Are the Detroit Pistons the NBA's worst team? Yes and no.

Jan 27, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2)
Jan 27, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) / Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons missed an opportunity to tie the Washington Wizards and share the dubious honor of having the league’s worst record, but the officials had other ideas, and helped the New York Knicks keep Detroit at the bottom. 

If we are talking strictly wins and losses, then yes, the Detroit Pistons are the worst team in the NBA for the second season in a row. They are likely to set the franchise record for futility this season and will have won fewer games in the last two seasons combined than the Boston Celtics had at the All-Star break of this one. 

But there are plenty of bad teams in the NBA this season, as the Washington Wizards only have nine wins and the San Antonio Spurs are sitting at 11. The Charlotte Hornets stink, as do the Portland Trail Blazers, but I’ll leave the Memphis Grizzlies out of this conversation, as they’ve been decimated with injuries after starting the season as contenders in the Western Conference. 

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As for rosters, I am completely biased, but would take Detroit’s young core over any of the above teams except for the San Antonio Spurs, simply based on Victor Wembanyama, who might win Defensive Player of the Year in his rookie season and has the makings of an all-time great. Sigh.

Wizards’ fans have little to be excited about, as they aren’t even that young and are locked into one of the league’s worst contracts with Jordan Poole. The Hornets are a mess, the Trail Blazers are just starting their rebuild and top pick Scoot Henderson has been underwhelming. But these two teams have nearly doubled the Pistons’ win total, so I’ll leave them out as well.

Are the Detroit Pistons the NBA’s worst team? 

Washington Wizards 

The Wiz certainly have an argument, though they have beaten the Pistons twice already this season. The Wizards are currently in the midst of an 11-game losing streak and it feels like the Pistons may overtake them in the standings at some point. 

Aside from wins and losses, Washington has the league’s 26th ranked offense, with the Pistons just ahead at 25th. The Pistons are scoring the 22nd most points per game and the Wizards are 18th, so the offenses are about equal with a slight edge to Washington. 

The Pistons have the 24th ranked defense, and 27th in points per game allowed, while the Wizards are 28th and 30th, respectively. Both defenses are horrible and allow more than 120 points per game on average, but Detroit is slightly better. 

Washington has the second worst scoring margin in the league at –9.8 while Detroit is 27th at –9. 

There isn’t much between these two teams, but the Wizards don’t have anyone as good as Cade Cunningham and in my biased opinion, the Pistons are closer to being good even though both teams are awful. 

San Antonio Spurs 

The Pistons are slightly better offensively than the Spurs (25th to 27th in efficiency and 22nd to 24th in points per game) and slightly worse defensively as the Pistons are 29th in efficiency to 24th and 27th to 26th in opponents’ points per game. 

There’s little difference in scoring margin, so once again, the Pistons and Spurs are fairly equal in all ways except for wins. 

It’s not an argument I’d hope the Pistons would be involved in this season, but unless the Detroit Pistons start stacking some wins, they will finish as the league’s worst team in the only category that matters, which is wins.