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ESPN projects Kings have 14.5% chance of forcing play-in tournament

The Pelicans have the highest probability at 35.6%

Sacramento Kings Fan Fest Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings are flying under everyone’s radar going into the Orlando bubble, whether they like it or not. If De’Aaron Fox’s feelings mirror the team’s, it’s safe to assume they don’t like it.

“For me, I’m not someone to filter myself, or hold my tongue or anything,” Fox said in a conference call with reporters last week. “I think it’s disrespectful that ‘we don’t even stand a chance.’ Like, ‘we shouldn’t even be there.’ I mean, the slow start is what it is, but at the end of the day, I feel like we have just as much of a chance as these other teams.

“It is what is. If the media doesn’t cover it, that is what it is, but we’re going out there trying to win: trying to win every game, trying to make the playoffs just like everybody else. And if people don’t see us as a threat, then we let the chips fall where they may.”

A lack of national recognition is nothing new for the Kings. After all, they share the state of California with three other NBA teams and they’re smallest market team out of the four by a pretty wide margin. What is a little surprising is where statistic-based projections have had the Kings finishing.

For example, last week, ESPN released its playoff projections for the 22 teams heading to Orlando using a predictive version of their real plus-minus, and the Kings only have a 14.5% chance of finishing as the No. 9 seed and forcing a play-in tournament with the Memphis Grizzlies, who have a 66.2% chance of clinching the No. 8 seed. The New Orleans Pelicans have the highest probability of competing for the No. 9 seed (35.6%), according to the model, followed by the Grizzlies (20.2%), Portland Trail Blazers (15.8%) and Kings.

To some extent, it makes sense. The Pelicans and Trail Blazers have more top-heavy rosters with players that rank more favorably in ESPN’s real plus-minus. For context, the Pelicans have two players ranked in the top-20 in real plus-minus this season: Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson. The Kings don’t even have one in the top-100.

Injuries have also plagued the Kings this season, so it’s hard to project what their rotations will look like compared to the Pelicans and Trail Blazers.

Ultimately, these projections mean nothing, but it’s nice fuel for the fire. Just 22 more days, everyone.