UPDATE -- I wrote this in December. A similiar story was just written on ESPN. The part of the story John Hollinger didn't include is how amazing it is that the Sonics have won any games at all with a defense this bad. Check out what the rest of the teams that have been at this nadir did in the win total.
Here is what I found.
First, since 1988, year the Minnesota Timberwolves entered the NBA no team has had a defensive rating as bad as the Sonics current rating of 114.6. Defensive rating is figured as points allowed per 100 possessions.
The only teams that were anywhere close are as follows …..
Year Team Def Rating Wins
05-06 Sonics 114.6 ??
92-93 Mavericks 114.3 11
90-91 Nuggets 113.2 20
95-96 76ers 111.6 18
94-95 Pistons 111.6 28
89-90 Magic 111.6 18
97-98 Grizzlies 111.3 19
97-98 Nuggets 111.1 11
94-95 Wolves 111.1 21
30 teams since 1988 have had a defensive rating worse then 110. Three of those teams managed to get to 41 wins but none were above .500
The only real way to judge a defensive team from one year to the next is to judge them in relation to the league average. This accounts for increases and decreases in scoring trends. The Sonics defensive rating is 114.6 and the league average is 102.6. Therefore the Sonics are a –12.
Again this is the worst of any team in the NBA since the 1988 season and maybe longer.
Here are the other terrible teams and their success rate …..
Year Team Def to Avg Wins
05-06 Sonics -12 ???
99-00 Clippers -10.46 15
99-00 Warriors -9.22 19
92-93 Mavericks -9.21 11
97-98 Grizzlies -8.63 19
99-00 Grizzlies -8.63 22
03-04 Magic -8.59 21
99-00 Bucks -8.49 42
90-91 Nuggets -8.49 20
97-98 Nuggets -8.39 11
The only team that won more then 22 games was Ray Allen’s Milwaukee Bucks.
None of this accounts for how good the Sonics are offensively. Therefore, I looked at efficiency differential, offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency and charted 16 years of efficiency differential and its correlation to wins. The Sonics currently have an efficiency differential of –7.2, 4th worst in the league. History says that over the past 16 years teams with a –7.2 win between 21 and 28 games.
The most alarming findings were the following over the last 16 years …
No team with an efficiency differential of –7 or worse has ever won 30 games.
No team with an efficiency differential of –6 or worse has ever won 35 games.
No team with an efficiency differential of –5 or worse has ever won 37 games.
No team with an efficiency differential of –4 or worse has ever won 39 games.