The 2013-14 NBA season, now underway, features plenty of compelling storylines—Derrick Rose’s return from an ACL tear, Kobe Bryant’s return from an Achilles injury, Dwight Howard’s resurgence as a Houston Rocket, the New Orleans Pelicans creepy mascot—but the only thing many pundits and commentators seem to want to talk about is the supposedly stacked 2014 NBA Draft. With teams salivating over guys like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the decade-old debate is as hot as ever—can you lose to win?
The NBA Draft Lottery is supposed to prevent teams from “tanking”—i.e., intentionally playing poorly in hopes of securing the top draft pick the following year. But the Lottery confers only a 25 percent chance at that number one spot to the team with the worst record. We wondered, does muddling in futility mean a team will be successful in the long run? So we took a look at the worst teams in the NBA from 2003 to 2010, a time frame that should provide sufficient opportunity for draft picks to realize their potential, analyzing whether a team’s awfulness eventually brought success to the franchise. The results will surprise you.