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The Kings are rebuilding like the Lakers. One problem: they aren’t the Lakers.

There’s no one remotely like LeBron riding in to save the Kings. They need to do it themselves.

NBA: Summer League-Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings have been among the dregs of the NBA for a long time now. Their 12-year playoff drought is the league’s longest active futility streak, and the Kings have the NBA’s worst record over the past decade (265-539). The team has, uh, “earned” a top-10 pick in each of the last 10 seasons. Sacramento is arguably on its third consecutive rebuild cycle, and should, in theory, be nearing the end of it.

The talent level of the roster has improved through the NBA Draft. The young backcourt core of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic is pretty intriguing, and Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles are lousy with potential. You could argue that after trading DeMarcus Cousins in early 2017, the Kings have built the right way by taking blue chippers in the lottery, developing them, and plugging away while maintaining massive cap space flexibility.

The roster now is a little reminiscent of that of the Los Angeles Lakers a year ago. The Lakers had spent four years being awful, and as a result had acquired plenty of interesting young players, including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and later picks like Larry Nance and Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers were also looking ahead to massive cap space, and had a natural timeline with which to escape abject mediocrity. The Lakers didn’t own the rights to their own 2018 draft pick, meaning there was no reason to want to be awful in 2017-18. LA ended up playing much better than they had in years, and finished 35-47, well outside the race to the bottom nine other teams engaged in.

The Kings too have a natural timeline to end the long-running tank job: the Kings don’t own the rights to their own 2019 draft pick, having shipped it out in a stroke of anti-genius a few years ago. Based on the growing talent and maturity level of the roster and the lack of incentive to keep losing as much as possible, there’s reason to believe it might be time for the Kings to win 30-something games and build a case as the next young team to escape mediocrity.

That’s where the comparison ends.

The Lakers, of course, leveraged their salary cap flexibility, their location, and their legacy this summer to land LeBron James. He’ll take them the rest of the way to relevance and beyond. The Kings aren’t going to be landing any free agent like that. The biggest free agent signing the Kings have ever pulled is still Vlade Divac in the late 1990s.

This illustrates the Lakers’ power and privilege quite well. They had the results of a totally ordinary team for half a decade, and then their fortunes changed with the stroke of a pen by virtue of them being the Lakers. It’s why so many people around the league are so annoyed with the franchise and, to some extent, LeBron. He has reinforced the existence of an advantage — a Lakers exceptionalism — that we all feared had survived Jim Buss’ reign of ineptitude.

It survived alright.

The Kings’ problems extend beyond not being the Lakers. The front office that participated in the Hinkie Heist that cost Sacramento its 2019 first-round pick — one of the most lopsided trades of the past two decades, bar none — is still in place. The Lakers, at least, turned over their failing front office after enough free agency and trade failures. The Kings are hanging tough with the general manager who, uh, drafted Georgios Papagiannis, who is out of the league two years after Sacramento made him a lottery pick.

Sacramento could come out of this cycle of rebuild cycles just fine if one or two of Fox, Hield, Giles, and Bagley really hits. Divac or a future Kings general manager could swing a trade for a star under contract — something akin to the Timberwolves’ drought-ending trade for Jimmy Butler — to break the curse. There are paths out of the mire.

But there’s so just so little evidence that Divac is equipped to pull the Kings out of this skid he’s helped keep them in. Between the Hinkie Heist, the wasted Papagiannis pick, and the complete mismanagement of the end of DeMarcus Cousins’ residency in Sacramento, there is so little to suggest this is the right front office leader to make the necessary changes, despite the Kings adding experienced executives like Brandon Williams under Divac.

This is what should haunt Kings fans most about the Lakers’ abrupt turn of fortune. LA relied on its famed legacy and the persuasive abilities of Magic Johnson to reel in LeBron. But the Lakers also recognized a front office that was failing to set the franchise up for success and replaced it. The Lakers — the unimpeachable, legend Lakers — acknowledged failure long enough to turn over basketball ops leadership. The Kings won’t even do that. That’s a problem. That’s a reason to be pessimistic despite the hype about the young players.

No one expects Divac to have the Kings competing with the Lakers in free agency. But if he can’t turn the Kings onto the right path soon, Sacramento has to find someone who can compete via the avenues realistically available to teams like the Kings. Unlike the Lakers, the Kings can’t afford to wait for a superstar in shining armor to come riding in to save the rebuild process. They need to do the hard work themselves. It hasn’t gotten done for a long, long time.