The 1990-91 Denver Nuggets were a truly prolific offensive team. They averaged 119.9 points a game and had an astounding eight players average in double-figures, led by Michael Adams (26.5 points and 10.5 assists) and Orlando Woolridge (25.1 points and 6.8 rebounds). For a statistical comparison, the Phoenix Suns are the highest scoring team in the league this year, and they're averaging 106.3 points per game and have six players in double-digits, although Shawn Marion is their only 20-point scorer (21.5).
So why did Nuggets finish with a pathetic 20-62 record and waaaaaaay out of the playoffs? Because they were the worst defensive team of all time. Strong words? Yep. But we have the numbers to back them up.
Just how bad were they? The following statement pretty much says it all: they gave up 130.8 points per game. That's right: per game. Just think about that for a minute. Can you imagine scoring almost 120 points and still losing by at least 11 points every night? By the way, that 130.8 points a game is, indeed, the most points per game allowed by any team in NBA history.
But wait! There's more. As a team, they shot a pathetic 44.0 percent from the field -- worst in the league that year -- while allowing their opponents to shoot 51.2 percent, another league-worst. What's even more absurd is that they never, not once, held an opponent under 100 points. In fact, they only held an opponent under 110 points four times. By comparison, they allowed nine teams to score more than 150 points against them. Here's a breakdown of the number of points allowed by the Nuggets over the course of the 1990-91 season:1990-91 Denver Nuggets Points AllowedThe coach of the team was Paul Westhead, best known for getting run out of Los Angeles by Magic Johnson. He decided before the season to implement an up-tempo offense that emphasized pushing the ball at every opportunity. Unfortunately, the "First Team To 100 Points Wins" philosophy only works when you can stop the other team once or twice.
Runner Up: Strangely enough, the second-worst defensive team of all time was the 1981-82 Denver Nuggets, who surrendered 126 points per game while allowing opponents to shoot 52.4 percent. Coach Doug Moe used a motion offense he called "playground ball with a little supervision." Apparently there there was even less supervision on the defensive end. On the up side, they were the highest scoring team in league history at 126.5 points per game. Which got them into the playoffs where they were promptly knocked off in the first round by Phoenix.
Bonus Trivia: The 1982-83 Denver Nuggets have the dubious distinction of being the only team to ever score 184 points...and lose the game. On December 13, 1983, the Nuggets lost to the Detroit Pistons by the score of 186-184 in triple overtime. And for the record, that Nuggets team gave up 122.6 points per game, which is good for 5th worst of all time. Of course, the 1983-84 Denver Nuggets were the 4th worst defensive team ever, allowing 124.8 points per game. In fact, the Ultimate Stat Search at databaseBasketball.com reveals that five of the top ten worst defensive teams of all time are former Nuggets squads, making them, historically speaking, the worst defensive franchise ever.