While winning an NBA Championship is every single team’s ultimate goal, they all know that they need to make it to the playoffs first, so they need to prove their worth during the regular season if they don’t want to be left behind.
The NBA is the most competitive league in the world, so having top-tier talents on your squad won’t guarantee you making the playoffs, and if you don’t take our word for it, just ask LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Crazy as it may seem, all teams have missed the playoffs at least once throughout their history, as just 16 franchises are entitled of a spot in basketball’s ultimate stage. Today, we’re going to let you know about the last time a team missed the playoffs.
Atlanta Hawks - 2019 (29-53)
The Atlanta Hawks weren’t actually expected to compete this season, as they were looking forward to developing chemistry between Trae Young and John Collins. While they didn’t win many games in order to get another top-5 pick in the Draft, the rapport between their young stars is quite encouraging for the future, even if they finished with the 12th spot in the East.
Boston Celtics - 2014 (25-57)
Crazy as it may seem, the Boston Celtics were actually one of the worst teams in the NBA during Brad Stevens’ early days, and it’s crazy to think that they’re now a Championship contender. Back in 2014, they finished with the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Brooklyn Nets - 2018 (28-54)
With D’Angelo Russell in the shelf with an injury for most of the season, there wasn’t much reason for the Brooklyn Nets to actually try and compete night in and night out, as they were incredibly short-handed in terms of talent. That’s why they finished with a mediocre record and way outside of the playoffs with the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Charlotte Hornets - 2019 (39-43)
The Charlotte Hornets were once again knocking on the door to make it to the playoffs, but Kemba Walker couldn’t lift them on his own despite his incredible season. Now that he’s eligible for a supermax contract extension, he may opt to give up on some of that money just to be able to actually compete for a Championship elsewhere.
Chicago Bulls - 2019 (22-60)
The Bulls didn’t tank, they just weren’t good enough to compete. Yet, the future looks bright for this team’s young core, even though they still need a huge improvement in the point guard spot. They finished up with the 13th spot in the East and are entitled of yet another 7th overall pick, so it’s just a matter of time before they’re able to compete again.
Cleveland Cavaliers - 2019 (19-63)
The Cleveland Cavaliers were tied for the 2nd worst record in the league, and the future isn’t really encouraging for this franchise. Other than their 1st round pick and Collin Sexton, they don’t have much to brag about right now, and they must find a way to get rid of Kevin Love’s contract as soon as possible.
Dallas Mavericks - 2019 (33-49)
The Dallas Mavericks showed glimpses of a team that’s going to be extremely fun to watch next season, especially when Kristaps Porzingis is back and ready to perform. Luka Doncic exceeded all expectations and while they couldn’t give Dirk a proper farewell, there are plenty of reasons to be excited if you’re a Mavericks fan.
Denver Nuggets - 2018 (46-36)
The 2017-18 Denver Nuggets were incredibly fun to watch, but they lost a couple of key matchups vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves, and eventually fell short of the 8th seed in the Western Conference, even though they competed until the very last day of the regular season for that last shot at the playoffs.
Detroit Pistons - 2018 (39-43)
Back in 2018, the Detroit Pistons shook the NBA by trading for Blake Griffin in order to make a huge push for the playoffs, but his health issues, lack of chemistry and poor coaching, eventually made the team slip all the way to the 9th spot in the East, even though they were in the playoff picture for most of the season.
Golden State Warriors - 2012 (23-43)
Yes, the Golden State Warriors missed the playoffs, even if younger fans couldn’t believe it. Long before the Splash Brothers, the 73-9, Kevin Durant and the 5th straight trips to the Finals, this team was a bottom-of-the-pack kind of team, and they finished with the 13th spot in the Western Conference.
Houston Rockets - 2012 (34-32)
The Houston Rockets almost made it to the playoffs during this controversial season, but, eventually, the Utah Jazz outplayed them for the 8th seed and the last ticket to the playoffs. Notably, that was way before James Harden became the greatest scorer in the planet, and they landed Mike D’Antoni to pull the strings of the offense.
Indiana Pacers - 2015 (38-44)
Truth to be told, the Indiana Pacers weren’t even supposed to make it to the playoffs last year, but they seem to have been great since moving on from Paul George. Still, there was a time when they didn’t fare so well, and couldn’t even make it to the playoffs in the lesser Eastern Conference. Back in 2015, they finished just outside of the playoffs with the 9th spot in the East.
Los Angeles Clippers - 2018 (42-40)
With no Chris Paul and no Blake Griffin, there wasn’t much of a point for the Los Angeles Clippers to actually try and compete back in 2018. The team needed to stop winning games and kick start a rebuilding process, but they were reluctant to fully-embrace the tank. Now, they’re in a prime position to become one of the league’s Championship contenders, but back then, they slipped all the way to the 10th spot in the West.
Los Angeles Lakers - 2019 (37-45)
It’s been six years since the Lakers last made it to the playoffs, and not even LeBron James could fix that mess right away. Just when they looked like a legit threat in the West, the King fell down with an injury and missed almost 20 games. They finished below .500 again, fired Luke Walton, and ended up with the 10th spot in the Conference.
Memphis Grizzlies - 2019 (33-49)
The Memphis Grizzlies finally faced the fact that they had to part ways with Marc Gasol and fully embrace the tank, and truth to be told, it really paid off for them so far. Jaren Jackson Jr looks like a stud in the making and they just need to trade away Mike Conley to pair him with more young talents. They finished with the 12th spot in the West and the ‘Grit-and-grind’ era is officially over.
Miami Heat - 2019 (39-43)
The Miami Heat was supposed to give Dwyane Wade a last shot to make it to the playoffs, but constant injuries and lack of a truly talented supporting cast eventually cost the Miami Heat that 8th seed in the East. Now, Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have a lot of thinking to do, as it looks like they’d be better off just starting over.
Milwaukee Bucks - 2016 (33-49)
The Milwaukee Bucks have come a long way in no time. They went from not even making the playoffs in 2016 to clinching homecourt advantage throughout the entire postseason after getting the best record in the league. Obviously, that was way before Giannis Antetokounmpo turned into the monster he is nowadays, and before the team surrounded him with a top-notch supporting cast as well.
Minnesota Timberwolves - 2019 (36-46)
After putting an end to their playoff drought two seasons ago, the Timberwolves were one of the league’s laughing stocks this year. When Jimmy Butler exposed them and then forced a trade out of the team, they just didn’t have enough to make a playoff push in the West. Eventually, they finished the season with the 11th spot.
New Orleans Pelicans - 2019 (33-49)
The New Orleans Pelicans were bound to compete for a spot in the playoffs after landing Julius Randle. With Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, and Anthony Davis, it looked like this team was ready to make some noise. Then injuries happened, then Davis asked for a trade, yadda, yadda, yadda, they end up with the 13th spot in the West.
New York Knicks - 2019 (17-65)
The New York Knicks just can’t catch a break. After finishing the league with the worst record, all they got was the 3rd overall pick in the Draft. They flat out stopped competing for a playoff spot just a couple of weeks into the season, but at least they have enough cap space to make a run at two superstars in free agency.
Oklahoma City Thunder - 2015 (45-37)
With Kevin Durant sidelined with a lingering injury, it was impossible for Russell Westbrook to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs, even despite the fact that they finished 12 games above .500 in the wild Western Conference. They barely made the cut, but the Pelicans owned the tiebreaker with them.
Orlando Magic - 2018 (25-57)
The Orlando Magic finished the season with the 2nd worst record in the Eastern Conference and the 4th worst record in the league. They lacked a true playmaker, a capable coaching staff, and pretty much got rid of Serge Ibaka midseason to start tanking again. Luckily for them, that poor season helped them land Mo Bamba.
Philadelphia 76ers - 2017 (28-54)
It’s crazy to think that a team like the Philadelphia 76ers wasn’t even in the playoff picture just a handful of years ago, and now they’re one of the strongest teams in the world with one of the most entertaining and promising young cores in the league. But then, with no Ben Simmons and no Joel Embiid, there weren’t many victories either.
Phoenix Suns - 2019 (19-63)
Despite entering the year with high expectations and one of the best young cores in the league, the Phoenix Suns ended up tied for the 2nd worst record in the league. They haven’t been in the playoffs for 6 years now, and they didn’t even get a top-3 pick after tanking their way through another season.
Portland Trail Blazers - 2013 (33-49)
The Portland Trail Blazers beat the odds this season and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals even after Jusuf Nurkic fell down with an injury. That way, they’ve secured their 6th straight trip to the playoffs. But, way before Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were breaking ankles together, this team wasn’t so lucky, as they finished with the 11th seed in the West.
Sacramento Kings - 2019 (39-43)
The Sacramento Kings were right in the mix to make it to the playoffs this season, but the lack of veteran leadership eventually costed them yet again. With this, it’s been 13 seasons since they last made it to the postseason, which is good for the longest active drought in the NBA right now. Still, the future looks bright for Vlade Divac and his young Kings.
San Antonio Spurs - 1997 (20-62)
Yes, this is not a typo. The last time the San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs was in 1997, so they have the longest active streak in the NBA and it’s not even close. The Spurs were missing their star David Robinson due to injury and eventually ended up with the 3rd worst record in the entire league. Also, they wound up landing the 1st overall pick to draft Tim Duncan. The rest, as you may know by now, is history.
Toronto Raptors - 2013 (34-48)
The Toronto Raptors are just one game away of making it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, but, truth to be told, there have never been known for their success in the postseason. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until the 2014-14 when they became a regular playoffs team, after finishing with the 10th seed back in 2013.
Utah Jazz - 2016 (40-42)
The Utah Jazz was one of those enticing teams everybody was rooting for, but they just couldn’t quite pull it off when it mattered the most. Now, they have a peaking Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell that looked poised to take this team to the next level, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in 2016, they finished right outside of the playoffs, with the 9th spot in the Western Conference.
Washington Wizards - 2019 (32-50)
The Washington Wizards were a trainwreck all year long, and while it looked like they were going to make a late playoff push, they weren’t even close to landing that 8th spot in the East. Led by Bradley Beal, the Wizards were missing John Wall for most of the year, and it doesn't’ look like this team is going to be back in the playoffs any time soon.