10 NBA players who have played the most games without ever making the playoffs

Published 6:00 pm Monday, April 24, 2023

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10 NBA players who have played the most games without ever making the playoffs

All basketball players dream of hoisting the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy—an honor only attainable by conquering the league’s arduous playoff path. For the 450 athletes who wear an NBA jersey each season, the chance of winning a title begins with the playoffs.

The NBA, established in 1946, has seen roughly 58% of all its players make the playoffs at least once in their career. The Sacramento Kings—a franchise that ended its 16-year playoff drought this 2022-23 season—has seen an abundance of its players not get that opportunity.

JustWatch ranked the 10 NBA players who have played the most regular-season games without ever making the playoffs, using data compiled by Basketball-Reference.com.

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Half of those players in the top 10 of this list played for the Kings, including when the team was located in Kansas City, Missouri; Cincinnati; and Omaha, Nebraska.

The NBA has only seen three of its 30 franchises not represented in the top 10: the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and San Antonio Spurs. At least one of the 10 players spent a part of their career with the remaining 27 teams.

Geoff Huston of the Cleveland Cavaliers goes up to shoots over John Duren of the Indiana Pacers.

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#10. Geoff Huston

– Games played: 496
– Years active: 1979-87 (8 seasons)
– Points per game: 8.8
– Rebounds per game: 1.4
– Assists per game: 5.1
– Teams played on: New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers

Geoff Huston, drafted in the third round of the 1979 NBA draft by the New York Knicks, played 12,252 minutes during his NBA career without ever making the playoffs. The point guard was traded in 1981 from the Mavericks to the Cavaliers for Chad Kinch and a 1985 first-round selection despite leading Dallas in scoring and assists.

Huston’s inability to make an appearance in the NBA playoffs is partially due to those two teams and the trade. The Mavericks finished as the worst team in the NBA for the 1980-81 season with a 15-67 record. Huston’s 1981-82 Cavaliers team was also the worst in the NBA at 15-67.

Doug Overton of the Washington Bullets dribbles the ball during a basketball game.

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#9. Doug Overton

– Games played: 499
– Years active: 1992-2004 (11 seasons)
– Points per game: 4.5
– Rebounds per game: 1.3
– Assists per game: 2.1
– Teams played on: Washington Bullets, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, New Jersey Nets, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers

The point guard from Philadelphia had a unique journey to the NBA. He spent his first few seasons as a professional basketball player with the Rockford Lightning of the Continental Basketball Association and the Illawarra Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League.

Doug Overton—one of two players in the top 10 of this list to have played for eight different teams—scored 2,253 points in his career and came close to an NBA playoff appearance during the 1998-99 season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Overton signed a 10-day contract with the team, but his deal culminated at the end of the regular season.

He also came close to the playoffs during the 2000-01 season with the Boston Celtics, who finished fifth in the Atlantic Division with a 36-46 record.

Eddy Curry of the Chicago Bulls slams the ball against the Boston Celtics.

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#8. Eddy Curry

– Games played: 527
– Years active: 2001-13 (11 seasons)
– Points per game: 12.9
– Rebounds per game: 5.2
– Assists per game: 0.5
– Teams played on: Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks

Eddy Curry, who made the transition to the NBA straight from high school, was selected with the #4 overall pick in 2001 by the Chicago Bulls—the highest draft pick in the top 10 of this list.

The 7-foot center scored a career-high 43 points in 2007 against the Bucks. In 2011, Curry was part of the three-team blockbuster trade that sent him to the Minnesota Timberwolves and saw the Knicks acquire Carmelo Anthony.

The following season, Curry became an NBA champion with the Miami Heat. He played in 14 regular-season games with the Heat during the 2011-12 season but was only active for one game during the team’s 23-game playoff run. Curry did not log any minutes in that game.

Popeye Jones pulls down a rebound in front of Detroit Pistons Ben Wallace.

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#7. Popeye Jones

– Games played: 535
– Years active: 1993-2004 (11 seasons)
– Points per game: 7.0
– Rebounds per game: 7.4
– Assists per game: 1.3
– Teams played on: Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors

Murray State product Popeye Jones was drafted in the second round of the 1992 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets but played one season of professional basketball in Europe for Italian franchise Aresium Milano before making his NBA debut in 1993 after his rights were traded to the Mavericks.

Jones had some of the best years of his career during his four seasons in Dallas, where he holds the team’s single-game rebound record at 28.

The Mavericks failed to reach the playoffs during Jones’ first three seasons with the team, including a 13-69 record in 1994. Jones was also part of the 2002-03 Mavericks team that finished 60-22 and went to the playoffs, but the power forward wasn’t part of the team’s playoff run despite 26 regular-season appearances.

Buddy Hield of the Indiana Pacers shoots in the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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#6. Buddy Hield

– Games played: 548
– Years active: 2016-present (7 seasons)
– Points per game: 16.1
– Rebounds per game: 4.4
– Assists per game: 2.6
– Teams played on: New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers

Buddy Hield—the only active NBA player on this top 10 list—has had individual success despite not having the opportunity to play in the playoffs. The Bahamian athlete has been at the center of several trades, which have prevented him from playing for contending teams.

In 2017, the former Oklahoma Sooner was traded by the New Orleans Pelicans to the Sacramento Kings, where he spent six seasons before being traded to Indiana in 2022. On Feb. 15, Hield made Pacers history against the Bulls, surpassing Reggie Miller for the most three-pointers made in a season at 230. Hield is also the second-fastest player to reach 1,500 career three-pointers in NBA history, behind the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.

Josh Hart, who currently plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, is the next closest active NBA player without a playoff appearance with 371 games played.

 Sebastian Telfair of the Phoenix Suns is congratulated by teammates as he leaves the floor.

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#5. Sebastian Telfair

– Games played: 564
– Years active: 2004-15 (10 seasons)
– Points per game: 7.4
– Rebounds per game: 1.6
– Assists per game: 3.5
– Teams played on: Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder

Sebastian Telfair—one of two players in the top 10 of this list to have played for eight different teams—was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the #13 overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft. The point guard was drafted from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York.

The cousin of former NBA player Stephon Marbury, Telfair had a tumultuous career marred by a series of trades and issues off the court. Telfair, who was part of six trades throughout his career, also had brief stints with several teams in the Chinese Basketball Association.

In August 2019, the former Mr. Basketball USA was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for illegal gun possession following a traffic stop in New York two years prior.

Omri Casspi of the Sacramento Kings reacts during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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#4. Omri Casspi

– Games played: 588
– Years active: 2009-19 (10 seasons)
– Points per game: 7.9
– Rebounds per game: 4.0
– Assists per game: 1.1
– Teams played on: Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies

Power forward Omri Casspi began his professional career with the EuroLeague’s Maccabi Tel Aviv before being drafted in 2009 with the #23 overall pick by the Kings, making him the first Israeli player to be drafted in the first round.

In 2015, Casspi scored a career-high 36 points against the Warriors, a team he would play for two years later. The Golden State Warriors would be crowned NBA champions in 2018 after the team waived a then-injured Casspi right before their playoff run.

The Warriors would later honor Casspi with a championship ring for his contributions to the team that season. In 2021, Casspi retired from basketball after returning to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Nate Williams of the New Orleans Jazz dribbles the ball against the New York Net.

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#3. Nate Williams

– Games played: 642
– Years active: 1971-79 (8 seasons)
– Points per game: 12.0
– Rebounds per game: 3.8
– Assists per game: 1.5
– Teams played on: Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City-Omaha Kings, New Orleans Jazz, Golden State Warriors

Nate Williams—the swingman who finished his career with 7,709 career points—is another player on this list who played for the Kings. The 6-foot-5 athlete played for the franchise during its tenure in Cincinnati; Kansas City, Missouri; and Omaha, Nebraska. Williams, a well-rounded player, proved productive, scoring a career-high 41 points for the Jazz against the Denver Nuggets in 1977.

The former Utah State Aggie was also durable during his career. Williams was the NBA league leader in games played for the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons.

Williams played 82 games for the Kings during the 1973-74 campaign and 85 games in 1974-75—his last season with the franchise.

 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dribbles the ball backing in on Otto Moore of the New Orleans Jazz.

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#2. Otto Moore

– Games played: 682
– Years active: 1968-77 (9 seasons)
– Points per game: 8.2
– Rebounds per game: 8.2
– Assists per game: 1.6
– Teams played on: Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Kansas City-Omaha Kings, New Orleans Jazz

Selected with the #6 overall pick in 1968, Otto Moore played 16,893 minutes in the NBA without a playoff appearance.

The 6-foot-11 center played for two teams with winning records during his career—including the 1970-71 Pistons, who finished the season with a 45-37 record, and the 1971-72 Suns, with a 49-33 record. Despite the results, both the Pistons and Suns failed to clinch a playoff berth with Moore on their rosters during a time when Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reigned supreme.

Moore led the NBA in games played at 82 for the 1972-73 season.

Tom Van Arsdale of the Atlanta Hawks looks on during a basketball game circa 1975.

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#1. Tom Van Arsdale

– Games played: 929
– Years active: 1965-77 (12 seasons)
– Points per game: 15.3
– Rebounds per game: 4.2
– Assists per game: 2.2
– Teams played on: Detroit Pistons, Cincinnati Royals, Kansas City-Omaha Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns

The Indianapolis native had a very productive career and was a teammate of Nate Williams while with the Kings franchise in Cincinnati; Kansas City, Missouri; and Omaha, Nebraska. A three-time NBA All-Star, Tom Van Arsdale scored a career-high 44 points for the Kings in a loss against the Houston Rockets in 1972. Van Arsdale would finish his NBA career with a total of 14,232 points. A second-round draft pick by the Pistons, he notched 3,942 rebounds and 230 steals in his career.

Van Arsdale played with his twin brother, Dick Van Arsdale, for the Phoenix Suns during the 1976-77 season—the final year for both brothers in the NBA.

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