The Los Angeles Lakers are less than a week removed from winning their 17th championship in franchise history. One of the benefits of winning an NBA Title is that it immediately makes all of the players who contributed to the effort look significantly better than they otherwise would.
That is what is currently happening with Lakers youngster Kyle Kuzma. According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, there are “several interested clubs” eying a potential trade for him.
Kuzma’s numbers dropped dramatically this past season due to the arrival of Anthony Davis. He went from averaging 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 30.3 percent beyond the arc, to 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists on 43.6% shooting from the field and 31.6% from beyond the arc.
In the playoffs, Kuzma’s totals dipped even further. He averaged 10 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game on 43.0% shooting from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. Needless to say, he struggled on the big stage.
So who would be interested in acquiring Kuzma, and what could they offer in return? There are three intriguing suitors.
The Indiana Pacers currently have a potentially messy situation on their hands with Victor Oladipo. The 28-year-old wants a max deal that will pay him as though he is still the player he was in 2017, and the Pacers are unsure if he is in fact still that guy.
The Lakers need additional talent, particularly at the guard position. Adding Oladipo and betting on him returning to All-Star form is a worthwhile wager for the organization, especially if all it costs them is Kuzma.
The Pacers, meanwhile, would gain a nice young role player who would work regardless of whether they want to keep Myles Turner around or not.
The Detroit Pistons are currently in the midst of a rebuild, as was made clear by the decision to get rid of Andre Drummond. Blake Griffin looked like a shell of his former self last season, so this unit needs an infusion of young talent.
Detroit has the cap space to re-sign Kuzma, and also has Derrick Rose signed for one more year at $7 million. With Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope possibly on their way out of LA, Rose could go a long way in providing backcourt support for the reigning champs.
Not exactly how Dwight Howard thought this week would go. https://t.co/owe7bdMtc0
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 14, 2020
Finally, if the Lakers really want to make a risky bet, they could offer Kuzma up to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal centering around Chris Paul.
Again, point guard is the team’s biggest question mark. They got by this year thanks to LeBron James being LeBron James and massive playoff contributions from Rondo and Caldwell-Pope, but both could be gone next year.
The Thunder would have the cap space needed to re-sign Kuzma long-term, and with Danilo Gallinari’s inevitable departure to a contending NBA team, he would immediately get significant playing time.
Things are getting very interesting. https://t.co/TnPdkaB0Fe
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 14, 2020
All in all, based on the players the Lakers stand to lose this offseason, getting rid of Kuzma as a means of bringing in more talent seems almost necessary.
Ironically, just a few weeks back, Kuzma spoke out about just how much it meant to him not to be included in the package that brought Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I could have been at home enjoying myself right now,” he said before the Finals began.
Things are getting serious.https://t.co/UCUJxqzR1K
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 15, 2020
“That’s the biggest thing for us, to be here obviously. Like you said, big trades, having AD come here, and decide to put me in the mix to try to win a championship and be a part of a championship team, you know, I’m just very thankful for it.”
Hopefully the joy associated with winning his first NBA Championship will soften the blow of his inevitable trade.
Based on his progression up to this point and the goals the Lakers have over the next few years of James’ career, it is difficult to see a scenario where they don’t ultimately trade Kuzma away sooner rather than later.