What’s the Worst NBA Team of All Time?

We take a look at the worst NBA teams of all time and try to determine which one was the absolute worst.

The 1992-1993 Dallas Mavericks

In the 1992-1993 season, the Dallas Mavericks finished with a record of 11-71, the worst record in NBA history. The Mavericks were led by head coach Richie Adubato and future Hall of Famer, Detlef Schrempf. They were also one of the worst defensive teams in NBA history, allowing over 118 points per game.

The worst record in NBA history

The 1992-1993 Dallas Mavericks finished the season with an abysmal 11-71 record, the worst in NBA history. Such a bad record would normally guarantee a team the first overall pick in the draft, but because of the league’s new expansion draft rules, the Mavericks were actually forced to give up their first pick to the Charlotte Hornets.

So not only did the Mavericks have the worst record in NBA history, they also had to endure the indignity of having to give away their chance at getting Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal, two of the best players in NBA history. In retrospect, it’s no wonder that some have called this Mavericks team “the worst NBA team of all time.”

A roster full of journeymen and cast-offs

The 1992-1993 Dallas Mavericks were not a good basketball team. They finished the season with a record of 11-71, the second-worst record in the NBA that year. They lost their first 17 games of the season and their last 12 games of the season. They only won two games in December, both against the Orlando Magic, who were also one of the worst teams in the league.

The Mavericks were so bad that they set a then-NBA record for most losses in a single season. They were also just the second team in NBA history to lose 70 or more games in a season, joining the 1972-1973 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73.

The Mavericks roster that year was full of journeymen and cast-offs. Their leading scorer was Fat Lever, who was averaging 18 points per game. He was followed by Roy Tarpley (16 ppg), Rolando Blackman (15 ppg), and Derek Harper (14 ppg). None of those players are currently in the Hall of Fame or even close to being eligible for induction.

In fact, the only player on that Mavericks roster who is currently in the Hall of Fame is head coach Dick Motta, who was inducted in 2018. Motta had won an NBA Championship with the Washington Bullets in 1978, but he was well past his prime by 1993 and he was unable to do anything with this collection of players.

The 1992-1993 Mavericks are just one example of how bad an NBA team can be. But they are far from being the worst team in NBA history.

The 2001-2002 Cleveland Cavaliers

The 2001-2002 Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the worst teams in NBA history. They finished with a record of 17-65, the worst record in the league. They also had the worst point differential in the NBA (-12.3), and they were the only team in the league to not win 30 games.

An expansion team with little talent

In their first season, the Cavs won just 17 games. From there, it only got worse. They won 15 games in their second season, then 14 in their third. In their fourth and final season before LeBron James was drafted, they won just 21 games. In four seasons, they never won more than 24 games in a single season. They were so bad, they finished with the worst record in the NBA three times.

And yet, despite all of that losing, they never had the chance to draft LeBron James. Instead, they drafted players like DeSagana Diop, Dajuan Wagner, and Luke Jackson with those high picks. When LeBron came to Cleveland in 2003, he joined a team that was still filled with losing players. It would take him a few years to turn the franchise around. But when he did, he led them to an NBA Finals appearance in 2007.

The Cavs were awful during those first four seasons, but they were never the worst team in NBA history. That honor belongs to the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73 while averaging just 97 points per game (compared to the Cavaliers’ 109).

A string of bad draft picks

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Cavaliers were a laughingstock of the NBA. They had a string of bad draft picks, including Anthony Bennett (First Overall, 2013), Darius Miles (Third Overall, 2000) and DeSagana Diop (Eighth Overall, 2001). In addition to those terrible draft picks, the Cavaliers also traded away potential star players in Andrew Wiggins (2014) and Kyrie Irving (2011). As a result of all their bad decisions, the Cavaliers put together a roster full of role players and journeymen who were not good enough to compete in the NBA.

The Cavaliers finished the 2001-2002 season with a record of 15-67, which is still the worst record in franchise history. That team was so bad that they actually lost 25 games in a row at one point. To make matters worse, they also set the record for the worst home loss in NBA history when they lost to the Lakers by 48 points. It was clear that this team was not going to be able to turn things around anytime soon.

Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they were able to draft LeBron James in 2003 and he would lead them to becoming one of the best teams in the NBA. However, that doesn’t take away from how bad this team was during this time period.

The 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets

It’s hard to find a team more dysfunctional than the 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets. The team went 12-70, which is the second-worst record in NBA history. They were beset by injuries, bad management, and locker room problems. It was a total disaster.

A team with no identity

The 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets were a team with no identity. They had no superstar player, no clear direction, and no hope of contending for a championship. The Nets were the laughingstock of the NBA, and their record of 12-70 is still the worst in franchise history.

A revolving door of players

It’s hard to find a silver lining when your team is on pace to win just 12 games in an 82-game season. The Nets were abysmal in 2009-2010, finishing with a record of 12-70. They were tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the worst record in the NBA, and their point differential of minus-10.8 points per game was the second worst in the league behind only the Timberwolves.

To make matters worse, the Nets were an absolute mess off the court as well. Head coach Lawrence Frank was fired just two weeks into the season, and his replacement, Kiki Vandeweghe, didn’t fare much better. The team was beset by injuries, as eight different players missed at least 20 games due to injury or illness.

And then there were the trades. In a span of just over six weeks during the 2009-2010 season, the Nets made four separate trades that involved 14 different players. At one point, they had 21 different players on their roster, and only four of those players ended up staying with the team for the entire season. It was truly a revolving door of players, and it’s not surprising that the team was never able to find any sort of rhythm or cohesion on either end of the court.

In short, the 2009-2010 Nets were a complete and utter disaster. They’re unquestionably one of the worst teams in NBA history, and it’s not even close.

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