The Sacramento Kings are in a battle for playoff positioning. The Kings are currently the eighth seed. If the season ended, they'd be in the top half of the play-in bracket, which is fine.

They are just 1.5 games behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the sixth seed in the West, which is good. However, the Kings are also only 1.5 games ahead of the ninth-seeded Los Angeles Lakers. That's a bit nerve-wracking.

The Kings may finish strong and wind up in the playoff field after the regular season concludes. That would represent the best-case scenario. But, there is a world where Sacramento finishes ninth in the West and has to win two games just to make the playoffs.' A tough schedule to close the year and injuries to Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter don't do them any favors either. It's possible the Kings have to take the road less traveled. Here's what that path would look like.

Play-In Game 1: Golden State Warriors

Mar 1, 2024; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) is congratulated by right fielder Connor Joe (2) after he hit a home run during the first inning at LECOM Park.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

With all due respect to the rising Houston Rockets, who have won 13 of their last 15 games, the Golden State Warriors are the team that no one should want to see in the bottom half of the play-in. Especially the Kings. Sacramento got bounced by the Warriors in the playoffs last year and lost the first two games they played against them this year. The Kings did win the next two, but by one point apiece.

Sacramento ended up losing in point differential against the Warriors in their four head-to-head matchups by a combined seven points. And the last time these two played in a winner-take-all game, it didn't end very well for the Kings.

It's possible the Kings wind up in this side of the bracket. All but two of their last eight games are against teams in the top seven of their conference. The Lakers, who are 1.5 games behind Sacramento, have just three such games remaining. They can catch the Kings. And if they do, they'll likely have to duel with Steph Curry yet again. That doesn't seem very fun.

Play-In Game 2: Phoenix Suns

If the Kings wind up in the 9-10 game and survive, they should hope to see the Lakers. They've beaten Los Angeles in all four of their head-to-head matchups this year and won three of four tilts last season. But, the Lakers have beaten the Suns three times this year and could take them out in the 7-8 matchup. That would leave Phoenix and Sacramento for the final playoff spot.

The Kings and Suns have split the season series 2-2 so far. In those matchups, Sacramento has outscored Phoenix by 16 points. But, one of those losses was a calamitous 22-point meltdown in the fourth quarter by the Kings. The other loss saw Sacramento get outgunned 130-125 despite De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis combining to score 75 points.

That's the risk of running into a team with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal. One hot game from one or two of those guys, let alone three or players like Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon getting in on the fun, and your season is toast. They have the capability to go nuclear any given night. The Kings better hope they don't run into that problem.

Round 1: Denver Nuggets

Even if the Kings escape the maze that is the play-in, their reward could end up being… the defending champion Denver Nuggets! How fun. The bright side is that Sacramento actually won the season series against Denver 3-1 this year. If they want hope, it at least is there.

But, the Nuggets have the best player in the NBA in Nikola Jokic. They are essentially the same team the Kings are, but a better version of it. Denver has the fifth best net rating in the NBA (+5). Sacramento is 18th in the league (+1.3). It would take an injury or a miracle of epic proportions to take the Nuggets down. If the Kings wind up earning the eighth seed, they better hope the Oklahoma City Thunder snatch the one seed from the Nuggets.