The Whiteboard: Pistons aren't the only historically bad NBA team this season

Today on The Whiteboard, the Pistons are dominating the headlines with their record losing streak. But they aren't the only historically bad NBA team this season.

Nov 22, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Washington Wizards guard Jordan Poole (13) drives past
Nov 22, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Washington Wizards guard Jordan Poole (13) drives past / Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
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The Detroit Pistons took the best team in the NBA, the Boston Celtics, to overtime before ultimately coming up short and extending their record losing streak to 28. Their pursuit of ignominy is probably getting far more attention than they'd like but it's also obscuring the fact that there are some really bad teams at the bottom of the standings right now.

The Spurs pulled out a win over the Trail Blazers last night but they're still just 5-25, on pace to finish with just 14 wins. The Wizards have an identical 5-25 record and the Hornets, at 7-22, are also flirting with finishing below 20 wins.

The worst teams in the NBA this season are historically bad

The Blazers are 8-22 and only a half-game ahead of the Hornets in the standings but for now we're going to set them aside because they're in a slightly tier by one key measure of team strength — simple rating system.

This metric, which is essentially a team's point differential adjusted for strength of schedule, puts the Hornets, Wizards, Spurs and Pistons in a class all their own. This metric is important but it accounts for the quality of the opposition and not just how often a team loses but how much they lose by. And by this measure, those four teams are all among the 25 worst teams in NBA history.

Here, by accounting for how much these teams have been losing by, we can see just how ineffectual they've been. There have already been 41 games this season that were decided by 25 points or more. The Hornets have three of those losses, including a 53-point loss at the hands of the 76ers. The Wizards have four such losses, including a 45-point loss, again thanks to the 76ers. The Pistons have lost by 25 or more points five times this season. The Spurs have managed it six times.

Only eight teams in NBA history have lost 13 ore more games by 25 or more points in a single season and all four of these teams could reasonably pass that mark. The record, or 18 losses by 25 or more in a single season, belongs to the 2021-22 Trail Blazers and it's absolutely in jeopardy.

The only comparable season I could find, in terms of collective futility was 1997-98. That year, five teams — the Nuggets, Warriors, Raptors, Clippers and Grizzlies — finished with fewer than 20 wins. It's the only other time in NBA history that more than three teams finished below 20 wins (or a 20-win-pace adjusted for the season-length at that team).

Here's hoping all of these teams can generate a bit more positive momentum before we get to April. But Pistons fans can take comfort in the fact that they're aren't the only team struggling at a historic level this year.


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Nov 8, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) celebrates with Toronto
Nov 8, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) celebrates with Toronto / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for the Raptors to make a decision on their future

The Raptors waved off trade inquiries over the offseason and pushed ahead with their win-now plan. With the season roughly a third of the way over, they're tied with the Hawks at 12-18 and trailing the lowly Bulls in the race for the Play-In Tournament.

In a recent piece at Sportsnet, insider Michael Grange explained why the Raptors may have to decide on their trade plans and future as soon as tomorrow:

"If an extension isn’t reached, then trading Siakam by Dec. 30 might offer some advantages to the acquiring team because it would have a window before free agency begins on July 1 to reach an agreement on a four-year extension using Siakam’s Bird Rights — he would be considered the team's own free agent, and his deal wouldn’t have fit under the salary cap.

If Siakam isn’t traded or extended by Saturday, the Raptors would still be able to sign him to an extension but wouldn’t be able to trade him until six months past the signing date, which could complicate any plans or opportunities that may emerge around the draft and the opening of free agency next summer."

There's no indication the Raptors actually have a deal lined up for Siakam and the lack of specific rumors indicate that this deadline might quietly pass with nothing happening. But there's also no indication that the on-court context is going to change and every day they wait the Raptors are mortgaging their leverage with both Siakam and Anunoby as their situation becomes more transparently desperate.

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