Los Angeles Lakers small forward Kyle Kuzma is going to find himself in trade rumors this offseason despite the team winning the 2020 championship at Walt Disney World over the Miami Heat in six games.
Kuzma was the only young player from the Lakers’ 2018-19 roster to survive the Anthony Davis trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, as Los Angeles traded Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram to New Orleans for Davis.
The Davis trade worked out better than expected, but Kuzma’s role on offense took a big dip in 2019-20 with the addition of AD next to LeBron James. While the Utah product was the third-leading scorer for the Lakers during the regular season at 12.8 points per game, he could possibly be traded this offseason if the Lakers want to acquire a reliable third-option scorer such as Chris Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder or Derrick Rose from the Detroit Pistons.
In 61 games for the Lakers during the 2019-20 regular season, Kuzma averaged 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 43.6 percent from the field, 31.6 percent from beyond the arc and 73.5 percent from the free-throw line. His efficiency on two-pointers decreased from 2018-19, as did his playing time.
Some Lakers fans are ready for general manager Rob Pelinka to move on from Kuzma to acquire a win-now player for Davis and James to play with. However, there are also a few supporters who think it would be foolish to part ways with a talented youngster who is only 25 and clearly has his best basketball ahead of him.
If the Lakers decide to package Kuzma in a trade, they certainly have to be getting a player of the caliber of Paul or Rose. While Paul and Rose are way better players than Kuzma at the moment, the small forward has his whole career ahead of him, while CP3 and D-Rose are at the tail end of theirs.
The Lakers have to decide if moving on from Kuzma is worth it for the team’s long-term future, as they’ll get a good return for the present day, but it may not look good in a couple of years.
Since getting drafted by the Lakers, Kuzma has compiled averages of 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 208 regular-season games. The best game of his young career came on January 9, 2019, against the Pistons. Kuzma poured in a career-high 41 points in only 29 minutes of action while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from the 3-point line.
That game pretty much showed what Kuzma can do as a No. 1 option, as James wasn’t playing due to his groin injury and Davis wasn’t on the team yet.
However, Kuzma isn’t going to get that type of volume of shot attempts playing on the Lakers as long as LeBron and Davis are on the roster. He could easily average 20 points per game on a team that has no true All-Star, but the swingman cares more about winning than putting up stats.
The Lakers have a big decision to make this offseason with Kuzma. He’s eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension with the club and will likely want to get compensated fairly after helping the Purple and Gold win the title. If Kuzma and the Lakers don’t agree to an extension, he’ll enter restricted free agency in 2021 assuming Los Angeles offers him his qualifying offer.
The Lakers have already been linked to Paul and Rose. Pelinka does need to get another scoring guard on the team since Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will test the open market this offseason. Kuzma is the only player on the Lakers with upside and trade value. The Pistons and Thunder will absolutely ask for Kuzma in potential trades for Rose and Paul, respectively.
However, both Rose and Paul are getting older and injury-prone. Plus, Kuzma is a better defender than both guys and doesn’t need the ball in his hands to affect the game. You have to surround James and Davis with as many shooters and guys who can play off the ball since you don’t want to take the ball out of their hands that much.
Kyle Kuzma should enjoy his offseason as a champion because he could be on the move this offseason. The Lakers, internally, have to weigh the pros and cons of potentially dealing him. The pros are the team will get a veteran, win-now player who can help James and Davis repeat as champions next season.
However, the negative will be that the team is giving up a young, talented prospect who has his entire NBA career ahead of him for a player who may only have a few years left in the league.