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Land the picks, Bryan: Kings attempting to fix internal problems with outside help

Adding veteran power forward Paul Millsap could be monumental for Sacramento and its playoff aspirations. However, he might not solve the persistent chemistry problems.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Johnson, the Miami Heat’s No. 1 offensive option out of necessity, tried to initiate offense from the perimeter, with the Heat tied at 102 with 30 seconds left to the Sacramento Kings Wednesday. Already sporting a 20-point performance, Johnson attacked with his right, stumbled on the step-back, proceeded to attack with his left and converted an acrobatic, contested modified runner through contact.

Johnson would finish the and-1, putting the talent-bereft Heat up 105-102 with 27.8 second to go in the fourth, as DeMarcus Cousins failed to cut into the lead twice-resulting in an on-court tantrum. The five-point loss (107-102) to an end-of-the-year lottery-bound rotation was comical. Look at this tanktastic group:

Heat Lineup

Just one day later, Sacramento entered the trade chatter as a possible suitor for Atlanta’s Paul Millsap. Whether or not the loss triggered management’s willingness to upgrade via the trading block, the Kings’ lacking chemistry probably won’t be remedied by the current Hawk’s presence.

However, he’ll make an undeniable imprint in W/L column for whichever team lands him. Blessed with assets Sacramento doesn’t possess, or have access to in the future, Toronto and New Orleans have the weaponry to acquire the former All-Star. If the Kings are hoping to fully back a playoff push, the near-barren cache of picks/prospects could be pillaged.

The Miami defeat was just one loss in an 82-game slate, but it might’ve caused aftershocks that eventually spark a Sacramento blockbuster.

Team: Sacramento Kings (15-20) Ranking: 15th

Protections: In 2017, Philadelphia has the right to swap first-round picks with Sacramento if the Kings’ pick lands in the top 10 post-lottery.

Analysis/Pick Status: Pairing Millsap (17.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG) with Cousins (28.6 PPG, 9.9 RPG) would give Boogie the necessary supplemental piece in the frontcourt he could’ve been clamoring for. (If Millsap, or any acquisition at this year’s trade deadline makes an indelible impact on Cousins and he stays in 2018, along with that respective addition, that seriously torpedoes the value of the 2019 pick.)

Again, this is a hypothetical scenario, but if the Kings weren’t in this newfound state of mid-season competitiveness, they’d operate like an abundance of lottery teams and take advantage of this year’s draft class.

Yes, Sacramento just lost to a woeful Miami team Wednesday and doesn’t function cohesively, but this team is defined by volatility. A brutal home stretch hosting the Clippers (24-14), Warriors (31-5) and the Cavaliers (26-8), with the Pistons (15-18) nestled in the slate, over this week will test the Kings’ mettle.

It’s early January, but these are definite pivot games for a team that’s teetering on contender-pretender status. By this time next week, the Trail Blazers could be in the pole position for the No. 8 seed in the West and Sacramento situated near the No. 9 to No. 10 range in the lottery.

Chance of Conveyance: The Nuggets (14-22) haven’t made the necessary strides yet this season, New Orleans (14-23) hasn’t decided whether to be abysmal, poor, or decent at this stage in its development and Portland is due for a breakout. Still leaning with “unlikely” at this point.

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (13-26) Ranking: seventh

Protections: 1-3 in 2017, unprotected in 2018

Analysis/Pick Status: The Trail Blazers exposed the Lakers’ backcourt’s defensive woes in its 118-109, come-from-behind home victory Thursday. It’s been critiqued and dissected, but the Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum pairing lit up the D’Angelo Russell-Nick Young duo to the tune of 48 combined points.

Evan Turner aided Portland’s win with 21 points, going incendiary in the second half and overshadowing former teammate and second-unit dynamo Lou Williams (10 points, 3-of-8 shooting). Now down 3.5 games, instead of 1.5 games, from Portland, and two games from New Orleans, there is a comfortable cushion for the two underperforming teams.

Los Angeles is back with bottom-feeding Phoenix, Dallas and Minnesota for lottery positioning, up just 0.5 games from fourth-place Dallas. A momentous three-game slate against Miami, Orlando and Portland awaits LA this week.

Chance of Pick Conveyance: Again, pick your ideal future Sixer with the Lakers pick. Fun times.

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