Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana
The 76ers franchise started out with a bang when in its first season in the NBA (1949-1950). The then Syracuse Nationals went 51-13 but lost in the Finals to George Mikan and the Minneapolis Lakers. In fact, in its first 22 years in the NBA, the Nationals/Sixers never missed the playoffs, winning two of its three championships during that time (1955 & 1967). In 1972, the team missed the playoffs for the first time going 30-52 under Jack Ramsay., the Sixers have missed the playoffs 19 times in the 44 seasons since then, bookended by two of the worst teams in its history.
The Sixers have had four down periods during the franchise’s time in Philadelphia: the early 1970s, the mid-1990s, the mid-to-late 2000s, and the #TrustTheProcess regime (2013-2015). I decided to create a top-five (in this case, bottom-five) of the worst Sixers teams ever. Criteria was based on a few different factors, including winning percentage, Simple Rating System (explained below), competence of coaching, relative optimism of the team, quality of the roster and its relevance to the next winning team, and its offensive and defensive ratings compared to the rest of the league. With all that, here are the worst five teams in Philadelphia 76ers history:
SRS: Simple Rating System; a team rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. The rating is denominated in points above/below average, where zero is average
5) 2009-2010 Philadelphia 76ers (27-55)
– Head Coach: Eddie Jordan
– Win/Loss%: .329
– SRS: -3.93
– Offensive Rating: 106.1 (20th of 30)
– Defensive Rating: 110.3 (24th of 30)
– Starting Lineup: Lou Williams, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, & Sam Dalembert
– Bench: Jrue Holiday, Rodney Carney, Jason Kapono, Thad Young, Jason Smith, Mo Speights, & Allen Iverson
– Top Win Shares: Andre Iguodala (8.7)
– Compared to other bad 76ers teams, the 2009-2010 team ranks outside the bottom-10 in wins, W/L%, SRS, and offensive rating, but this team was the lowest of the low of all the mediocre Sixers teams of the late 2000s. The worst part was its head coach, Eddie Jordan. Jordan had relative success as the Wizards head coach, making the playoffs four straight years from 2005 to 2008, but was fired just eleven games into the 2008/09 season. That didn’t stop the Sixers from hiring him in the 2009 offseason, hoping to build on what interim coach Tony DiLeo had helped develop late in the 2008 season. DiLeo’s 41-41 Sixers had taken the 59-win Orlando Magic to six games in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers had gotten big-time performances from youngsters Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, they drafted PG Jrue Holiday out of UCLA in the draft, and Elton Brand was returning from injury. Things were on the up swing, but that quick went by the wayside. Jordan’s Princeton offense didn’t mesh well with the talent, Andre Miller walked in free agency, energy big man Reggie Evans was traded for shooter Jason Kapono who couldn’t get off the bench, the big offseason signing was Primo Brezec (?), and the Sixers won just 27 games in Jordan’s one year as head coach. I didn’t even bring up the weird Allen Iverson return after the Grizzlies had already released him. He lasted just 24 games before he left the team, which is more reason to have this Sixers ranked in the bottom-five. Oh, and who did the Sixers draft with the dumpster-fire that Jordan left? Evan Turner. Yikes.
4) 1995-1996 Philadelphia 76ers (18-64)
– Head Coach: John Lucas
– Win/Loss%: .220
– SRS: -9.45
– Offensive Rating: 102.2 (27th of 29)
– Defensive Rating: 113.0 (29th of 29)
– Starting Lineup: Vernon Maxwell, Jerry Stackhouse, Clarence Weatherspoon, Tony Massenburg, & Derrick Alston
– Bench: Sharone Wright, Richard Dumas, Jeff Malone, & Trevor Ruffin
– Top Win Shares: Clarence Weatherspoon (5.8)
– The 95-96 Sixers were the worst Sixers team of the mid-1990s that missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons, based on the numbers of wins and its SRS rating. Just like Eddie Jordan, there was ineptitude at the head coach position with John Lucas. Simply, this team played absolutely zero defense. Actually, it was the worst Sixers defensive rating in team history. This team also had some interesting characters play minutes: Vernon “Mad Max” Maxwell, Jeff Malone, Richard Dumas, Ed Pinckney, Derrick Coleman, LaSalle Thompson, and even Shawn Bradley all got time. Even with a young Jerry Stackhouse, this Sixers team really had zero organizational direction and Lucas was fired after the season. The only saving grace was that the team selected Allen Iverson first overall in the 1996 NBA Draft and none of the players from this team were on the team when the Sixers made the playoffs in 1999, saving this group a few points.
3) 2013-2014 Philadelphia 76ers (19-63)
– Head Coach: Brett Brown
– Win/Loss%: .232
– SRS: -10.66
– Offensive Rating: 99.4 (30th of 30)
– Defensive Rating: 109.9 (26th of 30)
– Starting Lineup: Michael Carter-Williams, James Anderson, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, & Spencer Hawes
– Bench: Tony Wroten, Lavoy Allen, Elliot Williams, Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies, & Henry Sims
– Top Win Shares: Thaddeus Young (3.5)
– Coming in third is the first year of the Sixers rebuild, otherwise known as the teardown. Well this season was known as the start of the Sam Hinkie rebuild with Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Lavoy Allen traded at the deadline, Nerlens Noel missing the entire season recovering with a torn ACL, and just a bunch of random guys rotating to fill the end of the bench (James Nunnally & Jarvis Varnado anybody?). This team led the league in pace but still finished dead last in offensive rating even as MCW won Rookie of the Year. Only Nerlens Noel and Hollis Thompson remains from this team just two years later.
2) 2015-2016 Philadelphia 76ers (9 Wins)
– Head Coach: Brett Brown
– SRS: -10.35
– Offensive Rating: 98.4 (30th of 30)
– Defensive Rating: 109.1 (26th of 30)
– Starting Lineup: Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, Robert Covington, Nerlens Noel, & Jahlil Okafor
– Bench: TJ McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Hollis Thompson, & Richaun Holmes
– Top Win Shares: Nerlens Noel (2.7)
– The season is not yet over but it’s pretty easy to tell that this is one of the worst Sixers and NBA teams ever. I don’t believe this is the second-least talented Sixers team ever but the parts never fit together, having more talent in the frontcourt than in the backcourt. Not having Joel Embiid at all hurt, but so did having major parts of the rotation hurt at various times (Okafor, Noel, Grant, Holmes, Landry, Covington, Stauskas, & Marshall). Having some off-the-court issues and some bad PR didn’t help either but it’s safe the say that this has been a lost season for the Sixers. They have just nine wins, tying them for least amount of wins in an 82-game season with the worst team in Sixers history.
1) 1972-1973 Philadelphia 76ers (9-73)
– Head Coach(s): Roy Rubin, Kevin Loughery
– W/L%: .110
– SRS: -11.50
– Offensive Rating: 90.2 (17th of 17)
– Defensive Rating: 100.6 (14th of 17)
– Starting Lineup: Fred Carter, Manny Leaks, Leroy Ellis, Freddie Boyd, & John Block
– Bench: Hal Greer, Dale Schlueter, Tom Vans Arsdale, Kevin Loughery, & John Trapp
– Top Win Shares: John Block (3.4)
– This was the worst Sixers team in its history for no other reason than its head coach, Roy Rubin. In his first & only season as Sixers head coach, Rubin won just four games before getting fired with 31 games left in the season. There are countless stories of his ineptitude and how far he was in over his head coaching in the pros. A highly successful coach at Long Island University, Rubin was hired by the Sixers to replace Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay, who was fired after a 30-52 season. Rubin walked into a tire-fire of an organization. There was such disinterest in the job that the Sixers even placed an ad in the local newspaper promoting the position. Rubin was the first person to say yes. On the day he was hired, Sixers legend Billy Cunningham signed in the ABA with the Carolina Cougars resulting in a legal battle between the ABA and the Sixers that lasted most of the offseason. There wasn’t much else left on the roster other than a washed up Hal Greer. Still, Rubin was completely incompetent. As Fred Carter told Mark Perner of the Daily News in 2013, letting Rubin coach the Sixers was “like letting a teenager run a big corporation.” The roster was full of guys lost in NBA lore and none of which were on the Sixers team that went to the NBA Finals four years later. Following the season, Gene Shue was hired as coach, Doug Collins was drafted first overall, and only after the ABA had merged with the NBA that the Sixers were able to replenish its talent base by adding ABA stars like George McGinnis, Caldwell Jones, and Julius Erving. I would argue that the 2011 Charlotte Bobcats were the worst team ever, but at least for the Sixers franchise; the 1972-1973 squad was the worst team ever.
Why aren’t the 2014-2015 Sixers on the list?
– Last year’s team isn’t on the list for a few reasons. One, I wanted to represent each of the four “dark” periods of Sixers basketball equally. That meant one team from the early 70s, one from the mid-90s, one from the mediocre 2000s, and at least one from this period. I didn’t find it necessary to put all three years of this period on the top-five, but certainly two seemed necessary. Two, the major difference between the 14-15 team and the others are that last year’s team finished 13th in defensive rating, far greater than any of the five teams chosen (24th, last, 26th, 26th, and 14th of 17, respectively). Third, during this three-year run, the Sixers played their best stretch of basketball during that season just before the All-Star Break, going 4-4 and keeping all but one opponents under 100 points, including the eventually champions, the Golden State Warriors (89 points). The Sixers later traded two of the major components of that defense (MCW & KJ McDaniels) at the trade deadline, Luc Mbah a Moute got less minutes to give more to rookie Jerami Grant, and for the last ten games Brett Brown put Nerlens at power forward and Furkan Aldemir at center. The Sixers then lost all ten games. Fourth, the team had relative optimism compared to the first year of the rebuild, with Noel playing at a high level at center, Embiid set to return from injury, possibly four first round picks, and finding some diamonds in the rough in Jerami Grant and Robert Covington. There was greater optimism with that team than any of the five teams on the list.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.