We have always celebrated the best teams in NBA history. The 1996 Bulls, the 2016 Warriors, the 2001 Lakers, and so on and so forth all get their roses. As they should. Have we ever taken the time to dive into the worst teams in NBA history? I mean, yes, we have always poked fun at the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats for being the worst team in NBA history. You never really hear about the context behind those bad seasons. What did the roster look like? What were their bright spots, if any? Did injuries doom their season from an early point? Today, all of that changes.
Today, we take a look at every NBA franchise and the worst season they have ever put together. Some of these seasons are as recent as just 3 years ago, while others go back to the 70s and 80s. More than one of these teams that you see on here was affected by injury or some other form of deterrent out of their control. Other teams simply did not put a team on the court that could put any good basketball together. No matter the circumstances, the stories are unique and fun to dive into.
Here is every NBA franchise’s worst season in history.
Atlanta Hawks - 13-69 (2004-05 Season)
The 2004-05 Atlanta Hawks were not supposed to be very good headed into the season, but it ended way worse than anyone could have thought. In the offseason, they hired a new Head Coach in Mike Woodson. They also drafted both Josh Smith and Josh Childress in the first round of the 2004 draft. They then went out and acquired Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Al Harrington, and Kenny Anderson. The team was not very good from the start, posting a 2-12 record in the month of November.
As the season wore on, things just got worse. Antoine Walker, who was their leading scorer at the time, was traded back to the Celtics, and Kenny Anderson was released. Both Childress and Smith were named to the All-Rookie Team, and Smith won a Dunk Contest that season as well. The Hawks finished their season losing 32 of their final 35 games, including 2 separate losing streaks of 13 and 14 games. Antoine Walker would lead the team for the season in PPG and RPG despite being traded after 53 games. He finished with 20.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG on 41.5% shooting. The Hawks would double their win total the following season with a 26-56 record.
Boston Celtics - 15-67 (1996-97 Season)
Amazingly enough, the 1996-97 Boston Celtics team also featured Antoine Walker along with David Wesley, Dana Barros, Pervis Ellison, and Rick Fox. Walker was selected 6th overall by the Celtics in the 1996 NBA Draft and actually put together a decent rookie season with 17.5 PPG and 9.0 RPG while being selected to the All-Rookie First Team. The team had a solid roster but could never put anything together under Head Coach M. L. Carr.
The Celtics started the season with an abysmal 5-21 record, but the misery didn’t stop there as Barros, Ellison, Dino Radja, and Dee Brown all missed significant time with injuries. The Celtics would go on to have 3 separate double-digit game losing streaks while losing 34 of their final 38 games of the season. The Celtics had 7 players average 10.0 PPG or more, with Walker’s 17.5 PPG leading the way. After the season, the Celtics were pretty much gutted as Carr was fired, and they would lose Fox, Wesley, Eric Williams, and Todd Day to free agency. Can you blame them for jumping from a sinking ship?
Brooklyn Nets - 12-70 (2009-10 Season)
The Brooklyn Nets had their worst franchise record back in the 2009-10 season when they were still in New Jersey. The team featured the likes of Brook Lopez, Rafer Alston, and Devin Harris. The Nets lost their first 18 games of the season that year, becoming the first team in NBA history to do so. They did not gather their first win until December 4th and lost 28 of their first 30 games overall and 40 of their first 43 games. Head Coach Lawrence Frank was fired after just 16 games as the Nets started the season winless.
Kiki Vandeweghe and Del Harris took over the coaching duties from Frank, but the results were more of the same. The Nets would fail to even win 1 game against 20 of the 29 other franchises in basketball that season. Just 4 players eclipsed the 10.0 PPG mark for them on the year. Brook Lopez led the way with 18.8 PPG and 8.6 RPG. Devin Harris finished with 16.9 PPG and 6.6 APG. Rafer Alston and Yi Jianlian also finished with 12.0 PPG and 7.2 RPG. The Nets would double their win total in 2006 with a 24-58 record and wouldn’t register a winning season again until the 2012-13 season.
Charlotte Hornets - 7-59 (2011-12 Season)
The Hornets' worst franchise record is held by a team I mentioned earlier, the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats. This Bobcats team owns the worst record in not only franchise history but NBA history as well. The 2011-12 season was supposed to be one of hope for the future after they chose both Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker in that year’s NBA Draft. The season ended up being anything but hopeful. It got so bad that the team decided to change their name back to the Hornets just 2 years later to try to put it behind them.
This Bobcats team was eliminated from playoff contention, the earliest of any other team in NBA history. After a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 28th, the Bobcats were finally mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Just 4 players contributed anything that could be considered helpful that season. Gerald Henderson was the team’s leading scorer with 15.1 PPG. Corey Maggette contributed 15.0 PPG but only appeared in 32 games for the team. Kemba Walker poured in 12.1 PPG as a rookie, and D. J. Augustin contributed 11.1 PPG. The following season, the Bobcats posted three times the amount of wins as the year before, finishing with a 21-61 record.
Chicago Bulls - 15-67 (2000-01 Season)
The 2000-01 Chicago Bulls were supposed to be far more competitive than they ended up being. They had star Elton Brand as their cornerstone and had added Ron Mercer and Brad Miller in the offseason. They had also just drafted Marcus Fizer and acquired Jamal Crawford in a draft night trade. They got off to a horrid start, losing 24 of their first 27 games. By the All-Star break, they owned a league-worst 6-41 record and finished with the worst record in franchise history at 15-67.
It was Brand’s second season, and he led the lowly Bulls with 20.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.6 BPG. Brand was the lone bright spot for the Bulls that season aside from Marcus Fizer being named to the All-Rookie Second Team. Only 2 players other than Brand finished with double-digit PPG. Ron Mercer was 2nd on the team with 19.7 PPG, and Ron Artest finished the season with 11.9 PPG. Following the season, the Bulls would trade Elton Brand to the Clippers for Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner.
Cleveland Cavaliers - 15-67 (1970-71 Season, 1981-82 Season)
The Cleveland Cavaliers appear as the first team to match their worst record in a season more than once. The 1970-71 season was the first season in existence for the Cavaliers franchise, so it should not be a shock that they landed here on today’s list. As an expansion franchise, the Cavs were able to select 11 players from different teams to form their own. John Johnson was named the first All-Star in franchise history that season and finished the season with 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 4.8 APG. Walt Wesley also recorded 17.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG.
The next time the Cavs matched their 15-win season was in the 1981-82 campaign. The Cavaliers showed zero sign of life throughout the season, losing the final 19 games in a row to end the year. There were 2 players who did their best to keep the team afloat. Ron Brewer finished the year with 19.4 PPG, while Mike Mitchell finished with 19.6 PPG. The Cavs would not see a winning season until 1987-88, when Lenny Wilkens was at the helm.
Dallas Mavericks - 11-71 (1992-93 Season)
The 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks own the 4th worst single-season record in NBA history. The season was doomed before it even started for the team as 4th overall draft pick Jim Jackson held out most of the year over contract issues. Point Guard Fat Lever also missed the entirety of the 1993 season with a knee injury. Through the team’s first 61 games, they had only won 4 and stood with 57 losses. The team also flaunted the worst point differential in NBA history at -15.2 PPG.
Jackson eventually joined the Mavericks in March, but it was far too little, too late. He did help them win 7 more games, though, which surpassed their win total from the previous 61 games. Derek Harper and Jim Jackson were the team’s leading scorers, with Harper recording 18.2 PPG and Jackson adding 16.3 PPG in 28 games played. The Mavs would only win 2 more games in the 199-94 season, making this one of the worst 2-year stretches for any franchise in history.
Denver Nuggets - 11-71 (1997-98 Season)
The Denver Nuggets in 1997-98 were actually supposed to be pretty competitive after an offseason of trades and free agency signing set to improve their team. However, in just the 4th game of the season, newly acquired Eric Williams suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss the season. This was the catalyst for the worst season in franchise history. The Nuggets started the season 2-38, which included a record 23-game losing streak.
At the time of Williams’ injury, he was averaging a team-high 19.8 PPG. After his injury, no one on the Nuggets could match his production, and it felt like they had just phoned it in the rest of the way. Cory Alexander was another productive player for Denver, but he also appeared in just 23 games for the team. Johnny Newman and LaPhonso Ellis both recorded seasons of better than 14.0 PPG, but it was simply not enough. This awful season would probably be more well-known had it not been for the Denver Broncos winning back-to-back Super Bowls to take the city’s mind off of it.
Detroit Pistons - 16-66 (1979-80 Season)
The 1979-80 Pistons were doomed nearly from the start of the season. Head Coach Dick Vitale, yes, that Dick Vitale, pushed for a trade that landed the Pistons Bob McAdoo. The trade proved to be disastrous for Detroit and fruitful for Boston, as they were able to land both Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in its aftermath. Meanwhile, the Pistons fired Vitale just 12 games into the season, and they also lost both McAdoo and Bob Lanier to season-ending injuries early on.
Through 41 games, the Pistons were an abysmal 10-31. They would only win 6 more games for the entirety of the season, and that included a 13-game losing streak to end it. It was the worst season anyone had seen since the 1972-73 76ers, who finished 9-73. For the Pistons, John Long led the way after McAdoo and Lanier’s injuries with 19.4 PPG. Terry Tyler and Kent Benson also contributed 12.0 PPG on the season. The Pistons would return to an above .500 club once again in 1983-84.
Golden State Warriors - 12-57 (1952-53 Season)
This should tell you what kind of tradition of winning they have in Golden State. You have to go back to the 1952-53 season to find their worst in franchise history. The Warriors were still a franchise that resided in Philadelphia. The team's owner, coach, and general manager titles all belonged to one man, Edward Gottlieb. He didn’t do his job all that well in the 1952-53 season, as they would have the worst season ever by a Warriors team.
The season was just 69 games long back in 1953. The team had 4 different losing streaks over the course of the season that were 10 games or longer. Neil Johnston was the lone star for the Warriors as he finished the year with 22.3 PPG and 13.9 RPG. Three other players finished with double-digit PPG, and they were Andy Phillip, Joe Fulks, and Danny Finn. They all hovered right around the 11.0 PPG mark. The following season they would win 29 games and achieve their next winning season in 1955-56 with the arrival of Paul Arizin.
Houston Rockets - 14-68 (1982-83 Season)
The 1982-83 Houston Rockets are one of the more surprising teams on this list. They were just two years removed from an NBA Finals appearance in 1981 but had lost franchise player Moses Malone in the offseason. The season started off miserably, with the Rockets losing their first 10 games by an average of 18.4 PPG. Their longest winning streak of the season was just two games for reference.
The worst season wasn’t all bad in hindsight. It set them up to select Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon first overall in the next 2 NBA drafts. For 1982-83, the Rockets were led by Caldwell Jones, Calvin Murphy, an aging Elvin Hayes, and point guard Allan Leavell. It would be Leavell who would lead the team in scoring with his 14.8 PPG. Murphy added 12.8 PPG, and Hayes added 12.9 PPG. The Rockets would win 29 games the following season, finishing with a 43-121 record over 1983 and 1984.
Indiana Pacers - 20-62 (1982-83 Season)
Another team from the 1982-83 season makes our list as the Indiana Pacers also had their worst season ever during this time. The 1982-83 Pacers were coached by Jack McKinney, who was miraculously able to keep his job after the franchise-worst 20-62 finish. The team was very middle-of-the-pack on offense, finishing 15th out of 23 teams in offensive rating. The defense was a different story as they finished 22nd out of 23 teams in defensive rating, allowing opponents to score 114.5 PPG.
The 1982-83 Pacers had some talent on their roster. Clark Kellogg had a monster season for Indiana, finishing with 20.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 1.7 SPG from the power forward position. Herb Williams also provided 16.9 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 78 games for the Pacers in 1983. Billy Knight made 80 appearances for the team and contributed 17.1 PPG as well. The Pacers would not finish above .500 again until the 1989-90 season.
Los Angeles Clippers - 12-70 (1986-87 Season)
The 1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers are tied with the Nets for the 6th worst record in NBA history. Coached by Don Chaney, the Clippers were set to make a decent run in the 1986-87 season, but the laws of nature had other plans. The Clippers had Cedric Maxwell, who was still productive at 31 years old, but he suffered an injury that cost him 47 games that season. They also had Marques Johnson, who was an All-Star for the team the previous year, but he also went down with an injury and appeared in just 10 games that year.
The previous year with both Johnson and Maxwell playing full seasons, the Clippers finished 32-50, which was actually good for 4th in their division. Without them, they looked far worse and one of the worst teams to be trotted out on the court that year. Mike Woodson would end up leading the team in scoring with his 17.1 PPG. Michael Cage also provided 15.7 PPG and 11.5 RPG. The Clippers would win just 17 games the following season and wouldn’t have another winning season until they finished 45-37 in 1991-92.
Los Angeles Lakers - 17-65 (2015-16 Season)
Do you remember the farewell tour for Kobe Bryant in 2016? It was amazing, as every city paid homage to one of the best players in league history. Unfortunately, one thing that sort of goes forgotten during that season is that Kobe’s farewell came in the midst of the worst season in franchise history. That season, the Lakers had the worst offense in basketball, finishing dead last in offensive rating on the year.
Kobe played 66 games and averaged 17.6 PPG on the year. Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson each provided slightly above 15.0 PPG, while Julius Randle finished with 11.3 PPG and 10.2 RPG. The only other player to average double-digit PPG was D’Angelo Russell, with his 13.2 PPG. The Lakers would rebuild perfectly just 3 seasons later when they acquired LeBron James via free agency and, one year later, grabbed Anthony Davis in a trade. They would go on to win the NBA championship in 2020, with Davis and James leading the way.
Memphis Grizzlies - 8-42 (1998-99 Season)
To find the Memphis Grizzlies’ worst season ever, you have to go back to when they were still playing north of the border in Vancouver. The Grizzlies had just selected Mike Bibby with the 1st pick in the 1998 Draft and still had veterans such as Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Bryant Reeves. In a lockout-shortened season, the Grizzlies would win just 8 games even after winning 4 out of their first 10. Reeves would play just 25 games due to weight control and knee injuries that ultimately cost him his career.
The team struggled on both offense and defense as they were able to record just 88.9 PPG, which ranked 24th in the NBA. The lone bright spot for Vancouver came in the form of Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Shareef would play in all 50 games for the Grizzlies and averaged 23.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.1 BPG. Bibby also had a solid rookie year with 13.2 PPG and 6.5 APG. Just 2 and a half seasons later, the Vancouver Grizzlies were on their way to Memphis, where they remain today as a much better basketball team than the 1998-99 squad.
Miami Heat - 15-67 (1988-89 Season, 2007-08 Season)
The Miami Heat are the second team on our list to match their franchise-worst record twice in their history. The 1988-89 season was their inaugural season as a franchise in the NBA. It didn’t start out as hoped as they would go on to start the season 0-17. The team was coached by Ron Rothstein and, with their first draft pick ever, selected Rony Seikaly. Their leading scorers were Kevin Edwards with 13.8 PPG and Rory Sparrow with 12.5 PPG.
The 2007-08 Miami Heat were just 2 years removed from an NBA championship yet found themselves at the bottom of the league in 2008. In Pat Riley’s final season as Head Coach, the team won just 8 games in the first 2 months of the season. This also happened to be Alonzo Mourning’s final season in the NBA. Dwyane Wade, the 2006 Finals MVP, battled injuries all season long and missed the team’s final 21 games as he watched them slide all the way down the standings. Wade was their leading and only 20.0 PPG scorer at 24.6 PPG in 51 games played.
Milwaukee Bucks - 15-67 (2013-14 Season)
The 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks are another one of the more recent bad seasons in NBA history. Under Head Coach Larry Drew, the Bucks finished with the worst record in the NBA at 15-67. Coincidentally, this was the same year that they drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th overall pick. He appeared in 77 games that season and averaged just 6.8 PPG and 4.4 RPG, as he was not nearly the player he is currently.