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Is This the Worst Team Ever?

Throughout the annals of NBA history, there have been a handful of teams that have vied for the ignominious title of “worst team of all time.”

From 1992 to 1994, the then-awful Dallas Mavericks won all of 24 games total — a win total that would mark a single season an abject failure, let alone two.

The poor city of Charlotte has endured some historically awful teams in both the Bobcats (now defunct) and the Hornets. Since changing the team moniker back to “Hornets” in 2014 after the short-lived Bobcats era, the franchise has enjoyed just two winning seasons, and one lonely playoff berth.

Historically moribund franchises like the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks have all fielded some historically awful teams before turning things around in more recent seasons.

The 2013-2016 Philadelphia 76ers actually coined a term, “the process,” to describe the way in which the team was operating with the sole intent of collecting assets (rookies, draft picks, veterans on friendly contracts) for a few years, instead of trying to win games. Philly fans endured “The Process” Sixers, a team in the midst of tearing the entire team down to its studs so it could rebuild anew with those aforementioned rookies and draft picks, and saw the team set the current NBA mark for futility with 28 straight losses suffered across the tail end of the 2015 season and the start of the 2016 season.


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Well, the Detroit Pistons have now tied that mark — in just a single season.

As hard as it is to imagine, the Pistons actually began the year 2-1 — a whole, entire game above .500 and technically a winning record — before free-falling to its current 2-29 record.

The Pistons tied “The Process” Sixers Thursday, despite a healthy 19-point halftime lead (the lead would get as large as 21 points) over the team many consider to be the best in the league currently, the Boston Celtics.

When the final overtime buzzer sounded, the Celtics had clawed their way back to win 128-122, sending the reeling Pistons to the brink of history.

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(It’s worth noting that even if the Pistons win their next game, this is still a uniquely historic losing streak, because it came in a single season. The longest single-season losing streak prior to the current Pistons skid was 26 losses in a row.)

But that near-win also highlighted how unlikely this losing streak was for the Pistons.

There are 82 games in a basketball season, not including the playoffs. Basic math and odds suggest that during any 28-game span, there should be at least one game where a team punches above its weight (maybe they’re on fire from the three-point line, or the referees are giving them a favorable whistle) and a superior opposing team regresses to the mean or takes them lightly.

The Thursday tilt against the Celtics felt like a classic example of that scenario, until it wasn’t.

“I hurt for them,” Pistons head coach Monty Williams, ironically the highest-paid coach in the NBA, said about his players after the game, according to ESPN.


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He added: “We feel like we’re just getting so close to not just winning one game but winning a lot of games if we play that way.”

As statistically unlikely as this losing streak is, it also highlights a particularly ominous sign for Pistons fans: Unlike “The Process” Sixers, the Pistons have no such plan of intentional sabotage in place. No, this is a team that has been trying to build around talented do-it-all guard Cade Cunningham since drafting the dynamic prospect in 2021.

There is no fire sale of talent, no unspoken understanding that they would be losing intentionally, and no fancy nickname for whatever “process” Pistons fans are grieving through currently.

Worse yet, whatever the Pistons have been doing to build around Cunningham has clearly not worked. The team won a meager 23 games in Cunningham’s rookie year, 17 games in his sophomore year (in fairness, Cunningham was injured for most of the year), and they are currently on pace to win fewer than 10 games this year.

If there is a process at work in Detroit, it appears to be going backward.

The Pistons will host the Toronto Raptors on Saturday as they desperately try to get back in the win column. The team has not won a game since Oct. 28, when it beat the Bulls at home 118-102, and Saturday’s tilt against Canada’s only NBA team will be the last time the Motor City will have a chance to nab a win in 2023.

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.

Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.




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