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How the 2023-24 Detroit Pistons compare to other bad teams in NBA history

Detroit has the record for most consecutive losses in a single regular season.

Detroit Pistons v Atlanta Hawks
Head coach Monty Williams of the Detroit Pistons reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the second quarter at State Farm Arena on December 18, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons officially put their name in the NBA record books on Tuesday, December 26 with a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, marking their 27th consecutive loss in the 2023-24 season. That became the longest losing streak for a team in a single regular season, though Detroit is not far off from the longest losing streak ever. The Philadelphia 76ers lost 28 straight games spanning the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, and the Pistons could top that streak before the 2023 calendar year ends.

Those 2014-15 and 2015-16 rosters for the 76ers aren’t great. Philadelphia was able to draft Joel Embiid after a disastrous 2013-14 season. He subsequently sat all of the 2014-15 season. Robert Covington and Jerami Grant were two other notable names on that roster. Covington is back with the 76ers, while Grant landed a big contract with the Trail Blazers in the summer. That brutal campaign allowed Philadelphia to take Ben Simmons, who would miss the 2015-16 season. The 2013-14 76ers team lost 26 games in a row, although Michael Carter-Williams would go on to win Rookie of the Year.

The post-LeBron Cavaliers also had 26 losses in a row. Ramon Sessions, J.J. Hickson and Anthony Parker were the key players on that team. Antawn Jamison led the team in scoring but only played 56 games. The Cavaliers sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers in a trade for Baron Davis and a first-round pick that would become Kyrie Irving, which ended up being the highlight of that year for them.

The Pistons are an interesting case, largely because they don’t really fit the mold of either franchise mentioned above. They hadn’t enjoyed years of competitiveness fueled by a superstar, but they also aren’t outright tanking during a rebuild like the 76ers. Detroit’s win total at DraftKings Sportsbook to begin the season was set at 28.5. It’s currently 9.5, with the over priced at -320.

Here’s at look at lineup data from nba.com for each of the teams listed above for the most frequent lineup combination.

2010-11 Cavaliers: Jamison, Parker, Mo Williams, Varejao, Daniel Gibson (233 minutes, +11)
2013-14 76ers: Carter-Williams, Anderson, Hawes, Thad Young, Evan Turner (612 minutes, -138)
2014-15 76ers: Carter-Williams, Noel, K.J. McDaniels, Covington, Mbah a Moute (152 minutes, +29)
2015-16 76ers: Covington, Noel, Okafor, Ish Smith, Stauskas (106 minutes, -37)
2023-24 Pistons: Cade Cunnigham, Jalen Duren, Ausar Thompson, Killan Hayes, Isaiah Stewart (100 minutes, -22)

The Pistons actually do have a lineup (Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic, Duren, Jaden Ivey, Stewart) that is +16 on the season. The problem is this lineup has only played 19 minutes, largely due to Bogdanovic missing the first part of the campaign. This was also the most likely lineup to be used by the Pistons this year, since Cunningham, Ivey and Duren are all considered cornerstones of the rebuild. That’s one reason the Pistons haven’t been getting the results they want.

Detroit has also had some close calls during this losing rut. The Pistons have lost six games by six points or less, including contests against the Bucks and defending NBA champions Denver Nuggets. While this was not expected to be a playoff season for Detroit, a competitive group with some identity would’ve been nice.

The focus now shifts to head coach Monty Williams, who signed a massive six-year, $78.5 million deal to lead this team. This is definitely the most losing he’s experienced in his career and it’s hard to know whether the message isn’t getting through or if the talent gap is too much to overcome. Williams is going to get time to sort through this mess, but he’s probably on the hot seat to begin next season. If things start going south quickly in 2024-25, you can expect Detroit to make a change.

So when will the Pistons get their next win? And how many wins will they need to avoid the record for most losses overall in a season?

The 1972-73 76ers won just 10 games. The Charlotte Bobcats (before they rebranded back to the Hornets) won seven games in the lockout shortened season, which would translate to eight or nine wins in a full season based on win percentage. The Pistons would surely like to avoid those marks.

Detroit’s next truly winnable game comes January 10 against the Spurs, who have not been much fun to watch themselves despite having Victor Wembanyama in the mix. The Pistons get the Wizards on January 15, the Hornets on January 24 and the Wizards again on January 27. They have the Trail Blazers in early February.

If the Pistons deal veterans Bogdanovic and Alec Burks at the deadline, they might go under 10 wins. This is the ugly side of even the most promising rebuilds; there is going to be a lot of losing. Cunningham looks like a star, while Ivey and Duren still have a ways to go. There’s still some promise here but fans can only stay on board for so long before things need to change. We’ll see if the Pistons can at least get some results to go their way in 2024, if not earlier.