The goal of every NBA season is for teams to win games, with the achievement of crowning an NBA champion. Only one team gets it done every year, and holding winning percentages for the top seeds is the best way to get it done. But for teams that are not title contenders, losing games is the best way to go.
It is time to name the worst teams per conference every season for the past 10 years. While the majority of these teams accepted losses to get valuable draft picks and begin an immediate rebuild, other teams are still stuck in mediocrity. Here are the worst teams per conference since the 2012 NBA season.
2012 NBA Season - Charlotte Bobcats (7-59)
There is no excuse for any NBA team to win less than 10 games in an entire season. Even in a lockout-shortened season, the Bobcats managed the worst season in the history of the league. The team was devoid of any talent, except the presence of a rookie Kemba Walker. Walker averaged 12.1 PPG in 27.2 MPG, but the leading scorer was Gerald Henderson who put up only 15.1 PPG. This season was a nightmare for Charlotte fans and will likely be a forgotten experience for all of them.
2013 NBA Season - Orlando Magic (20-62)
Outside of Tobias Harris (17.3 PPG) and the rising presence of Nikola Vucevic (13.1 PPG and 11.9 RPG), the Orlando Magic had little to be excited about in 2013. The franchise ranked 27th in offensive rating and 25th in defensive rating and were pushovers in every sense of the word. Orlando struggled to score and also get stops but were still able to get Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 overall pick for next season.
2014 NBA Season - Milwaukee Bucks (15-67)
The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions as of 2021, but it was a process for them to get there. Under head coach Larry Drew, the Bucks ranked dead-last in defensive rating and 26th in offensive rating, without much to be happy about except the growth from second-year man Khris Middleton and third-year man Brandon Knight. Of course, Middleton would blossom into a key piece for them in the future so it all worked out in the end.
2015 NBA Season - New York Knicks (17-65)
With superstar Carmelo Anthony appearing in only 40 games, the Knicks were an utter disaster. Anthony averaged 24.2 PPG in his time on the court, but even when healthy, the Knicks could not surround him with any help. Amar’e Stoudemire only appeared in 36 games as well, starting 14 games and averaging 12.0 PPG. The Knicks were slowly falling apart and their duo of Anthony and Stoudemire were not cooperating on the court nor staying healthy enough to make an impact. As a result, New York finished last in offense and would have a couple of bad seasons before their most recent success.
2016 NBA Season - Philadelphia 76ers (10-72)
The 2016 season was the epitome of “The Process” headlined by executives Bryan Colangelo, Jerry Colangelo, and Sam Hinkie. They had two centers battling for the same spot in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid (drafted in 2014) was nursing a foot injury. Philadelphia began the paradigm shift of losing on purpose and being proud of it. That rubbed fans and pundits the wrong way, but it worked out because drafting Joel Embiid would become their franchise player the following season.
2017 NBA Season - Brooklyn Nets (20-62)
The Nets were a very bad team in 2017, and only had franchise center Brook Lopez to be proud about. The big man averaged 20.5 PPG to lead the team in scoring, but only managed to grab 5.4 RPG. Without anyone else to contribute in other areas, the team finished with the worst record in the East and the 29th best defense. The Nets are title contenders just 4 years later, but it was not easy to get the team to a point where they could attract top free agents.
2018 NBA Season - Atlanta Hawks (24-58)
A career-best season from Dennis Schroder (19.4 PPG and 6.2 APG) was not enough to guide the Hawks to a winning record. Atlanta finished last in the East as they were ranked 25th in offense and 23rd in defense. The Hawks drafted John Collins with the No. 19 overall pick and averaged 10.1 PPG in his rookie season, so developing their current starting power forward was positive when looking back.
2019 NBA Season - New York Knicks (17-65)
It is amazing how the New York Knicks went from having a putrid conference-worst record to being a playoff team in just 2 years. Thanks to the signing of coach Tom Thibodeau and the rise of Julius Randle, the Knicks should be a playoff team for years to come especially with the recent additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.
2020 NBA Season - Cleveland Cavaliers (19-46)
It is expected that the Cleveland Cavaliers will struggle without the overbearing presence of LeBron James. The King is Cleveland's hero, and without him, the city will not have a very good basketball team. The Cavaliers are in complete rebuild mode and are developing young players, something that did not yield a great record in 2020.
2021 NBA Season - Cleveland Cavaliers (20-52)
For the second straight season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held the worst record in the Eastern Conference. The franchise was incapable of winning games with a young roster and even with talents such as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, the playoffs seem so far away. The Cavaliers drafted Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick so they are still stockpiling talent which is a great thing.
2012 NBA Season - New Orleans Hornets (21-45)
Under young head coach Monty Williams, the New Orleans Hornets were not a competitive team without their franchise superstar Chris Paul. With Paul starting the 2012 season with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hornets struggled to find consistency and leadership on the floor. Eric Gordon only played 9 games, yet still finished as the team’s best scorer (20.6 PPG). This meant the team ranked last in points scored, and also last in team pace. Without much scoring, the Hornets’ poor season was brushed away thanks to the embarrassing Charlotte Hornets in the East.
2013 NBA Season - Phoenix Suns (25-57)
Outside of 26-year-old Goran Dragic (14.7 PPG and 7.4 APG), the Phoenix Suns were not able to find consistent offense. That led the Suns to have the 2nd worst offensive rating in the league while also having the 26th best defense, a recipe for a poor record. The Suns were under construction following the Steve Nash era and they would have some very bad seasons coming up in due time.
2014 NBA Season - Utah Jazz (25-57)
The Utah Jazz were a young team in 2014 as they were developing 4 players at the time: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and Trey Burke. All of these players were under 24 years old and were becoming acclimated with the NBA game. Hayward led all players in scoring (16.2 PPG) and Derrick Favors was becoming a solid post player (13.3 PPG and 8.7 RPG), but the Jazz still finished second-last in defensive rating and second-last in points scored.
2015 NBA Season - Minnesota Timberwolves (16-66)
The Minnesota Timberwolves had some very promising young players on the roster in Andrew Wiggins (No. 1 pick) and Zach LaVine (No. 13 pick), so the goal was to develop their future franchise stars. The presence of 38-year old Kevin Garnett was also a plus because the “Big Ticket” was teaching the two 19-year olds how to win games. Unfortunately for Timberwolves fans, neither Wiggins nor LaVine are on the squad 6 years later and the team has not improved much at all.
2016 NBA Season - Los Angeles Lakers (17-65)
The Los Angeles Lakers were a poorly run franchise for a few years until LeBron James joined, and that was the case in 2016 as well. The Lakers were atrocious on both ends of the court, and their only shining light was the retirement tour of the great Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba was 37 years old and a shell of his former self, but a 60-point performance in his last game will remain in people's memories forever.
2017 NBA Season - Phoenix Suns (24-58)
After having the worst record in the West in 2013, Phoenix were once again at the bottom of the Western Conference. Devin Booker (20 years old) was coming into his own as a second-year player, averaging 22.1 PPG, but the team was not ready to become effective on either end of the court. Ranking last in OPPG, the Suns were pushovers all season long.
2018 NBA Season - Phoenix Suns (21-61)
The following season, Phoenix once again had the worst record in the West and head coach Earl Watson was generating criticism before being fired as head coach before the 2019 season. The Suns had Devin Booker blossoming into a very effective scorer (24.9 PPG), but they once again ranked last in defense and also last in offense. The Suns were poorly managed and did not have the right players on the team, although they would improve very little the following season.
2019 NBA Season - Phoenix Suns (19-63)
Under new head coach Igor Kokoskov, the Suns did not improve and actually became worse. But the good news was that they had No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton to be proud about as the big man averaged 16.3 PPG and 10.3 RPG while making the All-Rookie Team. Devin Booker was an All-Star Team snub after failing to make the team despite putting up 26.6 PPG, so the future was clearly bright for Phoenix and it was as they became NBA finalists 2 years later.
2020 NBA Season - Golden State Warriors (15-50)
Without Kevin Durant (who departed to Brooklyn), Klay Thompson (who missed the season with an injury), and Stephen Curry (played 5 games); the Golden State Warriors were horrifically bad. D’Angelo Russell was acquired by the team in the deal to send Durant to Brooklyn, but even he only appeared in 33 games. The Warriors were not expected to be great, so they tanked the season to draft James Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick.
2021 NBA Season - Houston Rockets (17-55)
The Houston Rockets were forced to trade their superstar James Harden after the player made a massive upheaval about the franchise's situation. With Harden gone, Houston had no choice but to completely tank the season for a top-3 pick. They ended up with the No. 2 pick and drafted Jalen Green, so things could be picking up in Houston in a few years. But winning 17 games hurts, especially after they wanted to keep James Harden on the squad.