INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Pacers fans who want the team to get an additional first-round pick should root for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Pacers acquired a first-round pick from the Cavs in the Caris LeVert trade back in February. The pick is lottery-protected, which means the Cavaliers need to make the playoffs in order for the Pacers to get the pick. Otherwise, Cleveland ends up in the draft lottery and keeps the first-round selection.

For a while, it looked like the Cavs were a good bet to make the NBA Playoffs, but a second-half swoon put their postseason future in doubt. The Cavaliers lost seven of their last ten games in the regular season, including three of their last four, putting them eighth in the Eastern Conference.

That was key, because the top six teams in each conference are guaranteed a playoff spot. Teams that finish seventh through tenth end up in the NBA’s new “Play-In” round, which is not technically considered part of the NBA Playoffs.

Because Cleveland finished in the eighth position, the Cavaliers played the Brooklyn Nets in the Play-In round this week. Brooklyn won, securing the seventh seed, while Cleveland lost.

But the Cavaliers aren’t out of the postseason picture yet. They’ll have one more chance to qualify for the playoffs Friday night, when they take on the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks finished ninth in the Eastern Conference and defeated the Charlotte Hornets to set up the final Play-In showdown.

If the Cavaliers beat Atlanta Friday (7:30 p.m. tip time), they’ll qualify for the NBA Playoffs as the eighth seed and take on the Miami Heat.

More importantly, this long road to the playoffs means the Cavs’ first-round pick becomes property of the Pacers. It would be the 16th overall selection.

What happens if the Cavaliers lose?

Then we get to do this all over again next year! The Pacers could conceivably receive the Cavs’ first-round pick in 2023. It would again be lottery-protected and under the same rules: the Cavs have to make the playoffs in order for the Pacers to get the pick.

The Pacers finished with the fifth-worst record in the NBA (25-57) and will be part of the NBA Draft Lottery. The team has a 10.5% chance of getting the top pick and a 42.1% chance of earning a top-four pick.

They are guaranteed to have a pick in the top nine, regardless of how the May 17 lottery shakes out.

The team also has two second-round picks: the 31st and 58th overall selections. If the Pacers end up with Cleveland’s pick, they’ll hold three of the top 31 selections in the draft.

It all means Pacers fans should pull extra hard for the Cavaliers Friday.