With the NBA trade deadline just a few weeks away, the Los Angeles Lakers could get involved, either with a trade or later in the buyout market. They have rumored interest in several players who could be available. However, it will be very difficult for them to pull the trigger on something.
Last year, Kyle Kuzma was their most interesting tradeable asset. This season, it doesn’t appear the Lakers will dangle any of their young players, including Kuzma. Los Angeles gave him a sizeable contract extension (three years, $39 million) before the season and thanks to that, he is not hearing his name so much in trade rumors for the first time in a long time.
Kuzma’s extension is tacked on to the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, which currently pays him $3.5 million for this season. He begins making $13 million per year for the 2021-22 season. NBA rules make it difficult for players in Kuzma’s situation to be dealt.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks explained why the Lakers can’t trade him:
For players still on their rookie deals before an extension kicks in, the NBA counts their fourth-year salary as outgoing money and the average of the extension amount and last year of their rookie contract as incoming money. One example: Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma would count as $3.5 million in outgoing salary for the Lakers but $10.6 million for an acquiring team.
Some call this the “poison pill” provision, which should keep Kuzma safe until the end of the season.
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Could Kuzma Get Traded in the Future?
Kuzma will be a Laker through the end of this season. He’s not going to get traded. That said, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be with the team forever. After the season is over, the Lakers should be free to trade him if they want to, under normal salary rules. The Lakers would have to match is $13 million in outgoing salary with a similar incoming salary.
That likely played a role in why the team decided to extend him before his contract was up. Kuzma could be a valuable trade piece for the Lakers down the road.
There’s always been hope that he’d develop into the Lakers’ third star but it just hasn’t happened. He’s averaging 11.5 points a game this season, which is a career-low. Considering he’s gotten many more opportunities with Anthony Davis out, those aren’t promising numbers.
One of his best games of the season came against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday when he scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Both Davis and LeBron James were out. Perhaps Kuzma could be a great player on a team where he can be a focal point of the offense. That’s probably never going to happen with the Lakers.
Will Lakers Shop Other Young Players?
Since the Lakers can’t trade Kuzma, that could be bad news for Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso. There’s nothing stopping the team from trading either of those two and they’re both on expiring contracts. Los Angeles loves Caruso. He’s developed into a very good defender and definitely makes an impact on the team.
Horton-Tucker has shown flashes of brilliance. He has a ton of upside and could possibly develop into a star. There’s no way the Lakers would be stoked on trading either of the young guards. However, it could be difficult to afford both of them this offseason. Perhaps the Lakers would want to get a player who could help for this year’s championship run in return instead of losing one of them in free agency in the offseason.