2000 is such a nice, clean, arbitrary number to start from. The Y2k scare was hilarious, people thought banks were going to explode or something, and Prince wrote a song about it.
But shenanigans aside, our most recent history of the NBA has some memorable dynasties. In 2000 the Kobe–Shaq Lakers were amidst a three-peat of championships, Tim Duncan and the Spurs would stop by the finals what seemed like every other year and take a trophy home to San Antonio, and Kobe’s Lakers would win a few more before Lebron‘s Heat started their current reign.
This list comprises teams nowhere near that conversation. While teams with superstars vied to take home numerous Larry O’Brien’s, other teams in the NBA lurked about the cellar trying to find their superstar who would take them to the holy land. These are the 10 worst in the regular season during that time, including the games played this season thus far. Note: the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets-to-be do not qualify for this list since they didn’t exist before 2004.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers – Record Since 2000: 510-594
The first thing that comes to mind when taking into account the Cavaliers as the 10th worst team in that time is this: How bad would they have been if they hadn’t won the draft lottery in 2003 to get the 1st overall pick and take Lebron? Granted, the 2003 draft was rife with talent: 4 of the top 5 picks were Lebron, Carmelo, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. But still, no one carried a team like Lebron. He took them to the NBA finals in the 2006 season and they had no earthly business being there given the team as a whole. The only other person on the team even worth mentioning was Anderson Varejao, who still had much to learn as a second year player. Of late they have made some solid draft picks like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, but first overall pick Anthony Bennett looks like he might be a disastrous pick, given some of the other talent found in the 2013 draft like Michael-Carter Williams at 11th and even Tim Hardaway Jr. at 24th. With rumors swirling of Kyrie’s unhappiness in Cleveland and his desire to move on in free agency, along with Waiters’ continued struggle to fit into the team despite his success, Cleveland fans should be sweating. Unfortunately for this snake-bit city, It looks like things might get worse before they get better. The Cavaliers have a .462 win percentage since 2000.
9. Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets – Record Since 2000: 505-596
And the turn of the millennium started so well for the Nets. A bulldoggish pass-first point guard by the name of Jason Kidd took the downtrodden Nets to the NBA finals not once, but twice in a row in 2001 and 2002. Unfortunately for them, they lost both series, going a combined 2-8 in both finals. They got swept by the Lakers and lost by two games to the Spurs. The Nets have still yet to grasp that Larry O’Brien trophy. The new “what salary cap?” approach brought by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov has succeeded only in bringing a small herd of ageing stars onto the team. It’s going to look real ugly if the Nets don’t have any strong playoff success in the next two years. Deron Williams‘ ankles look like they will spell an early end to the exciting point guard’s career, and shining young star center Brook Lopez had a season-ending foot injury this season. Now that former star Jason Kidd is coaching the absurdly underachieving team, what could be a storybook season for the Nets franchise has started off mired in the muck. Since 2000, the Nets have had a .459 win percentage. The team better hope the next season is a smashing success or else Prokhorov might make an oversized mallet out of money and start smashing everyone with it.
8. Memphis/Vancouver Grizzlies – Record Since 2000: 499-604
The turn of the millennium apparently failed to change the fortunes of this expansion team, and these bears migrated south (far south) to Memphis where they found, well, a little success. The entire history of the Grizzlies franchise was influence by one dice roll: the 2003 Grizzlies were in the lottery for the #1 overall pick. If they didn’t win the first pick, they would have to give the 2nd pick to the Detroit Pistons due to a 1997 trade they had made for Otis Thorpe, which means rather than the 2nd pick they would have the 13th.
Well, you know what happened. Cleveland (man they are lucky with the draft lottery, aren’t they?) won the 1st overall pick and everyone in the universe knew they were going to select Lebron. How history might have been different if Memphis won the lottery and gotten Lebron? The team already had Pau Gasol, along with sharpshooters Shane Battier and Mike Miller. Image what a young Lebron would have done with that roster. We might’ve been talking about the Grizzlies dynasty that arose with Lebron at the helm.
They didn’t win, they got the 13th pick, took Marcus Banks (who?) and thus history is written. Nowadays they have some real Talent with Marc Gasol, the beast Zach Randolph who does not bluff (look it up) along with championship pieces like Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller. Lord knows if they’ll put it together or if the team will stay intact long enough to make some real strides outside of last year’s playoffs. Since 2000 they have had a win percentage of .452.
7. Milwaukee Bucks – Record Since 2000: 494-609
In 1970, only three years into their existence as an NBA franchise, the Milwaukee Bucks won their first (and only) NBA title behind the diverse skill sets of an older Oscar Robertson and a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. An auspicious start for the franchise, except that it wasn’t. It’s been pretty much all downhill from there. They did poke their heads into the finals again in 1973 but it was to no avail as they faced a Celtics team that had been dominating the league. They wouldn’t even reach the conference finals again until 2000, behind the fourth-year shooter Ray Allen and small forward Glenn Robinson who each averaged 22 PPG. Since then they’ve never left the first round of the playoffs, and have gone 17-28 in the postseason since 2000. Lately they seem to be hell bent on letting good talent go in order to get better draft picks until they can get a superstar (at least that’s my theory). Given how bad they are this year, they might have another shot at getting one real soon. Their win percentage since 2000 is .448.
6. Los Angeles/San Diego Clippers – Record Since 2000: 485-621
There are plenty of young basketball fans in L.A. who have known nothing but Chris Paul making highlight plays and the pure entertainment that is “lob city.” Despite the powerhouse they have become (especially now that Blake Griffin is evolving into a true star) they have one of the most dejected histories in basketball (in fact, the worst all-time record in basketball if you don’t count the Bobcats). They have never even played in a conference finals series, let alone a championship game. Granted, in 1970 at their inception they were the Buffalo Braves so it’s something of a meandering history. In some sense, the smashing success they are now is, well, about time. I mean, they’ve only made the playoffs 9 times in 43 years. I digress, this is about the 2000’s. And in the 2000’s they’ve only had three winning seasons. Perhaps this new found success with Doc Rivers as coach may be the rise to power of a downtrodden franchise? Probably not. But at least for now, they’re pretty awesome. Since 2000 they’ve had a win percentage of .439.
5. Atlanta/St. Louis Hawks – Record Since 2000: 480-622
Crickets. No but seriously, this is a team that has flown so far under the radar in the past 14 years that you wonder if the front office has just been out to lunch the whole time. They’ve only had a few draft picks of any note. In 2001 they picked Pau Gasol 3rd overall but traded his rights to Memphis for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and the 27th overall pick. Yeah, in case you were wondering, its regarded as one of the worst draft day trades in history. They got Boris Diaw in 2003 with the 21st pick and he only played for them for 2 years. At least they did well drafting Al Horford in 2007 3rd overall and Jeff Teague in 2009 19th overall. In the past six years they have regularly made the playoffs but have generally have had early exits, only going as far as the Eastern semi’s. They have some real talent on the team now, but don’t really play like a team. You get the feeling it would take a great coach to really assemble this talent into a scheme that could go far. Until then they seem to be right back down the path of mediocrity. At least it’s fun as heck watching Paul Millsap play and witnessing Kyle Korver continue to destroy 3-point records. They have a winning percentage in the 2000’s of .436.
4. New York Knicks – Record Since 2000: 479-624
Oh, my beloved Knicks. Real basketball talent has passed through this franchise in the past 14 years at a speed only the dysfunctional Knicks could manage. The 4th worst team since 2000, the post-Ewing era, also happens to be the most valuable NBA franchise at $1.4 billion. Here’s a disturbing list of talent that played for the Knicks since 2000: Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Dikembe Mutombo, Jamal Crawford, Stephon Marbury, David Lee, Zach Randolph, Danilo Gallinari, Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland. Just to name a few, of course. None of them are still with the team.
The worst part about the team having hemorrhaged draft picks away by the bundle, is that when they have the picks they tend to actually make some pretty good choices with them. (It must be luck, because that front office is like a baby with a laser cannon). Since 2000 they’ve made the playoffs only five times, with a record of 9-21. And yet, despite the magic they managed to cobble together last year, the team has once again fallen apart at the seams. The head-scratching offseason trade for Andrea Bargnani (lets add a jump-shooting big man to a team of jump-shooters and big men) shows the absurdity of the ‘plan’ the front office is following. There’s this position called point guard. It’s really important. Sheesh. Since the turn of the millennium the Knicks have a win percentage of .434.
3. Tie — Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors – Record Since 2000: 475-628
I mean seriously, what are the chances? In fourteen years the Timberwolves and the Raptors have the EXACT SAME RECORD? Come on.
In 2000 the Timberwolves were in the meat of their playoff sandwich. since their inception in 1989, they missed the playoffs 7 years straight, made the playoffs 8 years in a row, and haven’t been back since. No finals appearances, no titles. Their success was due to a man Boston sports fans love dearly, a towering power forward named Kevin Garnett. He would find his success later in his career with the Celtics, though. Of late the T-wolves have enjoyed some success with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio as a great combo of skill and power, but haven’t been able to turn their skills into any measure of success, even in the regular season. It’ll take a miracle to keep this team together moving forward.
The Raptors have only existed since 1995, and have only 5 playoff appearances, four of which have been since 2000. They haven’t done all that badly, though the only star players they have drafted haven’t stayed with the team: Chris Bosh and Roy Hibbert left the franchise to find success elsewhere. At least young talents like DeMar DeRozan have started to flourish. They still have yet to really find that star that changes the history of the franchise, though. Both these teams have had a win percentage of .431.
2. Golden State/San Francisco/Philadelphia Warriors – Record Since 2000: 462-640
Two seasons of making the playoffs since 2000. That’s not good. An admirable playoff record of 11-12 in those two series, though. This venerable franchise has in fact won three NBA titles in its history, having made six finals appearances, though you have to reach pretty far back in history to find them. The doldrums have been the name of the game for these golden fellows in the past few decades. The good news is, the team nowadays looks young, well coached and absolutely packed with talent. If they can build off the success they’ve had behind young phenoms Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, this franchise has bright days ahead of it. So if you’re a GSW fan, even though you’re #2 on this list, at least your team is on the rise (and fast.) So you can go ahead and put the atrocious draft picks of the early 2000’s behind you, because the team on the floor today is absolutely electric to watch. Steph Curry might change the game if he keeps getting better at this rate. The Warriors have had a win percentage of .419.
1. Washington/Baltimore Wizards/Bullets – Record Since 2000: 431-672
Ah, the Wizards. They too, fall under the category of god-awful teams that at least now have some rising talent to work with. To be fair, they had some good draft picks before John Wall and Bradley Beal, but those guys are all no longer with the team for various reasons. JaVale McGee is incredibly talented but often unbridled and is a blooper-superstar on the infamous Shaqtin’ a Fool. Nick ‘Swaggy P’ Young and Steve Blake are great players but were traded away before they could reach their full potential. They crept into the playoffs from 2004 to 2008 with extremely mediocre records and were shown the door in the first round every time except one. Outside of that, most season win columns start with the number 1 or 2. Yikes. If you’re a wizards fan you can only hope the franchise does right by Wall and Beal. If not, at least you have the Redski– wait, never mind. Win percentage: .391.
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