In the NBA, there are a handful of teams that have separated themselves from the pack as legitimate title contenders (think the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and San Antonio Spurs). However, there a few teams that have backpedaled into irrelevancy in the league. In some cases, these franchises demonstrate a lack of stability that has resulted in plenty of struggles and serious questions about the direction that the organization is headed. In others, they’re simply trying to bomb as hard as possible. With that in mind, here are the three worst teams currently in the NBA.
3. Phoenix Suns
Two seasons ago the Phoenix Suns narrowly missed the playoffs despite having won 48 regular-season games for the first time since their last trip to the postseason in the 2009-10 campaign, when they were upended in the Western Conference Finals by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. Since then, the Suns have regressed in a hurry, and currently hold the third-worst record in the league.
Things have quickly fallen apart for the once-promising team, especially in the backcourt, which once featured two promising faces in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Of course, Dragic forced his way out of town prior to last season’s trade deadline, and Bledsoe has dealt with significant injuries in two of the last three years. The team also moved both Morris twins after a rough patch this season, with Markieff disgruntled with his brother’s departure in the offseason.
All of this culminated in the firing of Jeff Hornacek. At the time of the coaching change, the Suns had lost 19 of their last 21 games, including 14 straight on the road. It’s clear that the Suns are reeling this season with no true sense of direction. The team does possess a couple of young players to build around in Brandon Knight and rookie Devin Booker, but there isn’t much past that, aside from Tyson Chandler.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Over the last three seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers have constantly sat at the bottom of the standings. They are currently experiencing what will likely be a franchise-worst regular-season record, which will also mark the first time that they have missed the playoffs in three straight years and the first back-to-back 60-plus loss season.
The bulk of Los Angeles’ issues lie on the defensive end of the floor, giving up the third-most points (106.7), fourth-highest opponent field goal percentage (46.9), most points in the paint per game (47.0), and third-highest fast break points allowed (15.6). The team also has their fair share of struggles offensively, ranking 27th in points per game (97.1) as well as last in both field goal percentage (41.4) and assists per contest (18.1).
That said, the Lakers do have a few young promising players (Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr.) that give the franchise a bright future following Kobe Bryant’s retirement after this season. It may be another downtrodden year for the Lakers, but their young core could soon change that status depending on their development.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
There isn’t much of a question about which team is currently the worst in the league; the Philadelphia 76ers are the obvious choice. The 76ers are the one franchise that has, in an indirect way, embraced the “tanking” culture by posting two consecutive 60-plus loss seasons and missing the playoffs in each of the last four years. Philadelphia is heading toward adding another 60-loss campaign to their recent struggles, which includes losing an NBA-record 28 straight games.
There is a young core of players in Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington, and Joel Embiid, but the franchise hasn’t been able to piece it together with their roster. What’s at the forefront of this issue: The 76ers haven’t been an attractive destination for free agents — a critical part of the team’s inability to break their losing stigma.
Along with that, the team has had plenty of salary cap space over the last few seasons but has been unable to lure in any notable players in free agency. All in all, it’s an extremely difficult task for the 76ers to overcome these circumstances, but the team will remain the definition of a bottom dweller in the league until they overcome their obstacles.