Sacramento Kings

Have the Kings’ playoff chances improved after key NBA trade?

Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox talks about the 133-121 loss to the Clippers

Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox talks about the 133-121 loss to the Clippers
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Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox talks about the 133-121 loss to the Clippers

The Kings have yet to make a move with the clock ticking toward Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, but their playoff chances have already improved.

The Los Angeles Clippers essentially bowed out of the playoff race Wednesday morning when they finalized a deal to send forward Tobias Harris, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, to the Philadelphia 76ers. The move could help the Clippers become a championship contender in the coming years, but it likely ends their immediate playoff hopes, seemingly leaving the Kings and Los Angeles Lakers in what could come down to a two-team race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

The Kings (28-25) were currently ninth as they prepare to play the Houston Rockets (31-22) on Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center. They were one game behind the Clippers and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers. Sacramento has not made the playoffs since 2006, the longest postseason drought in the NBA.

The Kings had won three in a row and four of five going into Wednesday’s game. The Lakers, besieged by injuries and turmoil stemming from the team’s highly publicized efforts to trade several players for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, have lost six of eight.

The Clippers are sending Harris, center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott to Philadelphia for forwards Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, guard Landry Shamet, first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and second-round picks in 2021 and 2023.

The Clippers could use their newly acquired assets to make a move for Davis or another star player, but they appear to be taking a longer view toward championship contention. They expect to be a major player in free agency this summer, when they could have enough salary-cap space to sign two star players to maximum-level contracts.

Due to the conditions of a previous trade, the Clippers will lose their first-round draft pick this summer if they make the playoffs. They will retain the pick if they miss the playoffs.

The Kings do not own their 2019 first-round draft pick, so they have no incentive to miss the playoffs. They would view a long-awaited postseason appearance as an opportunity to further develop a talented young team that has already surpassed last season’s win total.

Jason Anderson: 916-321-1363, @JandersonSacBee
Jason Anderson is an award-winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He started his journalism career at The Bee more than 20 years ago and returned to cover the Sacramento Kings in September 2018.