While the Kings are already bounced from NBA playoff contention, there is a glimmer of hope that through the play-in game, they could find their way moving up in the NBA’s draft lottery.
By rule, the 16 teams that make the postseason will comprise the final 16 picks in the first round of the draft. The 14 lottery teams, which include eight clubs that didn’t make the bubble restart, and the six teams that made the bubble, but did not make the playoffs, will then vie for one of the four top spots in the lottery.
According to this season’s restart rules, the records for the 14 non-playoff teams that comprise the lottery, revert back to the team’s records on March 11.
If the Grizzlies or Trail Blazers find their way into the postseason as the No. 8 seed, it doesn’t impact the Kings. There is a reasonable likelihood that this scenario plays out and all of this is for not.
At the start of play on Wednesday, the Blazers hold a half game lead over the Grizzlies, Spurs and Suns. They finish off their eight game schedule against the Brooklyn Nets, who have somehow strung together a 5-2 record, despite leaving all of their stars back in New York.
If Portland wins, they’ll earn a spot in the play-in game as the No. 8 seed and they will need just one win out of two potential games to advance to the playoffs. This would be bad for Sacramento.
If Portland loses on Thursday, things get very interesting. A Blazers loss, and wins by two of the three teams chasing them, means that they are eliminated from the playoffs. If only one of the teams chasing the Blazers win, then Portland would earn the No. 9 spot in the play-in game and have to beat the No. 8 twice.
If Memphis wins their finale on Thursday against the Bucks, they make the play-in as either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed, depending on the outcome of the Blazers game. If the Grizzlies, Suns and Spurs all lose their respective games, Memphis would also make the play-in game as the No. 9 seed.
The road to the playoffs for the Suns and Spurs is complicated, but for Phoenix to make it, they need to win and a loss by either Portland or Memphis. If both Portland and Memphis lose and Phoenix wins, the Suns are the No. 8 seed heading to the play-in. If one of Portland or Memphis loses and Phoenix wins, then the Suns are the No. 9 seed and need to win back-to-back games in the play-in.
In order for the Spurs to extend their incredible 22-season playoff streak, they need a lot of help. They finish with the Utah Jazz and need to win to have any shot. If they win and the Blazers, Grizzlies and Suns all lose, then the Spurs are the No. 8 seed in the play-in game. If the Spurs win and two of the three teams in running lose, then the Spurs make it as the No. 9 seed for the play-in game.
Why does all of this matter for the Kings?
Because if either the Spurs or the Suns, not only make it to the play-in game, but also win and represent the Western Conference in the playoffs as the eighth seed, they will become the 16th team outside of the lottery.
Sacramento currently sits in a two-way tie with the Pelicans for 12th and 13th place in the lottery. It doesn’t matter that the Kings beat New Orleans 2-1 in the season series, they will have a coin flip before the draft lottery to determine who is No. 12 and who is No. 13.
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If the Spurs or Suns move from their current position of No. 10 and No. 11 in the lottery, the Kings and Pelicans would move up a spot.
One spot isn’t earth shattering, but it could make a difference on draft night. It also improves the team's chances of moving into the top four of the draft from 6.1 percent to 9.4 percent.
A perfect scenario for Sacramento would be that the Suns and Spurs win and the Grizzlies and Blazers lose. This would guarantee that the Kings would move up one spot in the lottery.
The Kings have been lucky in the lottery in two of the last three drafts. They moved from No. 8 to No. 3 and then slid to No. 5 as part of a pick swap in the 2017 NBA Draft. That move earned them the chance to select De’Aaron Fox.
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In 2018, the Kings moved up from No. 7 to No. 2 where they selected Marvin Bagley.
Sacramento finishes off their restart schedule on Thursday morning with a 10:30 game against the Lakers. They’ll board a plane back to Sacramento directly following the game and will likely land in time to see how all of the games played out and where they stand heading into the lottery on Aug. 20.