King me! There’s a reason the Bulls have been keeping an eye on Sacramento
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It isn’t often that the Kings become the model for rebuilding success.
The last time they made the NBA playoffs was 2006, and they have been plagued by poor decision-making — from draft picks to personnel to coaches — since.
This season has played out a little differently, however. The Kings (34-35) were the feel-good story of the first half of the season and still have an outside chance to land a Western Conference playoff spot after ending a three-game losing streak by manhandling the Bulls 129-102 on Sunday in Sacramento, California.
That’s why Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf pointed to them a few weeks ago when discussing his team’s rebuild.
‘‘I’m happy with where we are with the rebuild,’’’ Reinsdorf told the Sun-Times. ‘‘I know it’s hard for people to look out there and see we’ve won  games and say, ‘Well, are you happy about winning  games?’ No, but that’s not the way I look at the rebuild. I look at it as, ‘How does this position us going forward after this year to be successful?’
‘‘Last year, everybody was talking about how bad Sacramento was, and they’ve taken a tremendous jump this year where they’re now competing for the playoffs and have become one of the most exciting teams in the NBA to watch. That’s why I’m really excited about our current path.’’
When comparing the organizations, the Bulls eventually hope to have the pieces to duplicate the
up-tempo pace of the Kings’ second-ranked offense. But the Bulls have an advantage in the makeup of their roster heading into next season, no matter what the final score was Sunday.
The three boxes the Kings can check over the Bulls heading into the offseason are payroll, point-guard play and bench.
While the Bulls are sitting on 10 guaranteed contracts totaling $81 million and change, the Kings will have massive cap room. They are tied to only one contract of more than $20 million, and that’s the player option for Harrison Barnes.
The Bulls will have Otto Porter Jr. making $27.2 million next season and Zach LaVine — whom the Kings signed to an offer sheet last summer, forcing the Bulls to match — making $19.5 million.
Meanwhile, point guard De’Aaron Fox is at least knocking on the door of joining the upper tier at the position, showing why the Kings drafted him fifth overall in 2017.
While Fox has taken a huge step forward this season, Bulls point guard Kris Dunn seems to be stagnating. His numbers aren’t much different than they were last season, which means he hasn’t made the same type of jump. Instead, the Bulls will go into the offseason looking for help at point guard in the draft and in free agency.
In the latest matchup between the players Sunday, Dunn was a minus-19 and Fox a plus-11 with 17 points in 25 minutes.
The toughest hill for the Bulls to climb will be the bench. The Kings continued to expose the Bulls’ lack of depth, a reality that often leads to quarters simply being ripped away from them when the reserves take the court.
The good news is that reinforcements are coming next season, with Wendell Carter Jr., Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison expected back from injuries.
The Bulls also have cap space to add a few veterans, but they still have guaranteed contracts for Antonio Blakeney and Cristiano Felicio on the books.