The Bobcatters and near-Bobcatters over the last 35 years

Bobcats can look cute. Bobcatting? Not quite.

 

It’s about that time of the season where the flack terrible teams get is turned up a notch, but this happens just about every year. Since 1980, 72 teams (plus two this year) have lost at least three-fourths of their games, which equals to an 82-game record of about 21-61. 50 of them are pre-2000 when the league was in the middle of expansion.

But it takes an extra level of ineptitude to finish a season like the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats – not just with the worst winning in percentage in history but also “Bobcatting”, a term for finishing last in offensive and defensive efficiency. While I hope the term changes to the nickname of the next franchise to pull off that dual accomplishment (with maybe a demotion from the league included), we can still look back on teams of the past that also Bobcatted or came close to doing so since 1980.

Altogether, three teams have Bobcatted over the last 35 seasons while 11, including one this season, came close or are currently close to doing so by finishing less than two points away from last place in efficiency on both sides of the court. I’ll take a quick look at every one of those teams, starting with the Bobcatters, and then see how they all match up among the league’s worst offenses and defenses since 1974, at least when compared to league averages.

All stats are according to Basketball-Reference.

The Bobcatters

1987 Los Angeles Clippers (12-70)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 101.2 (Tied for 18th-worst ever)
  • Defense: 112.3

Notable players: Michael Cage, Benoit Benjamin, Mike Woodson, Larry Drew, Cedric Maxwell.

Notable downswings

  • 3-3 turned into 5-36.
  • Went 2-26 in March and April, ended on 14-game losing streak. Allowed 121.3 points/100 possessions in the first nine of those losses.
  • Never won consecutive games.

Only the ’87 Clips and the ’05 Hawks (featured later) never had a winning streak over an 82-game season. The former team tied for the sixth-worst winning percentage in NBA history and allowed the highest effective field goal percentage of any team featured in this post.

This season’s Milwaukee Bucks just might join that list, by the way. The Lakers and Pistons are on the Bucks’ schedule over the next two weeks but each of those games are followed by matchups against the Heat. They also play the Cavs on April 11 but follow it up with a game at Washington the following night.

1993 Dallas Mavericks (11-71)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 99.5 (10th-worst ever)
  • Defense: 114.7 (10th-worst ever)

Notable players: Jim Jackson, Terry Davis, Derek Harper, Sean Rooks, Mike Iuzzolino, Walter Bond.

Notable downswings

  • Went 7-64 through first 71 games.
  • Only team featured in this post to lose by 20 or more points in four consecutive games.
  • Tied (with a team to be named later) for most consecutive losses by 10 or more points with 12.
  • Recorded the worst SRS in league history.

If not for the last fourth of the season, 1993 could’ve been a lot worse for the Mavs. They finished 7-14 with victories on the road over Seattle and Houston. Help would be on the way for Dallas, well sort of. Jamal Mashburn would be selected in the ‘93 NBA Draft followed by Jason Kidd in ’94, but we know that trio wasn’t meant to be. Three straight top-5 picks were gone by the 1997-98 season and their 1997 campaign featured 27 different players logging minutes for them. What a mess. Eventually Mark Cuban, with the help of Dirk Nowitzki, would turn the franchise around.

(Edit: Don Nelson deserves credit as well.)

2012 Charlotte Bobcats (7-59)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 95.2 (7th-worst ever)
  • Defense: 110.4 (tied for 19th-worst ever)

Notable players: Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas.

Notable downswings

  • Started 0-16. In the first eight games they scored 93.5 points/100 possessions.
  • Games 46 to 54, went 2-7 and allowed 118.8/100 possessions.
  • Games 58 to 66, scored just 89.3 points/100 possessions.
  • Finished season on 23-game losing streak.

Reason #505 why I’m glad I didn’t blog sooner: I thought this squad would be the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The 2014 Bucks might be this season’s version of the 2012 Bobcats.

Charlotte ended up with the worst winning percentage in history. They also had no player with a PER above the average of 15, which I’m just going to assume is the only time that’s ever happened. The Bobcats also never won consecutive games, but it was a shortened season with a gutted team, so I’ll cut them a tiny amount of slack.

At the end of the season, Charlotte didn’t even get Anthony Davis for their efforts, but they made The Onion multiple times, so there’s that. All of those events paved the way for the following season’s sighs, which will be included further down in this post.

Near-Bobcatters

It might seem typical for the worst teams each season to finish within two points of last place in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but it’s not the case. The 2003 Denver Nuggets, for example, had the league’s worst offense ever but for that season were a top-10 defense. They finished 17-65. Even rebuilding teams can still be average on one side of the court or the other.

With that said, below are the most notable teams that were awful all-around:

1980 Detroit Pistons (16-66)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 101.2 (22nd out of 22)
  • Defense: 108.8 (19th out of 22, 1.6 points from last place)

Notable players: Bob Lanier, Bob McAdoo, Kent Benson, Terry Tyler, John Long, even a Jackie Robinson.

Notable downswings

  • Went from 14-37 to 16-66.
  • Ended season on a 14-game losing streak. Combined with an 0-7 start to the 1981 season, it made for (at the time) the longest losing streak in NBA history.
  • Went six straight games without a made 3-pointer, the longest drought of any team featured in this post.

Game logs with offensive and defensive efficiency weren’t available for the 1980 season, but going 2-29 over the last 31 games probably says enough.

Also, Dick Vitale coached the first 12 games of the season, the last 12 of his career or so we think. If only the Knicks were interested in hiring him. It’s sad I’m not totally counting that out.

1995 Los Angeles Clippers (17-65)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 101.5 (27th out of 27)
  • Defense: 111.1 (23rd out of 27, 1.8 points from last place)

Notable players: Loy Vaught, Lamond Murray, Eric Piatkowski, Pooh Richardson, Terry Dehere, Malik Sealy, Bo Outlaw.

Notable downswings

  • Started 0-16. In the first eight games they scored only 93.5 points/100 possessions.
  • Games 46 to 54, went 2-7 and allowed 118.8/100 possessions.

A typical Clippers season pre-Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the ’95 Clips were one of the worst 25 offenses ever until a team this season (listed further down) kicked/will eventually kick them out. They would be rewarded with Antonio McDyess in the following draft, though they traded him for Brent Barry and Rodney Rodgers. This was also the last season Bill Fitch coached.

Worse than the Clippers in defensive efficiency were the Washington Bullets (111.3 points/100 possessions) in their first season with Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, Golden State (112.2) without Webber, Minnesota (112.4) who eventually landed ex-Bullet and Warrior Tom Gugliotta, and Detroit (112.9) with a rookie Grant Hill. The Pistons got fried in their final 22 games, allowing 119.6 points/100 possessions with the first five of those games giving up 129.4.

1995 Timberwolves (21-61)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 102.6 (26th out of 27, 1.1 points from last place)
  • Defense: 112.4 (26th out of 27. 0.5 points from last place)

Notable players: Christian Laettner, Isaiah Rider, Sean Rooks, Doug West, Tom Gugliotta, Winston Garland.

Notable downswings

  • Started 1-13, including a five-game stretch where they scored only 88.4 points/100 possessions.
  • 41 to 45th games were efficiency splits of 96.5/124.2/-27.7.
  • Tied with the ’93 Mavericks for most consecutive losses by 10 or more points with twelve.

Two important things happened this season, the former more important than the latter:

  1. Gugliotta arrived, marking the birth of “GOOGLY OOGLY WOOGLY BABAY!!!” by then-Timberwolves color commentator Kevin Harlan. Minnesota has had some terrific broadcasting duos over the last 20-plus years.
  2. 1995 was the season I attended my first NBA game, or at least one where I didn’t bawl my eyes out because I thought the mascot was a real wolf, which happened during some Bulls-Wolves game in the early-90s. Ugh.

That’s about all that was fun for that season, at least from my six-year-old point of view. I guess it was all worth it, though, because Kevin Garnett arrived the following season while Isaiah Rider and Christian Laettner would be on their way out.

1997 Vancouver Grizzlies (14-68)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 100.3 (29th out of 29)
  • Defense: 111.8 (28th out of 29, 0.1 points from last place)

Notable players: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Bryant Reeves, Anthony Peeler, Greg Anthony, George Lynch, Lee Mayberry, Roy Rogers.

Notable downswings

  • Started 0-7. The efficiency splits: 91.4/110.0/-18.6.
  • Games 55 to 79, went 1-24 including the last nine losses allowing 119.8 points/100 possessions.

Poor ‘Reef. Vancouver came within a tenth of a point per 100 possessions of Bobcatting. Consistently terrible, they lost at nearly the frequency they should’ve with six losing streaks between four and eight games when their winning percentage meant for a win every five or six.

Quite a few teams came within a point of becoming the league’s worst defense that season like Philadelphia with Jerry Stackhouse and Allen Iverson, and Boston with Antoine Walker. Each team had a defensive rating of 111.4. Golden State allowed 112 points/100 possessions and had a six-game stretch where they allowed 123.8.

San Antonio, the league’s worst defense, went 1-7 in a stretch where they allowed 124.5 points/100 possessions and went 5-20 over a span when they allowed 120.1. To finish the season, the Spurs went 1-8 in their last nine games with a defensive efficiency of 117.3 points. There’s just no topping all of that. Boston allowed 117.7 points/100 possessions over their final 20 games and Philadelphia had a defensive efficiency of 121.5 over their final 10, yet both were still over one point off from last place. Both of those teams would’ve been interesting landing spots for Tim Duncan, too.

2001 Golden State Warriors (17-65)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 97.8 (28th out of 29, 0.6 points from last place)
  • Defense: 107.4 (28th out of 29, 0.4 points from last place)

Notable players: Antawn Jamison, Chris Mullin, Mookie Blaylock, Larry Hughes, Bob Sura, Adonal Foyle, Marc Jackson.

Notable downswings:

  • Played .333 ball through 42 games (yay?), then went 3-37. Efficiency splits: 95.8/110.2/-14.4.
  • Games 72 to 77: 0-6 with efficiency splits of 92.1/115.1/-23.0.

Antawn Jamison logging 41 minutes per game aka Jimmy Butlering says enough about how Golden State would perform, but it’s not the like the Warriors had much depth to begin with. To Jamison’s credit, he was at least a solid piece for an offense, but that didn’t stop the Warriors from being the worst team in this post in regards to effective field goal percentage.

The 2001 NBA Draft ended up as a sick haul for Golden State. They’d select Jason Richardson, Tory Murphy and Gilbert Arenas, which has to be one of the best drafts ever. At the same time, it’s hard to give it that much weight when Arenas signed with Washington two seasons later. Still, imagine if that kind of haul happens today. It would be something like Oklahoma City in 2008 drafting Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka again, but also picking up Goran Dragic in the second round.

Golden State nearly Bobcatted in 2001, but another close call that season was the…

2001 Chicago Bulls (15-67)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 101.5 (29th out of 29)
  • Defense: 111.1 (29th out of 29, 0.5 points from last place)

Notable players: Elton Brand, Ron Mercer, Metta World Peace, Fred Hoiberg, Brad Miller, Jamal Crawford, Khalid El-Amin.

Notable downswings

  • Started 2-19 with 93.1/108.1/-15.0 efficiency splits.
  • 16-game losing streak from January 8 to February 12.
  • 1-17 from March 9 to April 16.
  • Games 46 to 54, went 2-7 and allowed 118.8/100 possessions.
  • Made less than five free throws in two consecutive games, only one of seven teams to do so.

The players on the Bulls rosters from 1999 to 2004 fascinate me. They featured the last seasons in Chicago from Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper, among others, the early years of Elton Brand, Metta World Peace, Jamal Crawford, Brad Miller, Ron Mercer, Tyson Chandler, Jay Williams, and Eddy Curry, and the veterans like Brent Barry and Jalen Rose. Even Charles Oakley played for them.

It looked like a rough go of things during those rebuilding years. Chicago at least finished 2001 on a good note with a two-game winning streak, possibly enough to keep themselves from Bobcatting since Golden State and Washington, the two teams worse in defensive efficiency, allowed a half-dozen more points per 100 possessions over their final two outings. The Wizards actually had a five-game winning streak all while finishing 19-63, which should never happen because math.

2005 Atlanta Hawks (13-69)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 100.6 (29th out of 30, 0.9 points from last place)
  • Defense: 111.1 (29th out of 30, 0.3 points from last place)

Notable players: Al Harrington, Antoine Walker, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Tyronn Lue, Boris Diaw, Royal Ivey.

Notable downswings

  • Went 1-27 from February 10 to April 8, but beat the dreaded 2005 Timberwolves squad on my birthday. Ugh.

If a team’s leader in PER is Tyronn Lue, chances are the season is going down the drain with zero resistance. Lue led the Hawks at 16.2.

But just how well were they going to be with pre-stretch-four Al Harrington, Antoine Walker and a 19-year-old Josh Smith on either side of the court? The trio shot a combined 105 for 398 from 3, though 2/3 of those attempts came from Walker, who was eventually traded back to the Celtics for, among other things, the draft pick that became Rajon Rondo, which then became part of the trade that landed Joe Johnson.

On offense, the Hawks didn’t Bobcat thanks to New Orleans and their 2-29 start to the season. Baron Davis was eventually traded to Golden State, which meant about half their field goal attempts came from Lee Nailon, P.J. Brown, Dan Dickau, and a rookie J.R. Smith. Jamaal Magloire, a year after making the All-Star Game, produced a 12.9 PER and say what you want about win shares, but he produced -0.4 offensive ones. He would total -2.7 offensive win shares after his all-star season.

As for defensive efficiency, the Lakers finished dead last, though a stretch of games without Kobe Bryant yielded not-terrible efficiency splits of 106.8/110.6/-3.8 and went 6-8. The real damage came in the final 30 games when they allowed 118 points/100 possessions and went 6-24, including the final 13 where they allowed 120 points/100 possessions. Their offense was fine, though, finishing seventh overall on that end of the floor.

As for the Bobcats’ first season, they were 28th in offensive efficiency and 20th on defense. You can do far worse than that when finishing 18-64.

2006 Portland Trail Blazers (21-61)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 101.1 (30th out of 30)
  • Defense: 111.9 (28th out of 30, 2.5 points from last place, and tied for 21st-worst ever)

Notable players: Zach Randolph, Juan Dixon, Sebastian Telfair, Jarrett Jack, Darius Miles, Martell Webster, not Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge.

Notable downswings

  • Finished 4-33 with efficiency splits of 100.6/115.5/-14.9.
  • Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, and Ruben Patterson were on the same team. Yikes.

The guidelines for close calls were supposed to be teams that fell within two points of last place in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Portland met the criteria on offense, but not on defense.

I gave them a pass, though, because last-place Seattle tied for the worst defense ever relative to league average (see tables at the bottom of this post). In the middle-third of the season, the SuperSonics allowed 118.8 points/100 possessions, which probably happens whenever a team cycles through starting big men like Johan Petro, Robert Swift, Chris Wilcox, Reggie Evans, Vitaly Potapenko, Danny Fortson, and Vladimir Radmanovic.

As for the Trail Blazers, we know now how nicely they rebuilt through the 2006 NBA Draft and that the Jail Blazers era was finally coming to an end, but most importantly they made an appearance in The Onion.

2010 Timberwolves (17-65)

Efficiency

  • • Offense: 101.7 (29th out of 30, 1.1 points from last place)
  • • Defense: 111.6 (27th out of 30, 1.6 points from last place)

Notable players: Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn, Ryan Hollins, “The White Hole” Oleksiy Pecherov, Sasha Pavlovic.

Notable downswings

  • David Kahn.
  • Started 1-15.
  • Last third of the season: 1-23.

Who knew Kevin Love and Al Jefferson on the same team would generate only 15 wins? They were the only Timberwolves with PERs over 13, yet Ryan Hollins frequently started over Love. Kurt Rambis, everyone.

Also, in Sasha Pavlovic’s first season out of Cleveland, he had field goal-three point-free throw percentage splits of 36.3/29.7/38.5. That last mark is not a lie, more impressive than Mo Williams’ dropoff post-LeBron James. He nearly Bobcatted in shooting splits.

In the way of the Timberwolves Bobcatting were the Nets and Raptors on offense and defense, respectively. Toronto had Chris Bosh playing alongside Andrea Bargnani and post-Magic Hedo Turkoglu, which was actually one of the worst 25 defenses ever in both 2010 and 2011.

As for New Jersey, they traded Vince Carter the previous summer and started 0-18, scoring 94.5 points/100 possessions during that time. They finished the last third of the season well, at least by their standards, by going 6-22 with efficiency splits of 106.1/111.6/-5.5. Brook Lopez played 82 games and was teammates with Chris Douglas-Roberts, who’s now on the Bobcats and looks like a real-life Otto Rocket.

2013 Charlotte Bobcats (21-61)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 101.5 (28th out of 30, 1.3 points from last place)
  • Defense: 111.5 (30th out of 30, tied for 23rd-worst ever)

Notable players: Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ben Gordon, Byron Mullens.

Notable downswings

  • Lost 18 straight from November 26 to December 29, but won on December 31. Happy New Year!

Charlotte could’ve Bobcatted in back-to-back seasons, but it helped when they scored 112.3 points/100 possessions over their final three games. There’s also the last 19 when they went 8-11 and scored 105.7 points/100 possessions, four or more points higher than 27th-ranked Orlando, 29th-ranked Phoenix, and last place Washington over the same stretch of games.

That helped three Bobcats finish with a PER above 15 (Walker, Sessions, and Henderson), something they didn’t accomplish the season before. They also got a first round pick from Joe Dumars before the season even started, one they might net this summer depending on where Detroit’s draft pick winds up this season. It’s top-8 protected, and with Charlotte losing their first round pick to Chicago (though owning Portland’s) it’d be helpful if Detroit got their act together by winning some games.

The Pistons play at Philadelphia on Saturday night, a game the 76ers will likely be coming into tied for the longest losing streak in NBA history at 26. Things could happen. Detroit’s season would be summed up perfectly by losing to a near-Bobcatting team like the…

2014 Philadelphia 76ers (15-56)

Efficiency

  • Offense: 98.2 (30th out of 30, currently 11th-worst ever)
  • Defense: 109.5 (26th out of 30, 1.8 points from last place)

Notable players: Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Tony Wroten, James Anderson.

Notable downswings

  • Currently on a 25-game losing streak dating back to January 31.
  • Games 52 to 57 had efficiency splits of 93.0/118.4/-25.4.
  • Scored at league-average efficiency just once over their last 14 games.
  • SRS and Pythagorean record far worse than Milwaukee’s, yet still two games behind them in the race for lottery balls.

We knew this team would be awful, but that 3-0 start with wins over Miami, Washington, and Chicago nearly broke Twitter. It just might’ve been enough to keep Philadelphia from accumulating the most lottery balls and were likely the three best games of Carter-Williams’ rookie campaign. Those three games also might’ve prolonged the suspicion that Tony Wroten (not Josh Smith) might end up with the worst three-point shooting season in league history. That chance is all but gone, though, because of a sprained right ankle, so all of the bricklaying glory goes to Josh Smith.

But at least Philadelphia became intriguing in fantasy basketball because of their pace which, when comparing to the league average, ranks somewhere among the fastest 25-35 teams in NBA history. They made me nominate Spencer Hawes for Most Improved Fantasy Basketball Player, and led one tweeter (and probably more) to believe Indiana would be unbeatable with Evan Turner. Things happen when pace inflates box score statistics, and for me that ranks up there with the most entertaining things about the Sixers now. Their box scores have the potential to create sick stat lines, though now they come from largely the opposition.

As for Bobcatting, four teams are in their way when it comes to last place in defensive efficiency: New Orleans, the Lakers, Utah, and Milwaukee. Maybe Anthony Davis is enough to take the Pelicans out of the hunt, but the other three teams will be a challenge to surpass. The Lakers have allowed nearly 117 points/100 possessions over their last 10 games but have been fine in their last two, Utah let Detroit put 114 on them last night, and Milwaukee is allowing 118.3 points/100 possessions in their last 10 games. 

Honorable mention: The 1998 Denver Nuggets (11-71) have the 4th-worst SRS in league history and probably Bobcat if not for Latrell Sprewell’s choking incident with P.J. Carlesimo. Denver also has the fifth-worst defense ever while the Warriors have the 8th-worst offense.

Speaking of those rankings, below are the tables of the 25 worst offenses and defenses. Highlighted are teams featured in this post.

The 25 worst offenses

The 25 worst defenses

As mentioned before, it’s really hard to be terrible on both sides of the court to the point a front office has to pitch in (intentionally or not) to make it happen. Even then, that might not be enough.

It’s also worth noting that, despite the lackluster defense exhibited by teams at the bottom of this season’s standings, none are currently on the list of the 25 worst. There’s still time for a new level of ghastly performance, though, and some of the worst defenses are allowing a ridiculous amount points recently. Milwaukee, the worst defense in the league, currently allows five points worse than the league average of 106.3, so even if the 76ers somehow passed them they might have a small cushion preventing them from making a list of dreadful defenses.

But then again, never count out Sam Hinkie. It’s “soreness” and “resting” season, and who knows if it’ll affect Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young. It might be enough to put the 76ers over the top, or in this case the bottom, relieving the Charlotte Bobcats from that term named after their 2012 campaign.

Will Bobcatting become 76ing? Philadelphing? Hinking? The possibilities are endless.

As a reminder, all stats are according to Basketball-Reference.

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One thought on “The Bobcatters and near-Bobcatters over the last 35 years

  1. […] to NBA.com. (The drop-off is about the same anywhere in that statistic, save for one of the worst offenses ever in Philadelphia. More on them in a […]

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