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Examining the path of fellow tankers

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Here’s a picture of Detective Jack Cooley to brighten your day.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With a little over two weeks remaining in the regular season, a vast majority of our fan base has averted their gaze from the day-to-day operations of the team and shifted it toward a couple of key future dates: May 15th, the NBA lottery and June 21st, the NBA draft. Sacramento has just eight games left to finalize their position among the bottom feeders of the league, and with the race for lottery balls historically close, each night has a huge impact on draft placement come summer.

Currently, the Kings have sole possession of the 7th slot in the lottery, but they are by no means secure in that position. The 8th place Chicago Bulls lurk just half of a game behind the Kings, while only 1.5 games separate Sacramento from a tie for 4th. The final 16 days of the season will likely see a pendulum swing in positioning for several organizations. Things are going to get a little crazy.

Standings as of March 26th, courtesy of

Lottery Standings

Position Team Record GB
Position Team Record GB
1 Phoenix 19-55 0
2 Memphis 19-54 0.5
3 Atlanta 21-53 2
T-4 Orlando 22-51 3.5
T-4 Dallas 22-51 3.5
6 Brooklyn 23-51 4
7 Sacramento 24-50 5
8 Chicago 24-49 5.5
9 New York 27-47 8
10 LA Lakers 32-40 14
11 Charlotte 33-41 14
12 Detroit 33-40 14.5
13 LA Clippers 39-34 20.5
14 Denver 40-33 21.5

Unfortunately for the Kings, the Suns, Grizzles, and Hawks have expertly outworked them in the loss department as there is no realistic way for Sacramento to catch those elegantly accomplished tankers. On the other side of the equation, the Lakers, Hornets, Pistons, Clippers, and Nuggets are currently outside of the playoff picture, but also have far too many wins to worry the Kings.

Between those bookends of dreams of Doncic and crushed playoff hopes lay six challengers: Dallas, Orlando, Brooklyn, Sacramento, Chicago, and New York. Just 4.5 games sit between the tied-for-fourth place Mavericks/Magic and the ninth place Knicks. Even more astonishing, just two wins separate the 4th and 8th positions. Each team is walking an incredibly fine tightrope.

The tightly packed nature of the mob of not-quite worst teams places a huge emphasis on each franchise’s remaining schedule. While each team faces a fellow tanker at least one time, there is a huge variation in the difficulty and number of games left. For example, the Knicks only face another bottom feeder one time; whereas the Magic’s next five games are all against lottery teams.

4th Place Dallas

Team Date Category
Team Date Category
Sacramento 3/27 Fellow Tanker
LA Lakers 3/28 Upper Lottery
Minnesota 3/30 Playoff Contender
Cleveland 4/1 Playoff Contender
Portland 4/3 Playoff Contender
Orlando 4/4 Fellow Tanker
Detroit 4/6 Upper Lottery
Philadelphia 4/8 Playoff Contender
Phoenix 4/10 Fellow Tanker

Fellow Tankers Remaining: 3

Upper Lottery Remaining: 2

Playoff Contenders: 4

4th Place Orlando

Team Date Category
Team Date Category
Brooklyn 3/28 Fellow Tanker
Chicago 3/30 Fellow Tanker
Atlanta 4/1 Fellow Tanker
New York 4/3 Fellow Tanker
Dallas 4/4 Fellow Tanker
Charlotte 4/6 Upper Lottery
Toronto 4/8 Playoff Contender
Milwaukee 4/9 Playoff Contender
Washington 4/11 Playoff Contender

Fellow Tankers Remaining: 5

Upper Lottery Remaining: 1

Playoff Contenders: 3

6th Place Brooklyn

Team Date Category
Team Date Category
Orlando 3/28 Fellow Tanker
Miami 3/31 Playoff Contender
Detroit 4/1 Upper Lottery
Philadelphia 4/3 Playoff Contender
Milwaukee 4/5 Playoff Contender
Chicago 4/7 Fellow Tanker
Chicago 4/9 Fellow Tanker
Boston 4/11 Playoff Contender

Fellow Tankers Remaining: 3

Upper Lottery Remaining: 1

Playoff Contenders: 4

7th Place Sacramento

Team Date Category
Team Date Category
Dallas 3/27 Fellow Tanker
Indiana 3/29 Playoff Contender
Golden State 3/31 Playoff Contender
LA Lakers 4/1 Upper Lottery
Phoenix 4/3 Fellow Tanker
Memphis 4/6 Fellow Tanker
San Antonio 4/9 Playoff Contender
Houston 4/11 Playoff Contender

Fellow Tankers Remaining: 3

Upper Lottery Remaining: 1

Playoff Contenders: 4

8th Place Chicago

Team Date Category
Team Date Category
Houston 3/27 Playoff Contender
Miami 3/29 Playoff Contender
Orlando 3/30 Fellow Tanker
Washington 4/1 Playoff Contender
Charlotte 4/3 Upper Lottery
Boston 4/6 Playoff Contender
Brooklyn 4/7 Fellow Tanker
Brooklyn 4/9 Fellow Tanker
Detroit 4/11 Upper Lottery

Fellow Tankers Remaining: 3

Upper Lottery Remaining: 2

Playoff Contenders: 4

9th Place New York

Team Date Category
Team Date Category
Charlotte 3/26 Upper Lottery
Philadelphia 3/28 Playoff Contender
Detroit 3/31 Upper Lottery
Orlando 4/3 Fellow Tanker
Miami 4/6 Playoff Contender
Milwaukee 4/7 Playoff Contender
Cleveland 4/9 Playoff Contender
Cleveland 4/11 Playoff Contender

Fellow Tankers Remaining: 1

Upper Lottery Remaining: 2

Playoff Contenders: 5

While it’s certainly a simplified way of looking at many complex factors, it seems as though the Magic have a quite winnable schedule moving forward, the Knicks have a tough go ahead of them, and the Kings fall somewhere in the middle. As of this moment, popular NBA predictor has Sacramento finishing the year in a tie for the 5th spot with the Magic, with the Nets, Bulls, and Knicks above them in the lottery.

Of course, there are layers beyond three simple categories defining 30 teams across the league. Playoff contenders may rest starters prior to the postseason, upper lottery teams may throw in the towel to sink a spot or two, and a team like the Nets has no real reason to actually tank. They just suck. Injuries, lame-duck coaches, and a thousand other factors will change the race for June in many ways, but examining the remaining schedules for each of our opponents can help to create proper expectations come the end of the year.

Realistically, the Kings are highly unlikely to fall all the way back to 9th place, as they would need to go 4-4 over the rest of the season with the Knicks finishing 0-8. Similarly, Sacramento jumping all the way to 3rd or 4th place has about the same chance as Jimmer Fredette making his way back to the league. Assuming there isn’t any crazy lottery luck either for or against Sacramento, a selection somewhere in the 5-8 range is most likely come June 21st.