Bad teams are a part of the NBA landscape year after year – it’s a given that there has to be a league wide whipping boy. This year, we were blessed with two terrible squads that garnered most of the negative attention. The Philadelphia 76ers managed to tie an NBA record by losing 26 games in a row but not even that was enough to secure the worst record in the league. The coveted worst team of the year award goes to none other than the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks finished the year with a dismal record of 15 wins and 67 losses. But the way their season fell apart is one of the more intriguing storylines of the year. They weren’t projected to be near as bad as they turned out to be coming into the season. Many thought that they would contend for the eighth playoff spot in the East, just as they did the previous year. Larry Drew, who had led Atlanta to three straight playoff appearances, was brought in as the new head coach. They lost Monta Ellis to free agency but replaced him with O.J. Mayo, a move that was looked at as a wash. The Bucks then traded Brandon Jennings to Detroit for Brandon Knight in another move that seemed to be a lateral step rather than a step backwards. They gave their center Larry Sanders an extension after he blossomed into a defensive monster in 2013. They drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo, who grew over an inch just six months after being drafted and might be 7 feet tall before 2015 rolls around. Another .500 season looked to be on the horizon.
Their over/under for wins coming into the year was set at 28.5, which actually seemed a little low at the time when you consider that they won 38 games in 2013 with similar players. But it didn’t take long for the team to take their first major blow. Just three games into the season, the newly extended Sanders was involved in a nightclub altercation that resulted in a torn thumb ligament. The injury would sideline him for six weeks. The story of the altercation is that Sanders instigated a fight at a Milwaukee nightclub and began throwing champagne bottles at another man. Two quick questions about that incident: How terrifying would it be to have Larry Sanders throwing champagne bottles at you? And who knew there were nightclubs in Milwaukee?
Three games into the season and the Bucks were already in a hole. They lost 12 out of their first 14 games. They were the worst team in the NBA and they never looked back, or maybe the correct phrase in this case is that they “never looked forward”. The hopes of making it to the playoffs for the second straight year were out the window before Christmas. The stretch of bad luck continued throughout the entire year as O.J. Mayo and Ersan Ilyasova were constantly appearing on the injury report. Both guys were coming off of solid years and were given the opportunity to shoulder a bulk of the scoring load in the absence of Ellis and Jennings.
The Bucks stumbled to a 9-43 record going into the All-Star break and were barely drawing enough fans to fill half of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It’s also worth noting that the franchise was being shopped around the entire season to potential buyers and a new arena deal has been looming over Milwaukee for the past few years. They traded guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour to Charlotte for Jeff Adrien and Ramon Sessions in a move that saved the Bucks almost $2 million in salary, although the main focus at the trade deadline was on the 76ers. Philadelphia gave away Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for basically nothing in efforts to really kick start Tankapalooza 2014.
The Sixers lost 26 games in a row from the end of January to the end of March and still weren’t able to capture the worst record in the league as the Bucks lost 21 games during that same stretch of time. It was like the Heat battling the Pacers for the top spot in the East, only the exact opposite. The real dagger in the heart of the season came when the Pacers came to town a few weeks ago and decided to rest all five starters against the miserable Bucks. They decided to do so even though they had only won two of their last nine games while trying to hold off the Heat for the top spot in the East. But the outcome was a foregone conclusion considering the way the season had already been going in Milwaukee. This was a real punch in the gut. You know it’s bad when Chris Copeland beats you for a game winner.
The most remarkable part about this team is that they weren’t like the 76ers and the Celtics – this team was built to try and make a run at the Playoffs this year! Luckily though for the Bucks, the season ended on Wednesday night. Of course, it is only fitting that they lost the last game of the year against the Hawks. An unlucky, depressing basketball season has finally come to an end.
I’ll let some numbers spell out out exactly how bad this team really was in case you didn’t have the pleasure of watching a game:
- Only beat two teams with an above .500 winning percentage (Washington and Chicago)
- Five road wins total
- 3-27 against the Western Conference (beat the Jazz once and the Lakers twice)
- 1-6 in overtime games
- The winning percentage of the teams that they beat was .378 combined
- Started Zaza Pachulia 43 times
- Had a record of 2-20 on Saturdays
- Combined for 27 different starting lineups
- Last in Defensive Rating at 111.8 (points allowed per 100 possessions)
- Most wins in a month was four (December)
- Last in the NBA in attendance
Don’t tie that noose up quite yet Bucks fans because after all of that there is some good news! They now have the best chance to land the number one pick in the draft lottery that takes place in a few short weeks. The 2014 Draft Class is absolutely loaded with talent and there are about eight players who can instantly become the face of the franchise. Times are tough right now in Milwaukee but if Antetokounmpo lives up to his potential, the team doesn’t botch their first round selection, and if Larry Sanders can hold onto bottles, then they should be right back in the thick of the playoff race next season. That last sentence was probably used in the pitch that helped sell the team for a reported $550 million.
Things are on the up and up in Milwaukee, if only because that’s the only way they can go from here.
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you your 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks!