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Land the Picks, Bryan: Sacramento refuses to concede

With home wins over Golden State, Boston and Atlanta over the past week, Sacramento is intent on staying competitive through adversity.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to grasp reality and acknowledge that the Sacramento Kings aren’t pushovers or destined for losses when their logo appears on teams’ schedules. They’re consistently unpredictable, sure, but Rudy Gay’s injury hasn’t torpedoed the royal purple upstarts. Sacramento is just 6-7 since the steady forward’s season-ending injury, but if you extrapolate that to the 54 games they’ve already played, it’s an improvement.

These wins aren’t over the league’s pushovers either. All of their wins have come against teams currently in playoff seedings. Over the course of 10 days, they’ve downed both finalists in last year’s championship matchup. Late-game blunders from their superiorly-talented opponents certainly helped, but Sacramento’s stamina to slay the Cavaliers and Warriors in overtime is commendable.

You might’ve got the impression that these wins were fluky, however, victories over Charlotte, Boston and Atlanta illustrates the competitive nature Sacramento is emanating throughout February. Credit the fire to first-year head coach Dave Joerger and the team’s collective desire to push relentlessly for a playoff seed.

Sacramento and Los Angeles both experienced productive weeks simultaneously, a rarity in the regular season.

Team: Sacramento Kings (22-32) Ranking: 10th

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: Just 2.5 games out in the West, Sacramento made serious ground from last week, on the cusp of falling to the No. 4 lottery slot. It’s unfortunate for the pick swap status, but there are apparent positives in a Kings surge. It comes back to the potential depth of the 2017 draft class. Draftniks have begun developing tiers for the predominate 19-year-old phenoms.

Previously at No. 5 in the lottery, Sacramento would get the benefits of staying within “tier 2” if that persisted. Slipping farther away naturally limits the high-upside talents on the board. The Kings have failed to draft a star since 2010 so fretting over Vlade Divac picking another in the top five isn’t healthy. However, this draft, essentially, provides Sacramento with another piece to implement into their core foundation.

Jonathan Isaac, Josh Jackson or any prospect within the aforementioned tier donning a Kings cap in June would be an hindrance to the Sixers’ long-term fortunes.

Chance for Pick Conveyance: It’s been fluctuating throughout the season, but the Kings are progressively decreasing the odds.

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (19-37) Ranking: third

Protections: 1-3 in 2017, unprotected in 2018

Analysis/Pick Status:

With the Milwaukee Bucks furiously mounting a fourth-quarter comeback Friday against the Lakers, Malcolm Brogdon used two screens on the perimeter to initiate offense against Nick Young. Brogdon attacked Young with his right, failed and opted to follow suit with his left, via a crossover, into another drive. Young stopped penetration, poked the ball free and teammate D’Angelo Russell scooped up the ball. Brogdon would foul on the attempt, but LA answered on the other end of the floor with a Julius Randle and-1, beating his chest as the Lakers showed fire and attitude. The signature “Randle flex” followed, with LA taking a 13-point lead.

Holding on for their second win this week, Los Angeles capitalized on teams sputtering with issues. Beating the Knicks, amid Carmelo Anthony rumors overcasting the Big Apple, and Milwaukee, reeling from Jabari Parker’s season-ending injury, there’s no guilt in outplaying foes who aren’t fully competitive. These are necessary upsets and motivational tools for the young nucleus Los Angeles carries to games.

It’s been a constant theme, but outside of Nick Young and Julius Randle, there wasn’t any notable performance from the core players. Luke Walton has an affinity for utilizing his deep rotation and the collective offensive efforts have fueled wins (122 points Friday, 121 Friday). Those Ws are all that matter, no matter the minute allocations. Another against Sacramento Tuesday would be appreciated.

Chance for Pick Conveyance: Orlando’s loss to the Sixers Thursday and Los Angeles’ win Friday has 1.5 games separating the Magic and Lakers for the No. 3 and No. 5 spots in the lottery. Philadelphia has three fewer losses than Los Angeles. February is becoming an important month for viewing purposes.

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