Chicago at Sacramento
Time: 9:30 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: SAC -1.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Sacramento Kings are 11 games under .500, yet at 20-31 they trail the No. 8 Denver Nuggets by just 2.5 games for that loose and wide open final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Kings have not made the postseason in a full decade, and while getting swept by Golden State would hardly be emblematic of major success, the Kings need that return to the playoffs to legitimize their franchise and their approach to keeping one DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins has been playing great ball and the Kings have won four of its past 10, but will host the Chicago Bulls tonight as 1.5 point favorites at home. The Kings are 9-14 at home this season, but Chicago has been having its struggles and is currently a game below .500 in its own right.
Sacramento is without its second-leading scorer Rudy Gay for the remainder of the season, but this is a team still centered and based around Cousins. Cousins has averaged 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while coming up with 2.72 blocks/steals per game and posting a PER of 27.2. By all accounts, he is a franchise player and All-Star, notwithstanding the persistent question over his leadership, temperament and attitude. His talent speaks for itself, and even with a mediocre collection of talent surrounding him, Cousins is a problem for most defenses most nights.
Without Gay, it has required Darren Collison and Ty Lawson both to step up and score more from the 1-spot. The Kings are not blessed with an abundance of scorers nor depth, but Matt Barnes and Anthony Tolliver have filled in for Gay, and both truthfully defend better than Gay, so the Kings received some sort of strange upgrade despite losing 18 points per game, at least on one end of the court. Tolliver is a good three-point shooter, and Barnes is a consummate competitor and great role player.
The Kings could be in a worse spot than having that pair time-share the minutes and void left by Gay. Arron Afflalo, too, is a key part of the rotation and though he averages just 7.8 points per game, he has soft shooting stroke that can help Sacto, particularly when he gets hot. The Kings make just 9.1 threes per game, but shoot a respectable 36 percent as a team, and other than a poor defense there are a lot of reasons to believe in these incremental improvements that Sacto has shown this season.
They certainly have a chance as favorites against a Bulls team that is ripe with its own collection of problems and has plenty of internal discord and strife.
The Bulls seem to be a team of ’10 and 2,’ so to speak: Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade are not communicating with their (lesser!) teammates, and the pair is utterly alienated from once-starting point guard Rajon Rondo.
Rondo is all but gone, but cannot the same be applied to Butler?
The Bulls have had plenty of interest in swingman, and with the season hardly going as Chicago intended, it may be time for the Bulls to gather some assets and begin a true rebuild. With its lack of shooting and scoring issues, the Bulls seem they are peaking at a .500-type record, which is hardly the ultimate aim of any franchise.
Saddled with a big payroll and plenty of veterans, the time for Chicago to scrap it and aim to obtain some draft picks and prospects is now. Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott have their nights, but the Bulls could benefit from an influx of youth. Perhaps even adding some shooters could make Michael Carter-Williams and Rondo less of liabilities offensively, but that is the tip of the iceberg for a team that cannot even manage to get along with one another.