No team is immune to bad basketball. Big markets, midsized markets, small markets. Older teams and younger teams, injured teams and healthy teams. Take a peek toward the bottom of the NBA standings just over a month into the season and you’ll find a little bit of everything.
But which one has been worst of all? And is that team better off long-term than its other embarrassing contemporaries? We rank the worst of the worst in the NBA, starting with the least-worst.
The Ones With a Golden Compass
7. Atlanta Hawks (3–13)
Forgive me as I start off with a few highlights from Hawks rookie John Collins. I can’t help—
Als Hawks 23+9a l'alemany Schröder i 2 coses: l'escola Spurs en moure la bola i la bona vista per triar John Collins (18, 7/8 i 7r) al draft... pic.twitter.com/RliHEXGNmH— Jordi Colomé Batlle (@JordiColomeB) November 19, 2017
—but talk about Collins because the Hawks—
Rappel : deux hommes ne suffisent pas pour boxer JOHN COLLINS au rebond.— TrashTalk (@TrashTalk_fr) November 19, 2017
—aren’t very good.
Atlanta is not a League Pass team, but Collins is undoubtedly a League Pass player. The Hawks are indeed in full-on rebuilding mode, but they’re still showcasing the sort of fluid system and youth development that can carry over once they add more top-level talent. And despite being tied for the fewest wins in the league, they are 25th in net rating (minus-3.6) and 26th in point differential (minus-4.6). A slight regression to the mean may be coming, but for a Hawks team that’d be better off nabbing a top pick in next year’s draft, let’s hope it doesn’t. Collins and Michael Porter Jr.? Sign me up.
6. Chicago Bulls (3–11)
Intrasquad fighting notwithstanding, the Bulls are trying to make their rebuild look semi-palatable. While they may have been mocked for the trade haul they received from Minnesota on draft night for Jimmy Butler, they at least picked a clear path for the franchise moving forward.
The good: Kris Dunn is getting time (26 minutes a game) to work out his issues, Zach LaVine is expected to go through contact drills Monday, Lauri Markkanen, at worst, looks like a 7-footer with a consistent jumper.
The bad: Justin Holiday is taking more shots than Markkanen, and the Bulls are stuck with both Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic, the latter of whom has a no-trade clause and is recovering from a broken jaw.
The best: They’re 3–11. Marvin Bagley III, here they come!
The One With No Reason to Lose
5. Brooklyn Nets (6–10)
For a brief moment at the start of the season, it seemed like the Nets were going to be the spoiler team in the East. They were 3–2 following a win over the Cavs, and they had done it by playing fast (no. 1 in pace), aesthetically pleasing basketball. They then lost eight of their next 11, as well as D’Angelo Russell to a left knee injury for the foreseeable future.
Enter Spencer Dinwiddie, who is shooting 39.3 from the field and 42.2 percent from 3, and posting career numbers in nearly every category. Dinwiddie’s helpful presence (plus-4.1 net rating) has helped the Nets hang with teams like the Celtics and Nuggets and remain watchable. Given that they don’t own their draft pick this season, there’s an incentive for Kenny Atkinson’s team to keep running and keep trying to win.
The Wild Cards
4. Phoenix Suns (7–11)
I mean this seriously: The Suns should take pride in not having the worst point differential in the NBA. Phoenix lost its first three games by a combined 92 points, but it is only minus-8.1 on the season, which ranks above both the Bulls and the Kings. Of course, the Suns had to shed some baggage along the way, firing coach Earl Watson and trading Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee for an ill-fitting Greg Monroe and some draft picks. Things have leveled out under interim coach Jay Triano, but Devin Booker is the only Sun making significant strides. But, hey, another top draft pick wouldn’t hurt.
3. Sacramento Kings (4–12)
Man, the Kings’ fortuitous draft night feels like so long ago, doesn’t it? Sure, we’re only 16 games into their season, but it appears we underestimated how much work it would take to get Sacramento back to a respectable level.
De’Aaron Fox needs time to develop, and Buddy Hield is back to shooting shoddily inside the 3-point arc (43.3 percent on 2-pointers) after coming on strong following his trade out of New Orleans. Old heads Vince Carter, George Hill, and Zach Randolph don’t seem to be helping much on the court. And no young player other than Fox has shown flashes of making the leap. The Kings are the worst offensive team in the league, and though they would benefit to lose more games and land a high pick, their glut of young players may suffer in the long run from that type of sustained malaise.
2. Dallas Mavericks (3–14)
Dallas is a conundrum. On the one hand, Dennis Smith Jr.
On the other hand, Mark Cuban said this past summer that the Mavs did everything they could to tank at the end of last season. They should start to do the same this season, but an über-competitive Rick Carlisle, a tough-to-watch Dirk Nowitzki, and shot-happy wings in Harrison Barnes and Wes Matthews don’t make for a good tanking team. Right now, the Mavs are neither a contender nor a competitor. They’re just an old team with a young star in the making and no clear direction.
1. L.A. Clippers (5–10)
“Clippers more than ready for Patrick Beverley’s return.”
“Clippers want Wesley Johnson to shoot more than he ever has before.”
“Doc Rivers calls out Clippers after loss to Hornets stretches skid to eight.”
These three headlines pulled from the Los Angeles Times’ Clippers page just about cover the team’s descent amid their eight-game losing streak. The Clippers are last on the No-Power Rankings because they shouldn’t be sniffing this position in the first place.
A 5–2 record to start off the season made us prematurely believe that, hey, maybe they were better off without Chris Paul. Or that, hey, maybe this was finally the season Blake Griffin would become a dynamic scorer and facilitator. Heck, even that this would be the season they would stay healthy.
How naive of us. The Clippers aren’t one of the worst teams in the league based on talent alone, but they’re probably not very good either, which could make Doc Rivers the easy scapegoat if they don’t get out of this funk.