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The Golden State Warriors are on pace to have one of the biggest single-season win declines in NBA history

The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of a historically bad season. After a loss to the Orlando Magic Sunday night, the Warriors are no 4-17. That’s good enough for the worst record in the NBA through the first quarter of the 2019-20 NBA season.

For one of the greatest teams in NBA history, who were coming off a 57-win season and a loss in their fifth-straight trip to the NBA Finals, the drop off is stunning.

Even after they lost Kevin Durant to free agency and Klay Thompson to injury, many pundits still felt the Warriors would be a playoff team. They still had Stephen Curry, they still had Draymond Green, and they added D’Angelo Russell. Of course, it all went south when Curry broke his hand early on and the tank was on.
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So now, the greatest team of the past decade is in danger of going into the history books as the owners of one of the worst single-season win declines in NBA history.

The Ringer recently detailed in an article, the worst one season drop-off in NBA history occurred in 1998-99 when the Chicago Bulls went from 62 wins and a championship the year before to a measly 13 wins. It was a 49-win decline. The reasons are pretty obvious. Michael Jordan (semi) retired, Scottie Pippen went to the Rockets, and the Bulls were left with a team led by Toni Kukoc.

It began six seasons of futility where they never won more than 30 games. The next six years were marred by a series of bad draft picks and personnel moves. In 1999, the Bulls made a good pick in selecting Elton Brand with No. 1 pick but then they traded him after two years to the Clippers for Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner. They also took Ron Artest in the first round, who they shipped out to the Pacers after two and a half years in a trade that brought back Jalen Rose.

Then in the next four drafts, they took Marcus Fizer (what?), Eddy Curry (meh), Jay Williams (unfortunate), and Kirk Heinrich (huh!). They finally made a good pick in 2004 taking Ben Gordon and their fortunes started to change as they made the playoffs that next year for the first time since Jordan left.

The next longest decline happened in 2010-11 when the Cleveland Cavaliers went from 61 wins the year before to 19 wins – a 42-win decline. That, of course, was precipitated by the loss of LeBron James, who took his talents to South Beach. It was the beginning of a long stretch of futility that was only broken by the Return of the King in 2014-15. Although they did draft Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick in 2011 and he was a cornerstone of the 2016 championship team.

The third-largest decline occurred in 1996-97 when the San Antonio Spurs won just 20 games – 39 fewer games than they did the year before. This was the Tim Duncan year when the Spurs tanked to get the prize of the 1997 Draft, Tim Duncan. (Spoiler alert: they got him.)

The year before, the Spurs won 59 games led by all-NBA first teamer David Robinson and fellow all-star Sean Elliott. In 1996-97, Robinson played in only 6 games due to foot and back injuries while Elliott only played in 39 games due to injuries, Chuck Person also missed the entire year with injuries.

So, the Spurs were terrible, and the ping pong balls went their way, which means they got Duncan in the draft. They also brought back a healthy Robinson and Elliott and went from 20 wins to 56 in 1997-98. The following year they won their first of 5 championships as the Spurs dominated in the 2000s.

Which brings us to the Warriors. The Bulls record of a 49-win drop is probably safe, but the Warriors are on pace to win about 16 games. Considering they won 57 the year before, the drop would be around 41 games at this pace. That would be 3rd worst of all-time.
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They’ll likely get a top 3 pick in the draft and add that player to a team that includes a healthy Curry, Thompson, Green, and Russell. That could make for a very good team next year and they could be in the position to draft the cornerstone of their next dynasty like the Spurs did.

Let the tanking begin.

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