If the first two and a half months of the NBA regular season are any indication, the Los Angeles Lakers do not need to make a significant trade in order to be the best team in the league. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be to the team’s benefit if they did land an impact player who could put them over the top. A few of the names mentioned on the trade market are playing for the Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond and Derrick Rose.
As is always the case, in order to get an impact piece in a trade, teams need to give up something considerable. There could be no more attractive trade chip on a team with championship aspirations than Kyle Kuzma is for the Lakers. After averaging 16.1 points per game as a rookie and being named to the All-Rookie Team in 2018, Kuzma promptly followed up that campaign by going for 18.7 points on a nightly basis last season, particularly starring during the stretch when LeBron James was sidelined due to injury.
Kuzma survived the great Lakers summer trade purge of 2019 and figured to slot in as the No. 3 scoring option for the ’19-20 installment behind James and the newly-acquired Anthony Davis. While Kuzma technically is the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, his field goal percentage has dipped to 43.6% and his rebounding total on a per contest basis sits at just 3.8. At 24 years old, he is still regarded as a player with upper-echelon potential, which he has shown as of late with Davis sidelined, going for 26 and 36 points, respectively, in back-to-back contests.
Factor in that Kuzma is a native of Flint, Michigan, and the picture begins to gain some clarity around how the Lakers and Pistons could swing a deal. Drummond has a player option that he can kick in for 2020-21, although that appears unlikely to be invoked as he’s hoping for a contract nearing the max on the open market. It may not have been in L.A.’s plans to move Kuzma (as he was not included in the Davis deal after reportedly being sought-after), but landing a legitimate third star to pair with James and Davis could prove too enticing for the organization to pass up.
Of course, matching up contracts in this scenario would be an issue given Drummond is making over $27 million this season and Kuzma is making under $2 million. There would almost certainly have to be at least one other team involved, and even then it would be tricky given the salary disparity and the amount of other parts that would likely be involved.
If a trade for Drummond couldn’t be worked out, the Lakers could instead go after Rose, who’s playing some of his best basketball since before all of his injuries. Rose is making just over $7 million this season with the Pistons and would bring another scorer and playmaker into the fold in Hollywood.
The Pistons are a franchise in flux after Blake Griffin underwent knee surgery that could potentially sideline him for the remainder of the year. This season has featured breakout campaigns from Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown Jr., who likely join the young nucleus alongside 19-year-old Sekou Doumbouya, who has shown flashes of brilliance in Griffin’s absence. With Drummond as the anchor, the group barely remains in contention to snag a playoff spot out of the East, but building toward the future with a cornerstone like Kyle Kuzma — who would likely be beloved by the fan base — might serve the team better in the long run.