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Will 2015-16 76ers Eventually Rank Among the League’s Worst-Ever Teams?

Dec. 18, 2015 - Philadelphia, PA, USA - The Philadelphia 76ers' bench watches the end of the game against the New York Knicks on Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Knicks won, 107-97 (Photo by Yong Kim/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)
Yong Kim/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

With 31 losses in their first 33 games, it should come as no surprise that this year’s version of the Philadelphia 76ers are the league’s worst team (they are three-and-half games behind the next worst team, the 5-27 Los Angeles Lakers). But here’s a more pressing question: Will Philadelphia end the season with the worst all-time winning percentage in NBA history?

There’s still several months and more than half of a season to play, but there are some disturbing signs (at least for this year’s 76ers and their fans) that this team may reach a new level of futility. To unwrap these trends, let’s take a look at the previous teams that have had some of the worst seasons in NBA history.

Six teams have ended an NBA season with a winning percentage under 15.0. They are:

2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats, 7-59 10.6 winning percentage
1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, 9-73, 11.0 winning percentage
1992-93 Dallas Mavericks, 11-71, 13.4 winning percentage
1997-98 Denver Nuggets, 11-71, 13.4 winning percentage
1986-87 Los Angeles Clippers, 12-70, 14.6 winning percentage
2009-10 New Jersey Nets, 12-70, 14.6 winning percentage

This year’s 76ers will have to go 11-38 in their final games to avoid joining this above list, and a final record of 8-74 or worse will give them the worst winning percentage of all-time. Anything less than 9-73 would drop their winning percentage under 10.0 (an 8-74 record would be a 9.8 winning percentage).

By looking at the seasons of the six teams listed above with the worst winning percentages in league history, there are some interesting stats that jump out (including poor shooting and poor rebounding):

  • The 97-98 Nuggets won only two of their first 33 contests, same as this year’s 76ers. The Nets, Mavs and 72-73 76ers started 3-30 while the Bobcats and Clippers won four of their first 33 games.
  • The 72-73 76ers featured a future Hall of Fame player. Can you name him? (Answer at the end of the column)
  • Each of the six teams had won at least 20 games the previous season. Both the Nets and Bobcats won 34 games the year before their sub-.150 season.
  • None of the six teams won more than four road games that year. This year’s 76ers have won a game each at home and on the road.
  • Each of the six teams ended up having a new coach after their lowly season. The 72-73 76ers and the Mavs each went through two coaches that season while the Nets had three men as head coach that year.
  • Each of the six teams had the worst or second worst field goal shooting percentage in the league. This year’s 76ers are 29th out of 30 teams in field goal percentage.
  • Four of the six teams ranked in the bottom three in the league in total rebounds.
  • All six ranked in the bottom four in the league for opponents field goal percentage.
  • Five of the six ranked in the bottom four in the league for opponents rebounds. The 76ers this year rank 29th of 30 teams in opponents rebounds.
  • Three of the six teams started their season with losing streaks of 10 games or more; the Nuggets lost 13 straight, the 76ers lost 14 straight, and the Nets lost 19 straight to start the season. This year’s 76ers lost 19 consecutive games to start the season.
  • Of the 10 men who coached the six teams at some time during their sub-15-percent season, Kevin Loughery of the 72-73 76ers went on to win the most games as a head coach in the league with 474. The 72-73 season in Philly was Loughery’s first head coaching job in the league.

Trivia Answer: Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982, Hal Greer played in 38 games for the lowly 72-73 76ers averaging 5.6 points per game. It was his final season in the league.

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