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Is This the Worst Team Ever?

“This is the worst team I have ever seen”. A statement that has undoubtedly been uttered by countless NBA fans over the years. Of course, it is almost always an embellishment of the truth. We as fans are emotional and irrational creatures, so often prone to mark the here and now as the greatest or worst. However, is that the case with this year’s Bobcats squad? It got me thinking after Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweeted the question Wednesday night, fresh off the 44-point loss to Portland. So, I proceeded to do a little research – the results may or may not surprise you.

One of my favorite basketball websites is a basketball-reference.com. You can often find me perusing its offerings when I should instead be fulfilling my various adult obligations. One measurement of a team’s strength – or lack thereof – which they use is the Simple Rating System, or SRS. The rating takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule to arrive at a final point value above/below an average rating of zero. I like this rating because it factors in the difficulty of the schedule faced by a given team to date.

Twenty-three games into the season (3-20) the Bobcats have a SRS of -14.41. The second worst rating in the League belongs to the Pistons at -9.51. Quick math – yes, that’s nearly five points separating the two teams. Therefore, there’s really no argument that as currently constructed (injuries taken into consideration) the Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA. But that’s not the question this post set out to answer. We here at QCH aim higher. And by higher I mean lower – all-time lower.

Is this the worst team in NBA history? No. By season’s end could it be? Yes.

Upon completing my search for the League’s all-time worst team – according to SRS, anyway – the distinction fell on the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks, who posted a rating of -14.68 and finished last in the NBA in both Offensive and Defensive Rating. Much like this year’s Bobcats team, the roster featured a host of inexperienced players. In the Mavericks’ case, the majority of these players also went on to have ineffective NBA careers.

So, who currently stands number two according to SRS? Yes, your 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats. With a Margin of Victory of -14.04 and a Strength of Schedule of -0.37, their rating of -14.41 currently ranks 2nd worst all-time. Do I think this team is as bad as that Mavericks team? No. The team’s struggles have certainly been exacerbated by the injury problems suffered due in large part to the compressed schedule. The severely truncated training camp did the Bobcats no favors either, as the team was not afforded the requisite practice time to incorporate new players and schemes. However, these are factors every team has had and continues to deal with this season.

Will the Bobcats finish the season as the NBA’s all-time worst team? We’ll see. As for me, I won’t be cheering for it. In a league where finishing with the worst record affords you nothing more than a one-in-four shot at the #1 pick and with the realization that they will more than likely finish in the bottom three no matter what, I’m hoping to see improvement out of the team – especially from the younger players.

Regardless of whom the Bobcats select in the upcoming NBA Draft, the team will need impact players to suit up alongside him. In a town which is simply not a destination for premier free agents, it will require the team to develop many of these players from the current roster. Therefore, those of you who might be inclined to root for record futility – please fight the urge. Not to keep the team out of the record books, but with the hope that the collective future of the younger players making up this 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats roster doesn’t mirror that of the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks.