As the quarter mark of the 2017-2018 NBA season passes by, Boston, Cleveland, Houston, and Golden State are at the top of their respective conferences, as many expected. The situation at the other end of the standings is also interesting. The race for the worst record in the NBA will be competitive for the rest of this season, but which team will come out on top(or at the bottom)?
Last season, the five worst teams by record were:
5. Orlando Magic – 29-53
4. Philadelphia 76ers – 28-54
3. Los Angeles Lakers – 26-56
2. Phoenix Suns – 24-58
1. Brooklyn Nets – 20-62
With the 76ers adding Markelle Fultz, JJ Redick, and Amir Johnson, while Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid return from injury, Philadelphia will most likely be an improved team, and won’t finish in the bottom five. So far, they’re hovering around the fifth playoff spot in the East, even without the services of Fultz, who has been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury.
After an active offseason which included drafting the electric Lonzo Ball, signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and trading the disgruntled D’Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez, the Lakers will hope to contend for the eighth and final playoff seed in the West. Right now, they are struggling to do this, as an 8-13 record indicates. However, there are plenty of worse teams in the conference.
There are now 7 primary contenders for the title of the NBA’s bottom feeder.
The Kings were supposed to take a step forward this season, but it hasn’t happened. After adding veterans Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, as well as rookie De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento has the fourth-worst record in the league. Randolph leads the team in points per game with a measly 12.9. They are a very young team with a decent amount of talent, but no blue chip leader as of yet.
After a turbulent offseason which included the retaining of Nerlens Noel, Dirk Nowitzki considering retirement, and the drafting of the dynamic Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas has gotten off to a very disappointing start, staring back at a 5-17 record, worst in the Western Conference. The Nowitzki era appears to be drawing to a close, as he will turn 40 years old in June. Fortunately for the Mavs, the 2018 NBA draft class looks to have multiple franchise cornerstones.
In Dwyane Wade’s homecoming season, the Bulls were able to take the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, as they finished with a 41-41 record. But, after parting ways with Wade, and trading away Butler to Minnesota, Chicago lacks high-end talent. They don’t have a number one scorer, as evidenced by nine players averaging at least six points, but none reaching fifteen per game. At 3-17, the Bulls posess the worst record in the NBA.
After the Paul George trade, the Pacers were maligned for not acquiring equal value in return for George. This criticism was deserved, as Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis were the primary pieces sent to Indy. But despite this failure, Indiana has a surprisingly decent roster. Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Oladipo, Lance Stephenson, and big men Thaddeus Young, Al Jefferson, and Myles Turner should keep the Pacers in a lot of games. Indiana currently owns the seventh seed in the east, due in large part to the improvement of Oladipo, who is averaging nearly 23 points per game.
Ever since the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade where they sold their future for a season of respectability, the Nets have been the laughing stock of the NBA. Fans have been subject to talent-bare rosters and no high draft picks to add hope, with no light at the end of the tunnel. This season has not been much different.During the off season, Brooklyn traded their best player, Brook Lopez, to the Lakers in exchange for young D’Angelo Russell. Fans will finally have a good young player to be excited about, but that’s about it. Brooklyn also added overpaid veterans Demarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, and Timofey Mozgov. Jeremy Lin, a key rotational player, is now out for the season with a knee injury, a huge blow to Brooklyn. With no clear offensive direction, the Nets are in for another long season. Their first-round pick this year belongs to Cleveland, after Boston traded it to them in the Kyrie Irving deal. Thankfully for Nets fans, this is the last year that they do not own their own first-round selection. The nightmare is almost over, but at 8-13, it is still ongoing.
With a core consisting of Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Simmons, Aaron Gordon, rookie Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic, and Bismack Biyombo, the Magic won’t be threatening many teams. Simmons was their big free agency addition, after a puzzling restricted free agency situation culminating with the San Antonio Spurs letting Simmons walk. Thus far, Orlando has beaten both Cleveland and Golden State. Impressive victories, but they remain out of a playoff spot, at 9-13.
As talent-starved as Chicago is, Atlanta may have the worst roster in the NBA. Dennis Schroder is their best player, and Kent Bazemore is decent, but after that, the outlook is bleak. Taurean Prince and Ersan Ilyasova provide scoring, and Dewayne Dedmon is their rebounding specialist. The Hawks also play in a division with three likely playoff teams, which will make matters worse. At 4-17, Atlanta is fortunate(or perhaps not)that Chicago is even worse.
While every team will deny blatantly tanking for a higher draft pick, it’s awfully suspicious that so many teams have completely cleansed themselves of established veteran players the season before a draft that is envisioned by many to be the best of the decade. For fans of these teams, the future is bright, but the remainder of this season will be tough.