As the only member of the Los Angeles Lakers’ young core that was not shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans last summer for Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma has often been mentioned as the team’s most likely trading chip ahead of next month’s deadline — a player who could yield a quality veteran if traded elsewhere. However, a new report suggests that it isn’t 100 percent clear whether the Lakers intend to move the 24-year-old forward or not, despite the multiple rumors that have swirled around him in recent weeks.
Quoting the latest episode of ESPN writer Brian Windhorst’s Hoops Collective podcast, Lakers Outsiders wrote on Wednesday that a number of rival NBA teams have received mixed signals from Los Angeles regarding Kuzma’s trade availability. As Windhorst described it, the Lakers appear to have provided “conflicting” information about the third-year forward.
“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.”
The buzzer-beating baseline fadeaway? That’s tough, @kylekuzma.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 14, 2020
As speculated by Lakers Outsiders, it’s possible that the team is deliberately employing such a strategy in order to drive up Kuzma’s trade value. However, the publication added that Los Angeles appears “unconvinced” by the reserve forward’s future, thus the plethora of rumors that have surrounded him as the NBA’s February 6 trade deadline approaches.
“Ultimately, the takeaway seems to be that Kuzma is not untouchable by any means but that the Lakers value him highly enough that they want to move him only if a significant upgrade is available,” the outlet stressed.
Despite a recent 36-point explosion against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kuzma has been putting up career-low numbers for Los Angeles in his third season after being picked late in the first round out of the University of Utah. Per Basketball-Reference, Kuzma — who is now coming off the bench after starting last season at power forward — is averaging just 13.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 0.9 assists while also shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three-point range.
Considering that he has still produced solid numbers despite his substantially reduced role, multiple teams have been linked to Kuzma in the lead-up to the trade deadline. As suggested this week by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, the Lakers could theoretically explore a trade where they could acquire star shooting guard Devin Booker from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Kuzma, a future draft pick, and a “multitude” of other players.