NBA Playoff Droughts


The recent ineptitude of the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers has become a frequent topic of conversation in recent times. These big market teams, however, are not the only teams struggling of late, many teams have been stuck in perpetual mediocrity for years.

None of the following 5 franchises have made the playoffs since 2012, with some holding streaks spanning a number of years. In fact 3 of these teams are currently in the midst of their longest playoff droughts in franchise history.


Orlando Magic

Last Appearance: 2012 First Round

Current Streak: 4 seasons

Playoff Chances This Season: 7/10


Since trading an unhappy Dwight Howard for a bag of peanuts in 2012, the Orlando Magic has struggled significantly. In the past 4 seasons the Magic have finished 15th, 13th, 13th and 11th in a less than impressive Eastern Conference. With the recent hiring of Frank Vogel, the Magic have now had 4 different head coaches in 5 seasons.

During this period of a relevant irrelevancy, Orlando looked to the draft for answers in an attempt to rebuild its roster. In the past few seasons they have drafted a number of talented young players. Despite a plethora of talent, however, the trouble for the Magic has been translating that potential into on-court success.



The new look Orlando Magic at their 2016 Media Day


In the past year the Orlando Magic organisation decided to move in a new direction, looking to sure up its roster with experience and veteran leadership. Orlando traded away young stars Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris and brought in experienced players Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green, Bismack Biyombo and CJ Watson. Despite this, the Magic have been able to maintain a core of young talent (Payton, Vucevic, Gordon and Fournier).

This new balanced roster along with the appointment of the successful and defensive minded Frank Vogel as head coach, playoffs are definitely a possibility for the Magic this season.


Philadelphia 76ers

Last Appearance: 2012 Semi-Finals

Current Streak: 4 seasons

Playoff Chances This Season: 1/10


The 76ers have not made the playoffs since the Andrew Iguodala era and frankly they haven’t even really tried to. Year after year, Philadelphia, under general manager Sam Hinkie, effectively tanked in order to accumulate number 1 draft picks. The combined record of the 76ers over the past 4 years is a staggering 81-247.

Despite accumulating a number of high draft picks, the 76ers’ ‘select a big man in every draft’ method has not helped at all. Winning 20 games has been hard enough; let alone any contemplation of playoffs. All the losing may have finally paid off for 76ers fans, however, when the team selected Ben Simmons with the first overall pick in this years draft.


The man behind the 76ers ‘process’ – former GM Sam Hinkie

Although Ben Simmons is touted as and could be a once in a generation player, the 76ers will likely struggle to win games again this upcoming season, even LeBron didn’t make the playoffs in his rookie year with the Cavs. With another top pick set to finally make his debut in Joel Embid and Ben Simmons in tow (when he recovers from his foot injury); the 76ers will definitely be more interesting to watch. Despite this, however, playoffs look unlikely for a few of seasons at least.


Phoenix Suns

Last Appearance: 2010 West Finals

Current Streak: 6 seasons

Playoff Chances This Season: 4/10

After its most successful period in franchise history the Phoenix Suns have failed to make the playoffs since Amare Stoudemire left the team in free agency in the summer of 2010. When Steve Nash was traded to the Lakers in 2012 the Suns direction was clear – rebuilding.

While the Suns have been far from the worst team in the league during this time span they have had many ‘nothing’ seasons in a sense. Despite the 2013-14 season, in which they finished one position short of a playoff spot with a record of 48-34 the Suns have been competitive yet disappointing. Their performance last season, due to a fair amount on injuries it must be said, was the second worst in franchise history, 23 wins, the worst since the franchise’s inaugural season in the NBA (1968-69) in which they won just 16 games.

In recent years, however, the Suns have accumulated promising young talent to build around moving forward. The future for their shooting guard Devin Booker looks particularly bright. Many questions marks, however, still exist for the Suns in the next few seasons:

Who is their number one option at point guard moving forward, is it Brandon Knight or Eric Bledsoe?

Can top 5 pick Alex Len live up to his promise?

Can the Suns find a consistent wing scorer?

And how will Dragan Bender’s game translate into the NBA?

The current direction of the Suns is the correct one, building through the draft and developing their young core. If everything pans out, Phoenix has a definite chance of becoming a perennial playoff team once again. At this stage, however, it appears that they are at least two seasons away from doing so.


Sacramento Kings

Last Appearance: 2006 First Round

Current Streak: 10 years

Playoff Chances This Season: 2/10

The most dysfunctional franchise in the NBA over the past ten years, the Sacramento Kings have not made the playoffs since they featured a lineup of the likes of Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin. Since that season, the highest the kings have finished in the Western conference is 11th. During this time, the kings have had 8 different coaches and a number of draft day blunders, particularly in the past 3 years – Nick Stauskas, Jimmer Fredette and drafting two centers with DeMarcus Cousins already on the roster (something Cousins clearly wasn’t happy with).

Every time in which the fortune for the Kings appears to be turning around, the organisation has, without fail, found a way to mess it up. The plight of the franchise is perfect proof that the ‘success starts at the top’ theory is truly a reality in professional sports. The Kings problem has not necessarily been a lack of talent but a lack of cohesion and direction. The Vivek/Divac era has been an unequivocal failure so far.

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus in the middle – can Cousins and the Kings turn years of failure around this season?

On the positive side the Kings still have one of the top 15 players in the world and arguably the best center in the league, DeMarcus Cousins. The hiring of Dave Joerger, a proven head coach who really should not have been fired from the Grizzlies, is a step in the right direction.

Despite this, however, both on and off the court, many problems exist. Small forward Rudy Gay is unhappy and wants to be traded, starting point guard Darren Collison is facing domestic violence charges and a lack of talent at the other positions is a definite concern. At this point, unless Joerger can pull off something short of a miracle and DeMarcus can have an all NBA-team year, it is highly unlikely that the kings will make the playoffs.


Minnesota Timberwolves

Last Appearance: 2004 Conference Finals

Current Streak: 12 years

Playoff Chances This Season: 6/10

You may not have known it, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are in the midst of the third longest playoff drought of any team in NBA history. In fact, if they miss the playoffs again this year the will move into second position, only behind the 1976-1991 Los Angeles Clippers. Not since the heyday of the Kevin Garnett years (KG’s MVP season of 2004) have the Timberwolves even played a playoff game. The Wolves failed to make it to the postseason during the Kevin Love years (2008-2014), consistently finishing at or near the bottom of the Western Conference.

Just like the Sacramento Kings the Timberwolves lack of success is for the most part a direct result of a number of draft night blunders:

2006 – Trading away draft selection of Brandon Roy to Portland for Randy Foye

2009 – Johnny Flynn with pick #6 (one pick before Steph Curry)

2010 – Wesley Johnson with pick #4

2011 – Derrick Williams with pick #2

In recent years, however, the fortune has turned the way of the Wolves with their accumulation of a number of future all-stars – Andrew Wiggins (2014-15 ROY), Karl Anthony-Towns (the 2015-16 ROY), Zach LaVine and their 2016 selection Kris Dunn. Last season the team showed glimpses of what they could be in the future and if everything works out the Wolves could become the OKC Thunder 2.0. With an experienced and intelligent Tom Thibodeau now at the helm as head coach the Timberwolves will more than likely improve, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It is safe to say that playoffs are a definite possibility for the Timberwolves this season.

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