Sporting Charts

Longest Active Playoff Droughts in the NBA

Prolonged playoff droughts are an oddity in the NBA, as its postseason system is very noble and usually allows even teams with losing records to make it to the playoffs. Also, having 16 of the 30 teams making it past the regular season puts it in par with the NHL as the leagues with more playoff participants, and so it is not uncommon to see even mediocre teams making it at least once every couple of seasons.

However, still with the current system and the draft lottery there are a few teams who haven't been able to punch their ticket in recent years. Of the 30 franchises in the NBA, only 4 of them haven't played a postseason game in the last 5 years. Even as the league has gradually become the most predictable between all of the major sports (the last 30 championships have been won by only 8 different franchises), and only a few select teams really have legitimate championship aspirations, making the playoff still carries gravitas and hope for each team's fans.

Today we take a look at these playoff-hungry teams, why they have failed recently and their chances heading to the 2013-2014 season.

Washington Wizards - Last playoff appearance: 2008 (lost in First Round 4-2 to the Cavaliers)

While the Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards showed enough quality and promise by making the playoffs for 4 straight years, their subsequent transformation into league laughingstock has been miserable and painful for the Washington faithful. Since their last playoff exit in 2008, the franchise has gone through 4 coaches, the Arenas-Crittenton gun meltdown and a paltry total of 117 wins versus 277 losses. Even as the low win total ended up with a high draft pick that yielded John Wall, the franchise is still waiting for him to develop into the superstar he was supposed to be. The current projection for Washington gives them somewhere around 40 wins, suggesting that they should be vying for an 8-seed in the Eastern Conference and breaking the drought.

Toronto Raptors - Last playoff appearance: 2008 (lost in First Round 4-1 to the Magic)

The Raptors have not completely bottomed out since their last trip to the playoffs, but they have been pretty much inconsistent and with rosters full of miscasts and washed-up players. During this span they have employed 3 head coaches, though their vote of confidence on Dwayne Casey for a third campaign in 2013-14 at least promises to show enough continuity for a team that is betting on Rudy Gay to play like a star and useful cogs like DeMar DeRozan and Landry Fields to produce enough for the team to have a shot in the East. Their listed win over/under stands at an intriguing 35.5 – a complete toss-up for a team that desperately needs to rise out of irrelevancy.

Sacramento Kings - Last playoff appearance: 2006 (lost in First Round 4-2 to the Spurs)

By the end of the 20th Century, the Kings were a model small-market franchise that employed a long list of entertaining players like Mike Bibby, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic in their primes. Moreover, the team made the playoffs in 8 consecutive campaigns from 1998 to 2006, even being on the cusp of the NBA Finals in 2002 (when an officiating travesty kept them out). Unfortunately for them, that run has been succeeded with 7 straight years of futility that have been marked by legal problems and the threat of relocation. The Maloof brothers have done a poor job as team owners, but now that the future of the franchise finally appears to be settled in Sacramento, the Kings faithful must surely hope that the upcoming years will feature better things. Trusting on the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins is still a low-upside move, and so 2013-14 is probably only a building block in the future of the team, especially in a loaded Western Conference.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Last playoff appearance: 2004 (lost in Conference Finals 4-2 to Lakers)

Since their inception in 1989, the T'wolves have been pretty much consistent: they kicked off their NBA experience with 7 consecutive seasons missing the postseason, followed by 8 straight playoff trips and now 9 years of futility for the Minnesota squad. In those 9 years, the team has gone through 6 coaching changes, and though it just bottomed out with sub-20 win seasons in 2009 and 2010, their usual performances have been marked by injuries, botched drafts and bad free-agent signings. Fortunately for the Wolves, their 2013 roster promises to put up a good fight and vie for their playoff spot in 10 years. Their legitimate star, Kevin Love, finally appears to be healthy, while Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin should be good pieces for a team that hopes to start a positive run to be consistent with its franchise's history.

Longest Active Playoff Droughts in the NBA

Team Seasons Last Appearance
Minnesota Timberwolves 9 2004
Sacramento Kings 7 2006
Toronto Raptors 5 2008
Washington Wizards 5 2008
Detroit Pistons 4 2009
Charlotte Bobcats 3 2010
Phoenix Suns 3 2010
Cleveland Cavaliers 3 2010
New Orleans Pelicans 2 2011
Portland Trail Blazers 2 2011
Orlando Magic 1 2012
Philadelphia 76ers 1 2012
Dallas Mavericks 1 2012
Utah Jazz 1 2012

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