The Sacramento Kings have a better record than the Boston Celtics on the day after Thanksgiving. Who saw that coming?
Certainly not the Celtics, whose 2019 NBA draft plans possibly are being ruined in the process.
At 10-8, the Kings are just .007 win percentage points out of a Western Conference playoff spot, so if the season ended today — we know it doesn’t — they’d receive a lottery pick in the draft.
Not so fast, though: That pick actually would go to the Celtics through some complicated maneuvers resulting from Sacramento’s 2015 Carl Landry-Jason Thompson-Nik Stauskas trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Essentially, the Celtics will receive the more favorable of the 76ers’ and the Kings’ 2019 first-round picks unless that pick is No. 1 overall, in which case Boston would acquire the least favorable of Philadelphia and Sacramento’s selections.
The Celtics’ hope entering the season was that the Kings would be, well, the Kings and finish toward the Western Conference cellar. But they aren’t, so right now, Sacramento’s pick, pending how the ping-pong balls dropped and how the random tiebreaker draw went, would be either No. 13 or No. 14.
Because the Eastern Conference is weak beyond the Raptors, Bucks and 76ers, the 9-9 Celtics would make the playoffs if the season ended today, even though they’re one win worse than the Kings. A first-round exit — a shocker for a team once favored to win the conference — could put Boston’s own pick at No. 15.
The Celtics might have four first-round selections in next year’s draft, if scenarios involving the Clippers and the Grizzlies fall their way. But landing just a mid-round pick from the Kings surely wasn’t what Boston had in mind.