How other streakers have recovered

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sam Hinkie (left) and coach Brett Brown are sticking with their plan.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sam Hinkie (left) and coach Brett Brown are sticking with their plan.
Posted: March 28, 2014

I MUST CONCEDE that the first phase of the Sixers’ long-range plan to build a championship contender has succeeded wildly.

President/general manager Sam Hinkie came in swinging a wrecking ball at the franchise and leveled it to rock bottom.

Unless you live in Milwaukee, the Sixers are hands-down the worst team in the league. Their 15 wins are presently two more than the Bucks, but the Sixers’ level of incompetence is on the verge of passing anything the NBA has seen in its nearly 70 years of existence.

Tonight in Houston, the Sixers are heavy favorites to lose and thus tie the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers for the longest losing streak in NBA history at 26 games.

And if they do indeed lose in Houston, the Sixers will return to South Philadelphia on Saturday night with a chance to set the record with a loss to the Detroit Pistons in front of what remains of the dwindling ticket-buying fan base.

Lose to Houston and Detroit, and the franchise will be owners of the two most embarrassing team statistics in the NBA: the longest losing streak (27) and the worst record in a full season, 9-73 in 1972-73. (The Charlotte Bobcats’ 7-59 in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season is the only worse winning percentage).

Of course, all of this was done with the goal of securing the highest pick possible in the 2014 NBA draft.

So all Sixers fans can hope for now is that Hinkie is as good at building up as he has proved to be at tearing down.

If luck is on their side, the Sixers will win the NBA draft lottery to secure the No. 1 overall pick and then not have the New Orleans Pelicans jump into the top five. The Jrue Holiday trade gives the Sixers that pick if it is not in the top five.

However, if karma strikes with a vengeance, the Sixers will be ahead of the Bucks, then see three teams jump ahead of them in the lottery, including New Orleans, and end up with the fifth overall pick.

That should still land them a franchise-quality prospect in what is being regarded as the best draft in a decade.

Still, even in the best case, NBA history has shown it is usually not a quick fix for teams that have sunk as low as the Sixers.

Here is a list of the other teams with the top-five losing streaks and how their recovery process went.

* 2010-11 Cavaliers (26 games): When LeBron James took his talents to South Beach to join the Miami Heat, the Cavs were on the other side of the coin.

Cleveland won the lottery and drafted Duke point guard Kyrie Irving first overall. With the fourth overall pick, the Cavs took Texas forward Tristan Thompson.

Guard Dion Waiters (fourth overall) and center Tyler Zeller (via a trade with Dallas) were first-round picks acquired in 2012 and forward Anthony Bennett was picked No. 1 overall in 2013.

Irving was the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star, but the Cavs will post their fourth straight losing season. This season has been a disappointment, but Cleveland still has an outside chance at the last playoff spot in the East.

* 1981-82 and 1982-83 Cavaliers (24 games spanning two seasons): Lost the last 19 games of the ’81-82 season and first five of ’82-83.

Because of the Cavs owner Ted Stepian’s penchant for trading away draft picks, the NBA awarded the Cavaliers bonus first-round picks from 1983-86. It was the only way George and Gordon Gund would buy the team and keep it in Cleveland. Today, a team isn’t allowed to trade draft picks in consecutive years thanks to the “Ted Stepian Rule.”

Cleveland traded away its first pick in 1983 (No. 3 overall) but drafted forward Roy Hinson and point guard Stewart Granger later in first round. In 1984, it traded for center Melvin Turpin, who had been picked sixth overall by the Washington Bullets.

In 1985, forward Charles Oakley was picked ninth but traded to Chicago.

The Cavs struck gold in 1986 when they acquired the No. 1 overall pick from the Sixers for Hinson. They drafted center Brad Daugherty first and guard Ron Harper at No. 8. Cleveland also traded for guard Mark Price and forward Larry Nance.

Cleveland had a fourth losing season in 1986-87 but then made the playoff eight of the next nine seasons.

* 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies (23 games): The expansion Grizzlies won their first two games but then lost 19 straight. Later in the season, they lost 23 straight. The Grizzlies never won more than 23 games in six seasons in Vancouver before relocating to Memphis.

The Grizz lost a coin flip to their fellow expansion club in Minnesota for the 1995 draft. The Timberwolves picked future Hall of Fame forward Kevin Garnett fifth overall. Vancouver got center Bryant “Big Country” Reeves sixth. Other top picks included forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim (third), forward Roy Rogers (22nd), point guard Antonio Daniels (fourth), point guard Mike Bibby (second), guard Steve Francis (second), who refused to report, and forward Stromile Swift (second).

In the 2001 draft, Vancouver acquired forwards Pau Gasol and Shane Battier and point guard Jamaal Tinsley, but the team was in Memphis before the season began. It was 2003-04 before the Grizzlies had a winning season and made the playoffs.

* 1997-98 Denver Nuggets (23 games): Won just 11 games and had five more consecutive losing seasons.

The Nuggets traded their highest pick three times and other first-round picks included Raef LaFrentz (third), James Posey (18th), Mamadou N’Diaye (26th) and Nikoloz Tskitishvili (fifth). Denver returned to the playoffs when Carmelo Anthony was drafted third overall in 2003.

* 2011-12 Bobcats (23 games): Were much like the current Sixers in that majority owner Michael Jordan was gutting a team that had snuck into the playoff two seasons earlier to build for the future.

In the 2011 draft, the Bobcats picked UConn’s Kemba Walker, at No. 9.

The Bobcats were 7-59 in a lockout season. Despite having the best odds to win the lottery, Charlotte finished second.

New Orleans took All-Star center Anthony Davis first while the Bobcats settled swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Charlotte finished with second-worst record in 2012-13 but again slipped in the lottery, this time two spots. The Bobcats drafted forward Cody Zeller fourth overall and signed free-agent center Al Jefferson.

The Bobcats currently hold the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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