failed to make much of an impact.
The Orlando Magic would hit the lottery in the draft a few times during the 1990s, but in the franchise's inaugural season, it was Otis Smith (3.3 win shares), Michael Ansley (3.3), Terry Catledge (2.5) and Reggie Theus (2.5) who led the team.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Magic didn't get blown out during the first game in franchise history. They lost at home to the New Jersey Nets, but the margin was only five points, and they followed that up by winning the next two contests, including an overtime victory on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But then the wheels came off, and that led to wobbly results throughout the rest of the season. From Feb. 15 through the end of the year, things were particularly miserable.
The Magic lost seven games in a row, and then they beat the Charlotte Hornets. After that, it was a nine-game losing streak before getting off the schneid against the New York Knicks. And finally, a victory against the Nets closed the season and put a stop to a 15-game skid.
One long losing streak would have been bad enough.
Runner-up: 2012-13 Orlando Magic, 96.50 (No. 85)
21. 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks: 95.99
Rank in NBA History: No. 52
During this past season, only the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers allowed opponents to post worse effective field-goal percentages than the Milwaukee Bucks did. Problem was, the Bucks also finished No. 19 in turnover percentage forced and free throws allowed per field-goal attempt, and they rebounded better on the defensive glass than just the Los Angeles Lakers.
Offensively, things weren't much better. They were only above average on the offensive boards.
This team was never expected to be much more than mediocre, but a huge decline from O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight's failure to make a big leap and injuries to Larry Sanders forced the Bucks into a failure to live up to even those modest hopes and dreams.
Fortunately, Milwaukee appears to be on the way up. There's plenty of young talent on the roster, particularly now that Jabari Parker is set to join Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But the talent that was in place in 2013-14 was too young, and the veterans couldn't make many positive impacts. John Henson was actually the only player who managed to top three win shares on the season, much to the chagrin of a front office that seemed to be trying to remain competitive rather than fully committing to a rebuild.
Runner-up: 2007-08 Milwaukee Bucks, 96.63 (No. 94)
20. 2008-09 Sacramento Kings: 95.92
Rank in NBA History: No. 48
The Sacramento Kings were just incredibly porous during the 2008-09 season, which isn't particularly surprising for a team whose best players were Kevin Martin and John Salmons, two wing players who have always struggled on the less glamorous end of the court.
Despite running with the No. 7 pace in the NBA, the Kings still managed to allow 109.3 points per game, a mark that left them holding the opposition to fewer points than only the Golden State Warriors. Problem is, the Dubs were rather easily the quickest team in the league, so Sacramento's defensive rating still bottomed out.
Martin's high-scoring nature and ability to draw contact virtually at will kept the Kings afloat offensively some nights, but even he couldn't pull them out of the gutter every outing. He and Salmons were the lone players to average at least 15 points per game, and the next most significant contributors weren't particularly efficient.
Perhaps it would have behooved this team to slow things down and take better shots. If nothing else, that would have allowed opponents fewer opportunities to gash the often nonexistent defense.
Runner-up: 1958-59 Cincinnati Royals, 95.98 (No. 51)
19. 1996-97 San Antonio Spurs: 95.91
Rank in NBA History: No. 47
David Robinson hurt his back during the preseason, and he wouldn't return to the lineup until December. After just six games, he broke his foot and missed the rest of the year, joining Sean Elliott as one of the San Antonio Spurs' key players to miss a large portion of the 1996-97 season.
Then, the franchise started unabashedly tanking. Well, probably, as Royce Webb explained for ESPN back in 2012:
One of the most notorious years for tanking was 1997. It’s widely believed that the San Antonio Spurs tanked the season by holding out David Robinson longer than necessary to secure a higher draft pick, which became the most coveted player available, Tim Duncan. In fact, to many, this is one of the most incredibly successful tank jobs in NBA history, in part because the Spurs were already a very good team, and they have won four titles and counting with Duncan leading the way. But to our knowledge, no one involved has admitted that the Spurs were tanking.
Regardless of the motivation, the Spurs finished the 1996-97 campaign ranked No. 27 in offensive rating and dead last in defensive rating. They likely would have been even worse had Robinson sat out the entire campaign, as they went 3-3 with him in the lineup.
But hey, it worked out nicely. After all, Tim Duncan would join the team at the beginning of the ensuing draft.
Runner-up: 1988-89 San Antonio Spurs, 96.75 (No. 103)
18. 2007-08 Seattle SuperSonics: 95.83
Rank in NBA History: No. 46
Not even Kevin Durant could save the Seattle SuperSonics during their final season prior to moving to Oklahoma City and becoming the Thunder, which happened to coincide with his rookie go-round in the Association.
P.J. Carlesimo insisted on playing the Texas product at shooting guard, and it didn't work out well for the raw scorer.
He averaged a team-best 20.3 points per game, but he did so while shooting 43 percent from the field and 28.8 percent from downtown. The result was a 15.8 player efficiency rating—barely over the league average—and only 2.3 win shares. Even more surprisingly, 1.9 of them came on the less glamorous end of the court, where the lanky rookie terrorized opposing wing players, even if he lacked defensive discipline.
With a 30-year-old Wally Szczerbiak past his prime and Chris Wilcox serving as the only other fairly reliable scoring option, the Sonics almost had to force the issue with Durant. They had no other choices, and the result was a historically bad offense.
Seattle's 93.49 ORtng+ checks in as the 23rd-worst offense of all time, which isn't exactly a good thing when paired with a subpar defense.
Runner-up: 2008-09 Oklahoma City Thunder, 97.00 (No. 126)
17. 1951-52 Baltimore Bullets: 95.71
Rank in NBA History: No. 40
At least the 1951-52 Baltimore Bullets were balanced?
This team wasn't historically bad at either offense or defense, but it was still awful on both sides of the ball. The squad's ORtng+ puts it as the 89th-worst scoring unit of all time, while the DRtng+ ranks as the 96th worst.
It's pretty hard to be in the bottom 100 for each category, and that's exactly why only 39 teams have ever been worse than these Bullets. The combination is just a brutal one, and it resulted in only 20 wins throughout the 1951-52 season.
Fred Scolari paced Baltimore with 4.5 win shares, while Stan Miasek finished at No. 2 with 4.1. But beyond that, no one else on the roster managed to earn more than a pair of win shares, and Jim Slaughter, Red Owens and Belus Smawley all finished in the negatives.
Interestingly enough—and this plays right along with the Bullets not being historically awful on either side—the team finished in the penultimate spot for both offensive and defensive rating. During the 1951-52 campaign, the Milwaukee Hawks were significantly worse at scoring, while the Philadelphia Warriors had slightly more trouble avoiding point hemorrhages.
But no one was so low on both leaderboards.
Runner-up: 1953-54 Baltimore Bullets, 95.93 (No. 49)
16. 1997-98 Toronto Raptors: 95.49
Rank in NBA History: No. 27
The Toronto Raptors struggled during their first two seasons in the NBA, but they bottomed out during the third.
Injuries held the team back, but so too did a set of trades. Damon Stoudamire was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers, and Kenny Anderson—who was supposed to come over from Rip City—wouldn't even join the team and was subsequently involved in a second deal. The roster looked completely different after the deadline, and nearly every player on it was remarkably young.
Too young to earn many wins, in fact.
Though the Raptors wouldn't match the 17-game skid that led to a 1-19 start to the 1997-98 season, they had loads of trouble reeling off back-to-back victories. There was a 13-game losing streak near the end of the campaign, and from the beginning of February through the last game, they couldn't ever string together wins.
Due to the influx of new players, the Raptors never used the same starting five more than 13 times, and they sent out 25 different five-man units for tipoffs. Eighteen of those were used multiple times, and that right there should explain why it was so hard for the team to establish much defensive continuity.
Runner-up: 1995-96 Toronto Raptors, 96.36 (No. 73)
15. 2009-10 Minnesota Timberwolves: 95.47
Rank in NBA History: No. 26
Can you imagine if the 2009-10 Minnesota Timberwolves roster was reassembled heading into the 2014-15 campaign? Al Jefferson and Kevin Love would form arguably the best big-man duo in the league—strong enough to make up for a weak backcourt featuring Corey Brewer and Ramon Sessions.
But four years ago, that wasn't the case.
Love and Jefferson still led the 'Wolves in win shares, but neither was the same player he is today. Though the former averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, he did so while shooting 45 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc, all while playing even less defense than he has recently. The latter was still putting up an efficient 17.1 points per contest, but the same held true for his defense.
Nonetheless, the backcourt wasn't up to the task on offense, and the result was a team that struggled immensely when trying to score. Not only did Minnesota post the No. 28 effective field-goal percentage in the league, but it also turned the ball over incessantly and had inordinate amounts of trouble gaining freebies at the charity stripe.
At least the team could rebound adequately, both ending possessions for the opposition and creating a few second-chance opportunities.
Runner-up: 1994-95 Minnesota Timberwolves, 95.54 (No. 30)
14. 2009-10 New Jersey Nets: 95.43
Rank in NBA History: No. 25
Now we're all the way to the worst 25 teams in NBA history, starting with the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, who won only 12 games while going through a troika of head coaches.
Lawrence Frank was fired after going 0-16 to start the season, and Tom Barrise lasted for another two losses. Then Kiki Vandeweghe took over, guiding New Jersey to a 12-52 record over the remaining portion of the season. But the combined efforts left the Nets with an 0-18 sight staring back at them at one point.
At least they set a record, right? Prior to 2009, the all-time mark for most losses to begin a season was 17, set by both the 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers and 1988-89 Miami Heat. Don't worry: We'll get to one of them later.
The biggest problem for this particular squad was offense, as few players on the team were even remotely efficient. Brook Lopez led the Nets in scoring with 18.8 points per game, and he shot 49.9 percent from the field. But the next three highest scorers were Devin Harris (16.9 points per contest), Courtney Lee (12.5) and Yi Jianlian (12). They shot 40.3, 43.6 and 40.3 percent, respectively.
As a result, New Jersey had one of the least effective offenses in NBA history, finishing the season with a 93.49 ORtng+ that leaves it better than only 24 teams in the basketball annals.
Runner-up: 1987-88 New Jersey Nets, 96.21 (No. 57)
13. 1997-98 Golden State Warriors: 95.29
Rank in NBA History: No. 22
We can go ahead and blame this one on Latrell Sprewell.
He was averaging 21.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game through the first 14 outings of the 1997-98 season, though the team still struggled its way to a 1-13 record during the opening salvo of the season. But the Golden State Warriors offense faltered in a big way without Sprewell in the lineup.
It wasn't an injury that forced him from the court but rather an inexplicable decision to choke P.J. Carlesimo during a Dec. 1 practice after receiving criticism for the intensity—or lack thereof—of his passes. Without one of the offensive leaders, the Dubs basically couldn't score.
They finished the season with a 91.24 ORtng+, which remains the eighth-worst mark of all time. If it weren't for the No. 5 offensive rebounding percentage in the league, it's easy to see this squad jumping all the way to the top of the heap. Or the bottom, depending on how you look at it.
Amazingly enough, this was one of the very worst teams in NBA history even though it boasted a defense that was right around the league average. With a 105.7 defensive rating, the Dubs finished No. 20 out of the 29 teams in the league.
The offense was just that bad.
Runner-up: 2000-01 Golden State Warriors, 95.43 (No. 24)
12. 2005-06 Portland Trail Blazers: 95.05
Rank in NBA History: No. 15
Legal trouble and on-court issues plagued this Portland Trail Blazers squad, which was really the last one in the era of Jail Blazers. But it's not as though this team was particularly successful when the distractions weren't rearing their ugly heads.
Of the eight factors—the four on offense and the same on defense—Rip City mustered up a single-digit finish in only one. The Blazers were great at preventing opponents from getting to the free-throw line, but that was about it. They never forced turnovers, struggled to keep their opponents from making their looks from the field, couldn't grab defensive rebounds and so on and so forth.
Basically, they were just really bad at almost everything, which explains their status as one of the 15 worst teams in NBA history despite not standing out negatively on either end of the court, at least compared to their own performance on the other side.
Steve Blake led the 2005-06 Blazers in win shares, earning only 2.8 throughout the entire season. For perspective, 166 players in the NBA produced more that season. That means the average non-Portland team had 5.72 members who were more impressive than the Blazers' No. 1 contributor.
Of course they were going to struggle to win.
Runner-up: 1971-72 Portland Trail Blazers, 95.74 (No. 42)
11. 1951-52 Milwaukee Hawks: 95.03
Rank in NBA History: No. 14
The 1951-52 Milwaukee Hawks were so bad that there's no photographic evidence of them available within our image databases. Could they have destroyed it retroactively to pretend this season never happened?
That's Mel Hutchins on the far left of the image you can see above, playing for the Fort Wayne Pistons later in his career. But during the 1951-52 season, he was on the Hawks, averaging 9.2 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. It was enough for him to earn 3.8 win shares, which left him trailing only Don Otten's 5.6 on the Milwaukee roster.
This was a slow-paced team that tried to make the most of every possession, but it was a strategy that often failed. Not only did the Hawks finish the season ranked No. 8 in defensive rating (out of 10 teams in the early NBA), but they also trailed all nine other squads in offensive rating.
Milwaukee's longest win streak went three games, and those victories came against the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Baltimore Bullets, twice. Yes, those are the same Bullets that have already shown up in this countdown, so that takes away from some of the small win streak's already minimal impressiveness.
Runner-up: 2004-05 Atlanta Hawks: 95.16 (No. 19)
10. 1970-71 Cleveland Cavaliers: 94.94
Rank in NBA History: No. 11
The 1970-71 Cleveland Cavaliers are the first team to show up in this countdown that failed to earn even a 95 ORtng+ or DRtng+. Missing in even one of those ventures is harmful enough, but these Cavs took that to another level by becoming one of five teams in NBA history to miss on both.
Sometimes, there are multiple squads during the same season that are relatively close in their levels of putridity, but that was not so for Cleveland in 1970-71.
Of the 17 teams in the NBA, the Cavaliers finished last in offensive rating, scoring 1.4 fewer points per 100 possessions than the second-worst Buffalo Braves. And on defense, Cleveland allowed 102.4 points per 100 possessions, 2.3 more than the Seattle SuperSonics and everyone else in the Association. In fact, 2.3 points was nearly as big as the gap between the Sonics (No. 16) and Philadelphia 76ers (No. 10).
Frankly, it's surprising Bingo Smith (who you can see pictured up above), Walt Wesley and John Johnson managed to win 15 games in 82 attempts.
Then again, they never strung together three victories and only won back-to-back games twice.
Runner-up: 2002-03 Cleveland Cavaliers, 95.12 (No. 17)
9. 1998-99 Chicago Bulls: 94.82
Rank in NBA History: No. 9
Losing Michael Jordan ain't easy.
Then again, losing Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen makes things even more difficult, and that's exactly what happened after the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. Without the two stars, the Bulls were forced to experiment with starting lineups throughout the season, though Brent Barry, Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc were typically the mainstays.
The defense still worked for the most part, but Chicago just couldn't get the ball to find the bottom of the net.
With a 90.41 ORtng+, these Bulls had the third-worst offense in NBA history, better than only the 2002-03 Denver Nuggets and 1987-88 Los Angeles Clippers. No team in the league struggled more with its shot during the 1998-99 season, and the Bulls didn't make things easy on themselves by turning the ball over often, failing to crash the offensive boards and rarely getting to the charity stripe.
Kukoc and Dickey Simpkins came close, but not a single member of the roster managed to earn three win shares during the lockout-shortened campaign.
Runner-up: 1999-00 Chicago Bulls, 95.01 (No. 13)
8. 1988-89 Miami Heat: 94.81
Rank in NBA History: No. 8
Another team with one of the worst offenses of all time, the 1988-89 Miami Heat—much like the 1998-99 Chicago Bulls—have a convenient excuse for their futility. While the Bulls lost Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the Heat were starting from scratch.
Ten players on the roster were rookies, and while guys like Rony Seikaly and Grant Long would go on to find success in the NBA, they were overmatched throughout their first go-rounds in the Association. Rory Sparrow and Pat Cummings were essentially the veteran leaders on this team, and that wasn't exactly a recipe for success.
Miami dropped its first game as an NBA franchise to the Los Angeles Clippers, losing by 20 points. And things wouldn't get much better for quite some time. Though the Heat took the Golden State Warriors to overtime during their stretch of winless basketball, they lost their first 17 games, which was an ignominious NBA record at the time.
The losing skid has since been topped by the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, but the Heat will always be in the record books for their seriously lackluster start to NBA life.
Runner-up: 1989-90 Miami Heat, 95.56 (No. 32)
7. 1996-97 Vancouver Grizzlies: 94.72
Rank in NBA History: No. 7
The Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies are the only franchise in the NBA with two of the worst 10 teams in league history. But while the 1995-96 Grizz, who were an expansion team, check in at No. 10, the next iteration was somehow even worse.
Bryant Reeves, who was drafted one year prior with the intent of making him into the face of the franchise, needed help in the frontcourt, and that was supplied by Shareef Abdur-Rahim. His rookie season in 1996-97 was a fairly successful one, as he averaged 18.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
It just wasn't enough.
The two aforementioned young guns and Greg Anthony, who was 29 years old during the season in question, were the only three players on the Vancouver roster who earned more than two win shares. Meanwhile, Blue Edwards, Rich Manning, Eric Leckner, Moochie Norris, Lawrence Moten and Eric Mobley all managed to finish below zero.
Obviously, that's a combination that most teams would like to avoid. The Grizzlies didn't, and as a result, they often avoided winning instead.
Runner-up: 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies, 94.94 (No. 10)
6. 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers: 94.70
Rank in NBA History: No. 6
The Philadelphia 76ers were a run-and-gun team that used 115.2 possessions per 48 minutes. While the Houston Rockets played with the same pace during the 1972-73 season, every other squad in the 17-team NBA played more slowly.
Thing is, that didn't work out too well for the Sixers.
It gave their opponents more chances to take advantage of a porous defense, one that had plenty of trouble keeping the other team from drilling one shot after another, and it's not like they were making the most of their extra offensive possessions.
This was a team devoid of much scoring talent, as three of the top five scorers (Tom Van Arsdale, Bill Bridges and Kevin Loughery) couldn't even hit 40 percent of their looks from the field. The other two, Fred Carter and John Block, shot 42.1 and 44.1 percent, respectively.
As a whole, Philadelphia shot just 42 percent, which was the worst mark in the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers were the next worst, and they still made 43.5 percent of their shots. Everyone else was at 44.4 percent or higher.
Runner-up: 1995-96 Philadelphia 76ers, 95.10 (No. 16)
5. 1982-83 Houston Rockets: 94.66
Rank in NBA History: No. 5
Of the four offensive factors and the four defensive ones, not even a single category saw the 1982-83 Houston Rockets ranked in the top half of the league.
The closest they came was in turnover percentage, where "only" a dozen of the league's 23 squads fared better than they did. Behind that are opponent's turnover percentage (No. 15), free throws allowed per field-goal attempt (No. 17) and both effective field-goal percentage allowed and defensive rebounding percentage (No. 18).
Notice how four of those five aspects come on the defensive end?
The Rockets offense, led by Allen Leavell and James Bailey, was just atrocious during the 1982-83 season. Six players managed to score in double figures during the average outing, but Leavell was the team's leading point-producer, and he only put up 14.8 per game.
Leavell also earned the most win shares, but his 3.8 were hardly impressive on a league-wide scale. Plus, Terry Teagle (minus-0.8) and Jeff Taylor (minus-0.2) did their best to cancel out his positive contributions with their own negative ones, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
Runner-up: 1967-68 San Diego Rockets, 96.41 (No. 79)
4. 1999-00 Los Angeles Clippers: 94.25
Rank in NBA History: No. 4
Still trying to give Michael Olowokandi a chance now that he was in his second year of NBA action, the 1999-00 Los Angeles Clippers made plenty of moves during the offseason while trying to gear up for their first go-round in the Staples Center. Between free agency, the draft and a pair of trades, the team essentially swapped Rodney Rogers, Sherman Douglas and Lamond Murray for Derek Anderson, Eric Murdock and Lamar Odom.
Odom was a rookie, and while his contributions were quite impressive for a first-year player, they weren't enough to carry this team to any sort of success. After all, Olowokandi cemented himself as a massive draft bust, and Odom and Anderson were the only two players on the roster to post above-average PERs.
Five players earned negative win shares, led by Olowokandi's minus-0.8, and that was the same number as those on the roster who produced more than one win share. Anderson's 3.3 paced the team, and he was joined in the above-one club by Odom (3.2), Eric Piatkowski (2.3), Tyrone Nesby (1.3) and Keith Closs (1.1).
With the league's worst defensive rating and second-worst offensive rating, the Clippers struggled their way to 15 wins, only stringing together three consecutive victories once all season. Meanwhile, they somehow managed to put together losing skids of nine, 10, 13 and 17 games.
Runner-up: 1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers, 94.94 (No. 12)
3. 1997-98 Denver Nuggets: 93.98
Rank in NBA History: No. 3
The Denver Nuggets franchise has featured a lot of porous defensive teams, and while the 1997-98 Nuggets posted a 93.67 DRtng+, that's still only the second worst in the franchise's history. But the 1998-99 Nuggets, which had the worst defense in all the years the NBA has existed, actually boasted an above-average offense (thanks, Mike D'Antoni!).
These Nuggets did not.
With Bill Hanzlik at the helm, Denver only won 11 games throughout the year, struggling as a handful of relatively nondescript players attempted to lead the squad. Anthony Goldwire, Johnny Newman, Dean Garrett and Danny Fortson earned the most win shares on the roster, in that order, and none of those players are exactly household names.
Another major problem was the pesky injury imp.
For example, Bryant Stith, making just over $4 million, was the team's highest-paid player, but injuries limited him to only 31 games throughout the season. Then again, since Stith produced minus-0.3 win shares while he was healthy and in the lineup, that might actually have turned out to be a good thing.
Though Denver managed to string together 23 losses in a row at one point and had a separate 16-game stretch of winless basketball, it only emerged victoriously from back-to-back contests once all year.
Runner-up: 2002-03 Denver Nuggets, 95.63 (No. 36)
2. 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks: 93.14
Rank in NBA History: No. 2
The 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks actually had two separate two-game winning streaks, but they also went double-digit contests without winning even once three times during the campaign. There was a 12-game skid in late November and early December, a 15-game losing streak that surrounded New Year's Eve and a 19-game stretch of winless outings that lasted until mid-March.
Dallas was still recovering from Roy Tarpley being banned for life after his third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy, and it didn't help that knee surgery knocked Fat Lever out for the entire season. On top of that, Rolando Blackman was traded away to the New York Knicks for a draft pick, which left the Mavs searching for new franchise faces.
Derek Harper, then already 31 years old, was too far removed from his prime to become one, but he still managed to lead the lackluster team with 2.7 win shares. Mike Iuzzolino and Sean Rooks, a rookie in 1992-93, tied for second with 1.5 apiece.
Among the NBA's 27 teams, Dallas finished at the bottom of the pile in both offensive and defensive rating. The offense was so bad that despite using the league's sixth-fastest pace, the Mavericks still scored more points per game than only the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were the third-slowest squad in the Association.
Runner-up: 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks, 95.72 (No. 41)
1. 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats: 92.88
Rank in NBA History: No. 1
Could it be anyone else?
During the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, the Charlotte Bobcats were basically the league's punching bag. Kemba Walker was showing some promise as a rookie out of Connecticut, but this was a team whose most-used starting lineup was made up of D.J. Augustin, Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson, Corey Maggette and Tyrus Thomas.
Had Maggette been in his prime, there would have been a bit more offensive hope, but not when he was 32 years old and far removed from his best years in the NBA.
The Bobcats began the season in promising fashion, dispatching the Milwaukee Bucks by one point thanks to a layup from Augustin with 36 seconds left and then some nice work at the charity stripe that increased the lead.
But then things got ugly.
As if a 16-game losing streak wasn't awful enough, Charlotte managed to drop each of its last 23 contests, giving the Bobcats the worst winning percentage of any team in NBA history. Frankly, it's hard to imagine them getting off the schneid even if the regular season had been extended, as only eight of the 23 losses came by single digits.
"It has been tough, but we are just trying to move forward," Augustin told the press near the end of the season. "Many people are laughing at us and making (the losing streak) as a joke, but we take it very seriously. We are just trying to stay positive and play hard until the end."
Even if they played hard, the Bobcats still go down as the worst team in NBA history.
Runner-up: 2012-13 Charlotte Bobcats, 95.41 (No. 23)