Kyle Kuzma was the one player spared from the Los Angeles Lakers’ young core this past summer when they traded for Anthony Davis, in large part because he was seen as being the No. 3 scoring option on this team. Kuzma built a close friendship with LeBron James, and his production through his first two seasons in the league (17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds), was viewed as a strong enough foundation that he could build upon with a winning team around him. This season, though, he has regressed significantly and has not found his footing with this championship-contending Lakers squad.
Kuzma started the season behind the eight ball due to a left foot injury he suffered playing with USA Basketball over the summer. When he returned, it was to a very different Lakers team than the ones he played with the past two seasons. No longer a starter — like he was for 68 games last season — Kuzma was put into a sixth-man role where he could come in and show out against opposing teams’ bench players. The only problem is he’s struggled significantly in that role, averaging just 12.1 points while shooting a career-low 42.5 percent from the field. Kuzma has lacked consistency all season long, and just as his style and hair color change, so too does his performance on the court. One night he’ll burst out for 25 points, only for it to be followed up by a game where he finishes with zero points in nearly 27 minutes of action.
The Lakers are pushing to win a championship this season, and Kuzma’s inconsistency will only continue to hinder them as the season wears on. This is why it’s not surprising that there are now reports that they are listening to trade offers on him. There’s been buzz around if the Lakers will trade Kuzma for several weeks, but what’s changed now is that the team is showing a willingness to listen to pitches for Kuzma, as reported by The Athletic’s Sam Amick.
This doesn’t mean that a trade will happen before the Feb. 6 trade deadline, because a lot of thinking will have to go into how much the Lakers value Kuzma past this season. He is eligible for the rookie scale extension this summer, which means that the Lakers will have to determine if they want to commit a considerable amount of cash to him for the long haul, or simply wait until he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021 to figure out his long-term future.
VIEW PROFILE Kyle KuzmaLAL • PF • 0 PPG12.1
If Rob Pelinka has faith that Kuzma will be able to grow into his new role for the new couple of years, and be able to average closer to the 18.7 points per game he put up last season, then keeping him is a cheap option for Los Angeles. He’s owed a total of $8 million over the next two years. However, if the Lakers get an offer that would give this team a better shot at winning a championship right now, then it’ll be hard for them to say no.
Amick reported that many team executives think Pelinka might be hesitant to move Kuzma, given the fact that Pelinka was the one who drafted him in 2017, and has been one of the forward’s biggest supporters throughout his Lakers tenure. Since the Christmas Day game where Kuzma put up 25 points, he’s been averaging 15.6 points over the past five games. If he’s finally finding his groove then maybe the Lakers won’t have to move him, after all. Yet if there’s a sweet enough deal offered and Kuzma begins trending in the wrong direction again, then his time with the Lakers could soon be over.