The competitive lifespan of an NBA franchise is delicate. A team’s championship relevance depends on many factors, including the front office’s competence, coaching staff, and the totality of star power on the court. “Poverty” in the NBA sense can be defined by the corrosion of the team’s ethics and business method.
The line between poverty and purgatory is a razor’s edge. Many franchises teeter between the two while balancing front-office scandals while placating superstar talents (see the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets). But typically, there are a few agreeable metrics to label a franchise “poverty.” The term can be misleading and assumed to mean a team is broke concerning talent, available cap space, or draft capital. Those factors contribute, but it’s more about the moral and existential quandaries that haunt a team on and off the court. We’ve collated the franchise that has fallen off the ethical cliff while also headed towards internal implosion to find out who has earned the title of being a poverty franchise.
Because of coastal proximity, franchises like the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Miami Heat, and Golden State Warriors can have prolonged success as free-agent destinations. Smaller markets depend on the draft and calculated trades to stay competitive but can see their window slam shut when their star seeks a more cosmopolitan city. For years, the league’s poverty franchises were the usual suspects, the New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Sacramento Kings. These three teams were the benchmark of NBA poverty, racking up losing records and squandering young talent and draft picks while mired in on and off-the-court controversy. But all three teams have turned a corner over the last couple of years towards competence and mediocrity, one tier above poverty in Dante’s NBA Inferno. This list will pinpoint which three teams, due to recent on-the-court and off-the-court failings, have taken their place as poverty franchises.