Lakers Urged Not to Trade for $47 Million Star Small Forward

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka

Getty Lakers GM Rob Pelinka

The Los Angeles Lakers have been urged not to trade for a $47 million star small forward.

On December 12, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox wrote that the Lakers shouldn’t pursue a trade for Washington Wizards swingman Kyle Kuzma, who reportedly wants a trade from Washington. Kuzma spent the first four years of his career with the Lakers before getting traded to the Wizards in the summer of 2021 in the blockbuster Russell Westbrook trade.

“Should the Lakers be interested in reacquiring Kuzma less than two years after sending him to Washington in the Russell Westbrook trade? Probably not,” Knox wrote. “At first blush, adding Kuzma seems like a great option. He has become a star in Washington and is averaging 21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season. He’s also shooting a career-best 46.2 percent from the floor. Kuzma is a capable range shooter—he’s shooting 33.3 percent from beyond the arc this season—and theoretically could help provide offensive spacing around James and Davis that Los Angeles could use.

“However, the Lakers wouldn’t be getting this version of Kuzma. They’d be getting the same role player Kuzma was when he last played in L.A. When James and Davis were both healthy in the 2019-20 season, Kuzma started just nine games. He averaged 25.0 minutes but just 12.8 points. As Kuzma recently noted, his play style made it difficult for him to be on the floor with James and Davis regularly. Kuzma’s impact would most likely be as a quality sixth man. L.A. already has that in Westbrook, who is averaging 14.4 points, 7.6 assists and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 40.5 percent from the floor. Having both Kuzma and Westbrook on the roster wouldn’t make a ton of sense, and Los Angeles isn’t going to convince Washington to take back Westbrook.”

Kuzma was part of the 2020 championship team. He averaged 8.5 points and 2.8 rebounds in the 2020 Finals against the Miami Heat, a series the Lakers won in six games at the Walt Disney World bubble. Kuzma signed a three-year, $39 million rookie extension with Los Angeles in December 2020. The Utah product is making $13 million this season and will have accumulated more than $47 million in his career once his contract ends following the 2023-24 campaign.

Knox: Kuzma Isn’t the Right Trade Target for the Lakers

Knox doesn’t believe that Kuzma is the right trade target for the Lakers, who are 11-15 after starting the season 2-10.

“However things unfold, Kuzma isn’t the right trade target for LA,” Knox wrote. “If the Lakers continue trending upward and hope to win now, Kuzma won’t make them a title contender. If they’re looking to next season, Kuzma is highly unlikely to be a long-term building block. The idea of reuniting James, Davis and Kuzma is intriguing, but given the likely cost and benefits, it’s not a deal Los Angeles should force.”

Kuzma is averaging 21.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists for the Wizards. He likely wouldn’t put up those numbers on the Lakers since he would be playing behind superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Knox: Lakers Should Go After Bulls Stars

The Lakers want to acquire DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic from the Chicago Bulls, according to a December 10 report from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Knox likes the idea of Los Angeles getting DeRozan and Vucevic, two All-Star players with playoff experience.

“While LA would lose Westbrook in this scenario, it would add a versatile player in DeRozan and a true center in Vucevic who could help take some of the physical pressure off Davis,” Knox wrote. “DeRozan can play either forward or guard and could replace the struggling Patrick Beverley in the starting lineup.”

The Lakers are expected to make a trade once December 15 passes. December 15 is when a majority of recently signed free agents can be dealt.

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