The Clippers are widely characterized as the most disappointing team in the NBA this season. Certainly it feels that way, but does the evidence bear it out?
The Clippers won 40 games in 2006-2007 compared with 47 games in 2005-2006. The minus 7 is a big drop off, though only 'good' enough for 8th in the league.
New Jersey -8
Interestingly, almost all of the biggest backsliders made the playoffs last season. It stands to reason of course, since you have to have won a lot of games in order to win a lot fewer. It's also interesting to note that three Eastern Conference teams had significantly fewer wins and still made the playoffs - Detroit still finished with the best record in the East, despite 11 fewer victories. It would be nice to be in the Eastern Conference, but that's a different post.
At any rate, the Pistons, Heat and Nets continue to play, and so the final chapter on their season has not yet been written. If the defending Champions were to be eliminated in the first round by the Bulls (a distinct possibility) they'd have to get some most-disappointing votes.
Of course the comparative disappointment is based not just on regular season record, but also on playoff success. The Clippers advanced to within one game (a few seconds in game 5, really) of the Western Conference Finals, while the Bucks, Kings and Grizzlies were not around very long in the playoffs. So the Clippers had further to fall - further than '47 win season.' Of the teams that advanced to the second round last season, they're the only ones not to qualify for the post-season this year.
You also have to consider expectations and external factors. The Clippers were young, deep and under contract going into this season. The Kings, on the other hand, were getting pretty long in the tooth, and lost a starter during the off-season. The Bucks hade a big off-season and showed some promise, but they lost their starting small forward before the season started, lost their All Star for much of the year, and shut down several other players in order to get a better draft pick after it became clear they couldn't make the playoffs.
The Grizzlies of course saw their season go down the tubes in August in Japan when Pau Gasol injured his foot. But 27 is a big number. From 8th best record in the NBA to worst record in the NBA in a single season is precipitous. And the injury to Pau doesn't really explain it - not when you consider that he returned to action in mid-December. Even allowing for some time to get up to speed, the Grizzlies were horrible the whole season. From January 1 their record was 15-35. Of course they were pretty much already out of contention by the time Gasol got back, and they were dealing with other crap as well (new coach, ownership confusion, trade rumors), but this was a disappointing team.
So, depending on what happens in the playoffs (where the Heat or the Mavs could enter the conversation with a first round flame out), it comes down to the Grizzlies or the Clippers for most disappointing team. Maybe karma is playing a part here. It wasn't their fault that the NBA's playoff scheme made it advantageous to lose games at the end of last season, but they both appear to have paid the cosmic toll nonetheless. If so, we can hope that the Mavs will have a karmic debt to pay this post-season.
For now, it's got to be Grizzlies most disappointing, Clippers second.