Why the Lakers Should Trade Kuzma!

The Los Angeles Lakers must upgrade their roster and Kyle Kuzma’s value and fit as a player is not as great as his value as a trading chip

It’s easy for Lakers’ fans to become enamored by the glimpses of potential seen from Kyle Kuzma, especially since he’s the last man standing after the team traded the rest of their young core to acquire Anthony Davis.

While he’s struggled with injuries and his role and fit on a Lakers’ team where Anthony Davis took over his starting position, Kyle Kuzma has finally begun to show signs to convince the fan base that he should not be traded. In fact, the fan consensus right now is the Lakers should not trade Kuzma unless it’s for a home run, for a legitimate star player in return, which in itself is unlikely because the Lakers lack the assets to make such a trade.

The question is what would constitute a ‘home run’ in fans’ estimation? Would a trade with the Pelicans for point guard Jrue Holiday qualify as a ‘home run?’ How about a trade with the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell? Assuming the Pelicans and Warriors would be willing to trade, would a package of three key rotation players, including Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and Avery Bradley, be enough to convince them to pull the trigger?

The biggest issue for most fans who don’t want to trade Kuzma is the great team chemistry the Lakers have developed and how almost every player on the roster has at one time or other been a major contributor to winning. The only players who’ve not been part of the Lakers’ on court success have been DeMarcus Cousins, whom the Lakers are targeting to keep long term, and Talen Horton-Tucker, who spent most of his time in the G-League.

Team chemistry is certainly a big part of why the Lakers are winning and trading Kuzma would also require trading at least one and likely two other players to match salaries so the trade would qualify under the league rules. But there’s no guarantee keeping Kuzma would not end up hurting the team’s chemistry, especially if he becomes unhappy because he’s not starting or closing games like he did his first two seasons on the Lakers.

The NBA is a business and all of the players know this. Because of a lack of midlevel salaries and draft picks to trade and three players with de facto no-trade contracts, the Lakers are unlikely to pull off a blockbuster trade. But they’re also unlikely to stand pat while major competitors make moves to upgrade their rosters. As the trade deadline approaches, the NBA will be in an arms race and competitors will be forced to upgrade their rosters.

The reality is the Lakers’ front office is more likely to trade Kuzma before the February 6 trade deadline than not for multiple reasons, including their need to acquire a second playmaker, third scorer, and elite wing defender. The Lakers have a legitimate shot at winning a championship this season and Kuzma’s not only their only viable trading chip but also a player who’s simply not a great fit on a team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

While Kyle Kuzma has star potential, the reality is his value as a trading chip is worth more to the Lakers today than his value as a player because his personality and skills just don’t fit what the Lakers need from him. Kuzma’s future role is as a starting NBA forward, which is not going to happen on a team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Nor is Kyle going to become a closer as long as Anthony Davis does not want to play center.

With Anthony Davis set to become of free agent after this season and LeBron James eligible for free agency after next season, the Lakers are in the middle of the first year of what is a two-year championship window. They cannot afford to blow a chance to win a championship this season by failing to fix the holes in their roster and gambling an inconsistent Kyle Kuzma will suddenly transform himself into the third star they need.

The big question is whom do the Lakers target in a trade for Kyle Kuzma? We’ve heard solid rumors the front office has approached the Sacramento Kings about a possible Kuzma and pieces for Bogdan Bogdanovic trade. Other rumors have included the Timberwolves’ Robert Covington, the Pistons’ Derrick Rose, and the Wizards’ Davis Bertans. Whether the Lakers sign Darren Collison or Andre Iguodala will determine the likely target.

In the end, the Lakers aren’t going to swap Kyle Kuzma just to make a trade but they’re also going to be very aggressive looking to use him as the key trading chip to fill whatever is the biggest hole that remains in their roster.

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