Around the NBA, the consensus is that Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma could be had in a trade. Problem is, when you get into the nuts-and-bolts of a potential deal with the Lakers, that consensus falls apart.
It makes sense that the Lakers would be very cautious about dealing away a 24-year-old who averages 16.5 points on 45.0 percent shooting in his career. But Kuzma has been inconsistent and struggles to fill a role when the Lakers are completely healthy.
After his monster 36-point performance against Oklahoma City, in which LeBron James and Anthony Davis did not pay, Kuzma had 11 on 5-for-13 shooting the following game and just four points on 2-for-10 shooting in the loss to Orlando.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers have been as inconsistent about how they approach Kuzma in trade talks as Kuzma has been on the floor.
“I’m just going to say, there’s conflicting information out there about him,” Windhorst said on ESPN’s Hoops Collective. “I’ve talked to three or four different teams who told me ‘Kyle Kuzma is available for trade. He can be had.’ There have been reports elsewhere and other people elsewhere have said that the Lakers have indicated they do not want to trade him.”
Lakers’ Asking Price for Kuzma is High
Two weeks ago, when rumors of Kuzma being on the trading block first hit the media, one league executive told Heavy.com that the Lakers were reluctant to trade Kuzma because he was the one remaining piece the team had from the disastrous D’Angelo Russell trade, which also brought the Lakers Brook Lopez.
Because Lopez is thriving in Milwaukee after the Lakers let him leave in free agency with no return, there’s added pressure on team honcho Rob Pelinka to keep Kuzma and show that the Lakers did, in fact, get something out of that whole mess.
Thus, the executive said, the Lakers are asking an especially high price for Kuzma, including a productive veteran player and a first-round draft pick. No team would pay that high of a price for Kuzma. Thus the Lakers can shop him but not really expect to pull the trigger on a deal.
So why is he on the block at all? That might have to do with LeBron James, who is 35 years old and wants to compete for a championship this season. Kuzma might develop into a guy who can help the Lakers down the road, but James does not want to wait that long.
The ‘Other’ Reasons Behind a Possible Kuzma Trade
There may be tertiary factors, too. Kuzma left his agent, Mark Bartelstein, this offseason and was shopping for a new agency. The assumption around the league was that Kuzma would hire Klutch Sports and agent Rich Paul, who represents James and Davis. But Kuzma bucked that wisdom and hired CAA Sports.
There was also the untimely criticism of James in late December from Kuzma’s trainer Clint Parks, who suggested on social media that Kawhi Leonard had been outworking James.
James and Kuzma spoke about the comments and, after, Kuzma told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, “Obviously I don’t feel that way. Everybody knows … me and Bron have a great relationship. And I left it at that.”
If there is confusion about Kuzma’s status on the trading block, it probably stems from the confusion about his spot within the team in general. He’s been inconsistent as a player and that would be enough to warrant him being put on the block.
Throw in the fact that he may have not fallen completely in line with James over the past year and, though Pelinka obviously wants to keep him, the Lakers have little choice but to at least gauge the Kuzma market.