Bay Area

The 6 longest playoff droughts in NBA history

Bay Area

Sacramento Kings have made history – and not the good kind.

After a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, the Kings were mathematically eliminated from qualifying for the play-in tournament, simultaneously eviscerating any hope of making the playoffs.

That means the Kings’ playoff drought has extended to 16 years, which has set an NBA record. But Sacramento is not the only franchise to endure a lengthy absence from the postseason.

With the playoffs set to begin Saturday, April 16 through Monday, May 30, here are the teams that have suffered the longest playoff droughts in NBA history:

1. Sacramento Kings, 2007-present: 16 seasons

Sacramento’s glory days of Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Co. are a memory of the distant past. The Kings just haven’t been able to assemble a playoff-quality roster. Sacramento has put 10 different head coaches at the helm since the 2006-2007 season, and no one has seen success. Michael Malone had a shot, but the Kings inexplicably fired him. 

 

There’s also the matter of failed first-round draft picks over the years: Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, Tyreke Evans, Thomas Robinson, Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskas, Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis, Malachi Richardson, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley. Yeah, not good. 

Let’s see if the Kings can end the drought in 2023.

2. Los Angeles Clippers, 1977-1992: 15 seasons

Before the Kings grabbed the top spot, the Los Angeles Clippers held the record. The Clippers went 15 seasons without sniffing the postseason. Los Angeles got within one seed of a playoff spot in 1979, 1980 and 1981, but that was it. The Clippers finished 10th or below every other season in that timeframe.

The streak came to an end in the 1992 playoffs, but the Clippers fell 3-2 in the first round to the Utah Jazz.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves, 2005-2018: 13 seasons

The Minnesota Timberwolves were the recent franchise with the longest playoff drought before it ended in 2018. The 13-year drought came to a satisfying end when Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins guided Minnesota to the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

Minnesota lost 4-1 in the first round to the Houston Rockets and haven’t made the playoffs since. However, Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell have led the way to the No. 7 seed in the West in 2022. Minnesota will likely need to win a play-in tournament game to end the new drought.

4. Golden State Warriors, 1995-2007: 12 seasons

Now one of the powerhouses in the NBA, things initially were not going so smooth in the Bay Area. The Golden State Warriors went 12 years without a playoff berth before making it to the conference semifinals in the West in 2007 as a No. 8 seed. 

That roster was led by Baron Davis, Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis and Jason Richardson. Then two years later, the Warriors drafted Stephen Curry – the rest is history.

T-5. Phoenix Suns, 2011-2021: 10 seasons

The Phoenix Suns were another squad in the Pacific Division that went double-digit years without seeing the playoffs. It started after the Steve Nash-Amar’e Stoudemire era ended in 2009-2010.

Phoenix went 10 years without a playoff berth until the acquisition of Chris Paul before the 2021 season started changed everything. Paul, along with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, ended the drought in miraculous style. The Suns made it to the 2021 NBA Finals before falling to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

 

T-5. Dallas Mavericks, 1991-2001: 10 seasons

The Dallas Mavericks round out the teams that went at least 10 seasons without qualifying for the postseason. It started in 1991, and Dallas never finished above 10th until the 1999-00 season when it placed ninth in the West.

Then, a year later, a group led by Dirk Nowitzki and Nash helped end the drought. The Mavericks finished as a No. 5 seed in the 2001 playoffs before losing in the conference semifinals to the San Antonio Spurs.

Other playoff droughts in NBA history:

Golden State Warriors, 1978-1987: 9 seasons

Utah Jazz, 1975-1984: 9 seasons

Sacramento Kings, 1987-1996: 9 seasons

Denver Nuggets, 1996-2004: 8 seasons

Memphis Grizzlies, 1996-2004: 8 seasons

Atlanta Hawks, 2000-2008: 8 seasons

Los Angeles Clippers, 1998-2006: 8 seasons

Washington Bullets, 1989-1997: 8 season