It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers are open to making moves to improve their roster as the February trade deadline approaches to build around the core of Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
And while the two all-NBA picks are obvious untouchables, it appears another name has been added to that mix in Kyle Kuzma — long believed to be one of the most valuable trade chips the Lakers had left if they wanted to bring in another star-type talent.
Several teams have been doing their “due diligence” on a possible move for the 24-year-old Kuzma, but the Lakers are reportedly not trying to make a major move that involves him, but rather smaller ones to improve the roster, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Friday.
Charania said that the Lakers see Kuzma as a “core part of the future.”
The Lakers are currently the top seed in the Western Conference at 27-7, winning their last three games consecutively.
Kyle Kuzma Coming on Strong After Early Injuries
Kuzma has taken on a different role this season with the Lakers improved roster, coming off the bench. He is averaging 12.2 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 35% from beyond the arc.
Kuzma was banged up to start the year with ankle injuries but he’s come on strong lately. He led the Lakers in scoring in consecutive games at the end of December — scoring 25 and 24 points against the Clippers and Blazers, respectively — and has been able to activate “attack mode” now that he’s healthy.
“I’m just being in attack mode at all times,” Kuzma told reporters after beating the Blazers, saying he’s been able to trust his body more. “Being the third option, you don’t have the luxury of taking it easy sometimes, so just being in attack mode.”
Kuzma is down nearly 10 minutes per game from a year ago, but both he and the team figured it would take some time to adjust to a sixth-man type of role off the bench.
“I’m just being patient. Obviously, coming in, I knew I had to sacrifice a lot. It’s kind of hard sometimes being a young player and you see other young players [around the league] that you think you are better than in better [playing] situations,” Kuzma told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “But I just got great vets around me that keep me centered and chill. I have a chance to win a championship in my third year. I can do whatever I want after winning one. I’m just being positive.
“For me, you’re not going to get the same touches, same shots and same vibe on the court. It’s something you really have to adjust and adapt to certain things. We live in a society where everybody wants you to be great now and every time out. But it’s going to take time.”
Lakers Have Options to Improve Depth
The Lakers have been active in their pursuit of veteran wing Andre Iguodala from the Memphis Grizzlies, but haven’t been willing to give up the steep price for the veteran that the Grizzlies are asking.
Another option that has emerged is Darren Collison, who surprisingly retired in the offseason but has been open to making an NBA return with one of the LA teams — either the Clippers or Lakers. He has played for both Doc Rivers and Frank Vogel in his career.
The backup point guard spot has become a priority for the Lakers to improve going forward — whether that be with Collison or someone else via trade.
“Backup point guard is the number one priority as they look towards improving their roster as we go into the postseason,” ESPN’s Dave McMenamin said on The Jump on Friday.