With their playoff hopes dashed, the Sacramento Kings are playing a different kind of game. They owe the Chicago Bulls a top-10 protected pick and they want to hold off on handing it over as long as possible. That means resting players down the stretch to avoid moving up in the standings and down in the draft order.
Saturday night’s big win over the Oklahoma City Thunder closed out Sleep Train Arena for good and now the Kings have nothing left to play for. They have two games remaining on the schedule, both on the road. And they will play those games without five of their rotational players.
Omri Casspi is struggling with a strained right hamstring and Marco Belinelli has been nursing a sore right foot. Neither made the trip to Phoenix for Monday night’s game and they will remain home when the Kings face the Rockets in in Houston for Wednesday’s finale. They are both done for the season, but they aren’t the only Kings player to stay back in Sacramento.
[HAM: Rewind: Delivering for fans, ex-Kings in arena farewell]
CSN California has confirmed that DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison have also stayed home for the team’s remaining two games, effectively ending their seasons early.
Rondo has sat in four of the last seven games to "rest." Cousins has missed five of the last 10, but one of those misses was due to league suspension after picking up his 16th technical foul. Collison missed five games early in the season due to injury, but he’s sat just one to rest down the stretch.
Resting players is well within the Kings’ right. They are currently tied with the New York Knicks for the seventh overall selection if the season were to end today. With the lottery in play, the Kings could move up into the top three, where the Philadelphia 76ers have the right to swap selections. They could also move down, although in their current location, the furthest they can drop is 10th overall, where they would still retain the pick.
[HAM: Where did Kings' promising start to season go?]
Sacramento owes Chicago a selection from the 2011 trade that sent Casspi, along with a protected pick to Cleveland for J.J. Hickson. The Bulls acquired the protected pick from the Cavs in a later deal.
If Sacramento does not relay the pick this season, it carries over to 2017, again with a top-10 protection. If the pick isn’t conveyed in 2017, then it converts to a 2017 second-round pick.