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NBA PM: Longest NBA Losing Streaks

The Philadelphia 76ers’ losing streak is officially among the five longest ever, but which teams have topped them?… Isaiah Thomas thought he would be a Los Angeles Laker

Joel Brigham

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Longest NBA Losing Streaks Ever

The Philadelphia 76ers will play the New York Knicks on Friday night for what could be their 23rd straight loss, an atrocious number that, while ugly, is still a ways away from the worst losing streak ever. They’ve still got a little “work” to do if they want to take sole ownership of the most dismal streak ever, but while we all wait to see when the next win comes for the Sixers, here’s a look at the longest losing streaks in NBA history:

#5 – 2013-2014 Philadelphia 76ers – 22 games – The Sixers haven’t won a game since January, and since they’re basically trotting out a D-League team every night, there doesn’t look to be much relief in sight. Trading away Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes certainly didn’t help anything, but this is a rough-looking group apparently doing everything they can to earn the most ping-pong balls for this spring’s lottery.

#4 – 1995-1996 Vancouver Grizzlies – 23 games – Expansion teams are supposed to be bad, but a single-season 23-game losing streak in the Grizzlies’ first campaign came dangerously close to being historically bad. While the team did have five guys average double-figures that season, only one topped 14 PPG (Greg Anthony), and the Grizzlies only managed a scant 15 wins all season. Despite all that, the low point was definitely spending over a quarter of the season doing nothing but losing.

#3 – 1997-1998 Denver Nuggets – 23 games – This 11-win team not only posted the second-lowest regular season win total in league history (only two losses away from tying the record), but until 2011 they also held the record for longest single-season losing streak in NBA history. LaPhonso Ellis was arguably the team’s best all-around player that year, if that helps put into perspective just how rough things were for Denver basketball fans in the late ‘90s.

#2 – 1981-1982 and 1982-1983 Cleveland Cavaliers – 24 games – Cleveland had a couple of players top 20 PPG in 1981-1982, but scoring doesn’t always equate to wins—a fact that was never made more clear than when Mike Mitchell and Ron Brewer led the charge in kicking off the second-most embarrassing losing streak of all time. The next season Cliff Robinson got healthy and the Cavs added World B. Free, which was enough to snap the streak pretty early on in 1982-1983, but despite that, these two seasons resulted in a combined 38 wins.

But if you thought these Cavaliers were bad, hold onto your seats because it gets worse:

#1 – 2010-2011 Cleveland Cavaliers – 26 games – Back in 2010, Cleveland was reeling in the wake of losing LeBron James to the Miami HEAT, and the results were not pretty. No other team in NBA history has won 40 games one year only to lose 40 games the next, and at one point Cleveland had won only a single game in 37 tries. The Chicago Bulls were pretty bad the year after Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan retired, but they weren’t quite this bad. Apparently losing LeBron is a much bigger blow.

Honorable Mention

1979-1980 & 1980-1981 Detroit Pistons;– 21 games – The Pistons group saw their historic losing streak spread over the course of a couple seasons, but it was the 1979-1980 group, which won only 16 games, that proved responsible for the majority of those consecutive losses. This streak was broken by October of 1980, but having to wait an entire summer to even have a chance to snap it must have been a real treat for Pistons fans.

1972-1973 Philadelphia 76ers – 20 games – This was the infamous Philly team that managed to lose a record 73 games in a season, so it’s no real surprise that they’re somewhere on this list. Mathematically, they almost had to be.

1993-1994 Dallas Mavericks – 20 games – In 1992-1993, the Mavericks won only 11 games, but it was the following year (when they won 13) that proved awful enough to push them into a 20-game losing streak. At least all those bad games netted them Jason Kidd in that summer’s draft, and things got markedly better after that.

1984-1985 & 1985-1986 New York Knicks – 20 games – The 1985 Knicks finished their season on a 12-game losing streak, which was enough to land Patrick Ewing in the league’s first-ever draft lottery later in the spring. It took Ewing a couple weeks to get his first professional win, though, as that 12-game streak extended to 20 in the early part of Ewing’s prolific NBA career.

1993-1994 & 1994-1995 L.A. Clippers – 20 games – Most of the blame for this one falls on the shoulders of Loy Vaught, Lamond Murray and the rest of this disappointing 1994-1995 Clippers squad that won only 17 games, because this streak was non-story the previous season, which ended on a non-newsworthy four-game skid.

With four more straight losses, the Sixers can top the all-time mark for futility, set only a few years ago by Cleveland, but as bad as they want to land a good pick in June’s draft, they probably don’t want to find themselves at the top of this list for the next several years.

However they finish up the season, this has not been a good year for the Sixers, but we knew that would be the case heading into the campaign. It wasn’t clear that things would be quite this bad, but after that deadline fire sale anything was possible. “Anything,” in this case, appears to be setting the record for longest losing streak in league history.

Isaiah Thomas Thought He’d Be a Laker

The story about Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas being “Mr. Irrelevant,” the 60th and final selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, is pretty well-documented, because while second-round picks having success in the league is nothing new, eventual starters taken that late are considerably more rare.

Only 5’9, Thomas was recognized by several NBA scouts as being undeniably talented, but his height kept him from being selected sooner. Despite that, Thomas headed into that draft feeling confident he’d be drafted, though his stomach dropped as picks in the 50s kept rattling off and his name still wasn’t called.

“I think the Lakers had four second-round picks, and after their last pick (58th overall), that’s when it hit me that I might not get drafted,” Thomas said. “I had a good workout with them, and they had talked to me about their need at the point guard position.”

He waited out the second round in the gym that night, hoisting up jumpers to occupy himself and keep his nerves at bay, but when it became clear that the Lakers thing wasn’t going to happen, he allowed himself to sulk, accepting what he believed was the inevitable.

“Once it started getting later in the draft I headed home,” Thomas explained. “My mom called me and she was like, ‘Are you alright?’ I said no. She said, ‘Just remember everything happens for a reason.’ That was around the 56-57th pick.

“Then my agent had called me and told me. I actually had forgotten all about Sacramento; that was my first workout. When they said they were going to pick me, I was just happy. Like I told everybody else, all I wanted was a chance. I didn’t care if I was drafted the first pick or the last pick like I was. I just wanted a chance, and I got that chance with the Sacramento Kings.”

And has he ever made the most of that opportunity. Thomas is currently averaging 20.6 PPG for the Kings (17th in the NBA) and 6.4 APG (11th in the NBA), and while the Kings are still losing a lot of games, he feels like the group is on the right track and is optimistic about what the future will bring in Sacramento.

“We have the talent to be a playoff team, I think everybody knows that,” Thomas said. “We can compete with anyone in the NBA. It’s about putting the effort each and every night and knowing that this team is going to play their heart out and defend and do the things that they can control.”

Doing the things he can control is what got Thomas here in the first place, and he hopes that rubs off on his teammates as the team continues its struggle to make it back into the perennial playoff picture.

“I just keep fighting and keep working hard,” he said. “Every chance that I got and every opportunity that I got I just take it and take advantage of it. Whether it is the last five minutes of a blowout or at the beginning of the game, whatever it may have been I just took advantage of every opportunity.

“When my name was called to become a starter I didn’t look back. That’s how my whole life has been. I’m always about the next opportunity.”

The next opportunity for the Kings is some more wins, but as hard as this season has been for them, it certainly could have been a whole lot harder had they not gambled on the tiny guard from Washington with their last pick a few years ago. If they can strike that kind of gold with their lottery pick this year, they’ll be well on their way to massive improvements.

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Update: Eric Bledsoe Trade Talks

Michael Scotto updates the ongoing Eric Bledsoe trade saga.

Michael Scotto

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The sun has set on the 2017-18 season for Phoenix three games into the year.

The Suns fired head coach Earl Watson and promoted Jay Triano as the team’s interim head coach, as ESPN first reported. The Suns suffered an embarrassing 124-76 loss in the home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. The final straw came during a 130-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road to drop the team to 0-3.

Then things went from bad to worse rapidly after a tweet from guard Eric Bledsoe.

General manager Ryan McDonough spoke with Bledsoe. Bledsoe told McDonough he was at a hair salon with a girl and the tweet wasn’t related to the Suns. McDonough didn’t believe that to be true and said the 27-year-old guard “won’t be with us going forward.”

Bledsoe spoke with McDonough and owner Robert Sarver privately several weeks ago. During that conversation the desire for a change was expressed, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

Since then, Phoenix has discussed trades involving Bledsoe around the league, sources told Basketball Insiders. In addition, Tyson Chandler has continued to be shopped by the Suns during that time.

Trade talks have rapidly picked up since Bledsoe’s desire to be traded was made public.

The Suns and Denver Nuggets have discussed a trade of Eric Bledsoe for Emmanuel Mudiay and other pieces, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried has emerged as part of the trade package with Mudiay, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Denver has shopped Faried for years. The 27-year-old forward is owed $12.9 million this season and $13.7 million next season. Mudiay is owed $3.4 million this season and $4.3 million next season. Mudiay will then become a restricted free agent if given a qualifying offer in the summer of 2019. For more information on Denver’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Suns also spoke to the New York Knicks and asked for No. 8 overall pick Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in exchange for Bledsoe. The Knicks are not interested in that package, however.

Kyle O’Quinn is a candidate to be traded. Several teams have called the Knicks expressing interest in O’Quinn. New York wants to retain Hernangomez for the foreseeable future despite a lack of playing time early in the season. It’s also worth noting Hernangomez is a close friend of Kristaps Porzingis. Ntilikina is currently the point guard of the future in New York.

In addition, New York would need to add a salary filler to make the trade work financially. For more information on New York’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Milwaukee Bucks have also expressed interest in trading for Bledsoe, according to the New York Times. The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers also have interest in Bledsoe, according to Amico Hoops.

Bledsoe is owed $14.5 million this season and $15 million next season before entering unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018.

Bledsoe has averaged 18.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game with Phoenix. In addition, Bledsoe shot 45 percent from the field, 34 percent from downtown, and 81 percent from the foul line.

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NBA PM: Greek Freak Off to an MVP-Caliber Start

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ MVP and looks primed to be in the actual MVP race this season.

James Blancarte

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The NBA season is officially underway. Although each team has only played a few games so far, it has helped illuminate where many teams and players are in their development. For example, last night’s game in Oklahoma City gave a glimpse into how the Thunder will handle a late-game situation now that the team has three previous number one options. In the final minute, Russell Westbrook scored two of the Thunder’s last three baskets and assisted Carmelo Anthony on the final basket just before Andrew Wiggins hit a game-winning buzzer beater from well beyond the arc.

After three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s individual development has been one of the most exciting storylines to follow. A number of positive and far-reaching questions can be asked of Giannis. What is the ceiling for him? Can a player of his considerable talents continue to improve after winning Most Improved Player last season? Remember, Giannis was drafted in 2013 and is still only 22 years old.

When told in August that although he could win most valuable player, he could not also win most improved player as well, he responded with a simple, yet telling response.

“Why not?” Antetokounmpo responded.

While he continued to be lighthearted and moved on to the next topic, it’s fair to ask, “why not?” when it comes to Giannis. Through three regular season games, he is averaging 38.3 points, five assists, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. These averages will likely regress to more sustainable numbers as the season continues. For now, however, his averages are in elite territory. In addition, his ability to impact the game is already getting to the point where LeBron James may be the only other player who can similarly fill up the stat lines while physically terrorizing opponents on both the offensive and defensive end of the court.

When asked who the “biggest freak in the NBA” is, Giannis elaborated that it was James due to his ability to impose himself on the game.

“The things [James] does, the veteran leadership he brings to the team, how big he is, how quick, how strong,” Giannis stated. “And at the end of the day, how smart he is. He can put his team in the right spots, make the right decision.”

In Saturday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Giannis willed his team to victory. It was Giannis demonstrating how big, strong and smart he was, putting his team on his shoulders and carrying them to an impressive win.
With less than a minute left in a close game, Giannis closed in with a well-timed double team on Damian Lillard and came away with a clean steal. The steal got the Bucks the ball back and Giannis was fouled, which put him on the free throw line. Unfortunately, he came up short on both attempts and the Bucks remained a point behind.

Despite missing the free throws, Giannis came up huge on the very next play. Giannis took on C.J McCollum one-on-one at the top of the key and created yet another steal. He then leaked out to receive the pass for a breakaway dunk that quickly gave the Bucks the lead with 11.4 seconds remaining.

On the next play, when Jusuf Nurkic set a high screen and roll, he received the pass on the roll and headed to the basket. Giannis’ primary responsibility was the shooter in the corner and yet he read the action correctly and was ready and waiting at the rim for Nurkic. Giannis times Nurkic’s shot perfectly and rejected him at the rim, which effectively ended the game in favor of the Bucks.

Giannis’ ability as defensive Swiss Army Knife was instrumental in the Bucks’ close win over Portland. In addition, Giannis has also made further improvements in an area of his that has received a lot of attention over the years. He continues to shoot a below average three-point percentage for his career (27.6) and has had a rocky start to this season as well (16.7). It’s likely that Giannis’ three-point shooting will be a significant limitation in his game for the foreseeable future. However, over his career, Giannis has shown an ability to improve his shooting percentage on two-point shots consistently, especially shots from 0-3 feet and 3-10 feet, per basketball-reference. As Giannis has gotten stronger and more explosive, he has developed a strong desire to attack opponents off the dribble and absorb contact at the rim. Whether he blows by his opponent outright or scores through opponents at the rim, Giannis has developed into an offensive force that few players in the league could hope to slow down.

In addition to his scoring, Giannis continues to display his unique ability to handle the ball in transitions and run the Bucks’ offense in the half court as a point forward. This sort of ability separates Giannis from the other elite wings in the league who don’t have the skill or vision to act as a primary playmaker. Giannis is doing much of what he did last year, but seems more aggressive and physically dominant through the first three games of this season. That sort of improvement of course puts Giannis in the MVP discussion (though it is incredibly early in the season to even start this sort of discussion).

Giannis was recently asked about his ability to win the MVP and wasn’t shy about his desire to win the prestigious award.

“I’m going to be one of the players that hopefully dominates the game. But I’ve got to still make sure that my team wins, that my teammates get better,” Giannis stated. “I’ve set the goal since the last game against Toronto last year, at the playoffs. I want to be the MVP this year.”

What helps solidify Giannis’ ability to be such a strong MVP candidate is also what makes his team less dangerous. The Bucks are woefully dependent on their star and, at least for now, lack the necessary depth to be a true contender in the East.

Through three regular season games, it’s clear that the Bucks will only go as far as Giannis can take them. And that is the key to Giannis’ budding MVP campaign. Let’s take a look at last year’s top five MVP candidates. Last year’s winner, Westbrook, has two new star-caliber players (Paul George and Carmelo Anthony) to share the spotlight, and the ball, with. James Harden is sharing the ball with Chris Paul, who is currently struggling with a knee injury. LeBron James and the Cavaliers are almost exclusively concerned with the postseason. Kawhi Leonard is similarly crucial to the San Antonio Spurs on offense and defense but has lingering health concerns and has yet to play this season. Finally, Isaiah Thomas is coming off a major hip injury and is not projected to play until January.

With so much uncertainty, Giannis has the opportunity to continue to draw attention as not only the most important player on the Bucks but perhaps the most valuable player in the league. Giannis’ early play this season indicates that this is possible. Despite his early-season outburst, Giannis is giving deference to LeBron James — though he admits he hopes to reach James’ level at some point in the future.

“Definitely [James is] the best player in the NBA. For a few years to come,” Giannis stated. “But I think a lot of players are getting better. Even myself. And hopefully one day we can get to that spot from him.”

Perhaps Giannis will take the spot as the best player in the NBA as early as this season. Considering how dominant he has been so far this season, it’s fair to ask “why not?”

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Wright Primed To Take Next Step With Raptors

Third year Utah alum Delon Wright is showing flashes of what he can do in an expanded role for Toronto.

Spencer Davies

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Backup point guards are essential to a team’s success.

They’re the floor generals of the second unit. They create for themselves to score. They collapse defenses in order for the others to get opportunities.

In some cases, these players perform so well that they outgrow the role they provide and force their way into the starting five—on that same team or elsewhere. Just look at past examples: Darren Collison, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Schroder, etc. The list goes on.

Kyle Lowry was 20 years old when he was drafted late in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. He studied the position behind veteran guards Chucky Atkins and Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire.

But even after showing promise in his rookie season, management decided to take Mike Conley Jr. the very next year. Though the two were about even in playing time, it was clear the Grizzlies favored youth over anything else, so in 2009, Lowry was dealt with the Houston Rockets in a three-way trade at the deadline.

At this point, Lowry had started in only 30 games over two-and-a-half seasons, so the keys to the car weren’t ready for him just yet. Aaron Brooks was a unique talent that Rick Adelman loved to throw out there along with Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Brooks started all 82 games in the 2009-10 campaign and blossomed into a scoring machine. He was shooting the lights out that year, and because of that, it was tough to sit him. Lowry still took advantage of his playing time, though, with plenty of floor run. He averaged nearly 14 points and seven assists per 36 minutes.

To the misfortune of his teammate and the advantage to Lowry the next season, Brooks struggled mightily with the jump shot that made him so deadly. After 34 games, the Rockets moved him in a deal to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. Dragic was on his way to carving his niche in the league, but it opened up a door for Lowry to really take hold as “quarterback” of the team.

Circumstances arose once again, however. Houston had let go of Adelman and hired Kevin McHale in June 2011. Lowry and his new head coach did not have the same rapport. He unfortunately suffered from a bacterial infection and missed out on the beginning of the season, and towards the end, the emergence of Dragic led to his demise.

That summer, the Rockets sent Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a future first-rounder. Once again, it was a fresh start for him, but also a brand new team with a different head coach.

It didn’t take long for the man to realize his true potential there. Aside from shuffling a bit with Jose Calderon as the starter in Toronto, Lowry found a home. The jump he made between that season and the next one was impressive.

Lowry got paid after that 2013-14 season and re-signed with the Raptors for four years. He earned three All-Star appearances and—aside from the postseason disappointments—led the team to new heights with his fellow All-Star backcourt partner DeMar DeRozan.

Toronto and its star point guard agreed to a three-year, $100 million deal over the summer to keep him running the show and to honor that contract well as he has always had. But now there’s somebody behind Lowry waiting to break out, and could very well be the one who gets the torch passed to him.

Delon Wright is ready to make his mark. When he entered the league, he was a reserve behind Cory Joseph and had to observe and soak in the experience of NBA life. For some rookies, they get the chance immediately, and for the others, they have to wait their turn. In this case, it was the latter.

Playing the waiting game ended up working out well for him. In the offseason, the Raptors went out and traded Joseph for C.J. Miles due to the loss of DeMarre Carroll. It was a move that not only addressed a need for depth at the wing but also opened a door for Wright.

So here we are, two games in. The Raptors are 2-0 and have outscored their opponents by 51 points. In those combined, Wright has received 55 minutes of playing time.

Despite the competition being the rebuilding Chicago Bulls and a Philadelphia 76ers team trying to find an identity, he looks extremely comfortable. You don’t want to take too much out a sample size as small as that, but neither the numbers nor the eye test lies.

Wright has played the third-most minutes on the team thus far. He’s done a great job on both sides of the floor but has truly made a difference on the defensive end. As of now, the Raptors are only allowing 83 points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood. When he’s not, that number blows up to 98.9 using the same scale.

Offensively he’s almost been just as good. Wright has been aggressive as a facilitator and as a shooter, putting up 13- and 14-point games early on. He dished out five assists in the season opener and nabbed five rebounds in the second game. He has a higher offensive rating than both Lowry and DeRozan.

According to NBA.com, Toronto’s net rating with him off the court (12.9) is the second lowest to his lifelong teammate Jakob Poeltl (12.8). Take it with a grain of salt because it’s one week into the season, but Wright has the best net rating in the league (37.6) among those playing at least 25 minutes per game.

Call it garbage time play or whatever you want: He has the tools to succeed. The stature is there. The intangibles are evident. It’s all about putting it together over the course of an entire season.

If the trend continues, there’s no way Casey can keep him off the floor for long. We don’t know where Wright’s career could go. It’s way too early to tell. The Raptors are likely hoping for him to be the successor after this era of basketball has come and gone.

Lowry is the man in Toronto, as is DeRozan. Nothing is changing that anytime soon. But rest assured, Wright’s primed to take a big step this year and it’s going to be fun to watch.

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