In the summer of 2015 Sam Hinkie agreed to a trade with the Sacramento Kings. Philadelphia gave up draft rights to Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic, both second round picks in the draft the month before, in exchange for Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Nik Stauskas, a future first round pick and a potential pick swap in 2016 and 2017. Sacramento made the trade to free up enough salary cap space to sign point guard Rajon Rondo, who only played one year on the team. But, the most overlooked part of the trade was the ability to exchange picks and now it looks like it could become even more important.
The swap seemed like a pointless, overlooked fact when the Sixers only won ten games last year. The Kings finished 33-49. The Sixers ended up with the top pick in the draft and selected Ben Simmons. With a 23 game win difference between the teams, it appeared unlikely that the swap could actually be used. But things couldn’t be more different now.
The teams are on similar footing right now but are trending in different directions. Philly is currently 18-30 and are surprised to have seen such success. They went 10-5 in the month of January. On the contrary, Sacramento is 19-30 and lost 11 of their 16 January games.
The Sixers have thirty-four remaining games this season. Their schedule is not particularly favorable though. Of those, only fourteen of them are at home. They are currently in the midst of a four game road trip with another four game and a five game road trip happening later on this season. With star center Joel Embiid not playing the second game when they have two in consecutive nights, that’s six games he won’t be playing in. The Sixers also travel to the west coast in March for a four game trip but are 0-4 in games in the Pacific and Mountain Time zones.
The Kings has thirty-three games left this season, with twenty of them coming at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. They have seven sets of back-to-back games. The Kings do not have a single game in the Eastern Time zone either. Sacramento also has ten games against teams in the top four of each conference, six of which are on the road.
Sacramento’s starting small forward Rudy Gay tore his Achilles last month and has already had surgery to being the rehabilitation process. Gay was the Kings’ second leading scorer and rebounder, led the team in steals and he was shooting 45% from the field. Gay’s loss will undeniably hurt the Kings. While they’re only two games out of the eight seed in the west, Gay’s absence should lead to a nosedive in the standings. Through eight games since the injury, Sacramento is 3-5 with a shocking win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Kings currently are tied with the sixth-worst record in the NBA. The Sixers sit half a game below, tied for the fifth-worst record. Sacramento has a ten game advantage on the Brooklyn Nets who have by far the worst record in the league. But both teams are within three games of the Lakers who have the third worst record in the league. With the Lakers getting D’Angelo Russell, they should begin to salvage some pride and could jump a couple spots with his return.
Even though the Kings have a more favorable schedule, the Sixers will realistically end up higher in the standings. Philadelphia is playing better basketball and it was evident when these teams matched up earlier this week in a game that went down to the wire even though Philly was playing without Embiid. The Kings will probably end up with one of the five worst records in the league, whereas the Sixers will have a better record but still draft in the lottery. Everyone in Philadelphia is rooting for two teams; the Sixers and whoever is playing the Kings. Each loss for Sacramento means Philly has a better chance of using the trade swap and getting an even better draft pick in a deep draft class.
Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports