With the NBA trade deadline just over a month away, the trade market is starting to shape up throughout the league. One team that will definitely be active is the Los Angeles Lakers, as the team needs to improve by any means necessary this season.
There is a list of intriguing trade targets for the Lakers to pursue at the deadline this year. With flexibility in the contracts that can be traded as well as the assets that can be shipped, there are various routes the team can go down.
One route that Rob Pelinka has taken in the past is to bring back former Lakers. Dennis Schroder, Dwight Howard, and even D'Angelo Russell at last year's deadline have all gotten second (and in the case of Howard, third) stints in LA. Perhaps Pelinka could repeat that strategy this year at the trade deadline.
If he does it is not going to be for Kyle Kuzma, though. With the Washington Wizards bottoming out toward the top of the lottery, Kuzma has emerged as a player who could be dealt this season. However, because of his astronomical price, he does not make sense in the slightest for LA. According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, the Wizards are hoping to get multiple first-round picks for the former Laker.
"Perhaps Kyle Kuzma could be one answer, although he would not bring the defensive reinforcements that Indiana seems to be prioritizing. The Wizards have informed rival teams they’re open to trading veterans in search of future draft assets for Washington’s rebuild, sources said. Early impressions are the Wizards hope to receive multiple first-round picks for Kuzma, with the goal of receiving maximum draft capital for other players down their roster as well."
Insanely high asking price for Kyle Kuzma is comedy gold for Lakers fans
Multiple first-round picks? For Kyle Kuzma? Are we all talking about the same player here? Because if so, the Wizards need to pinch themselves and stop dreaming because no sensible team would trade that for Kuzma's services.
Kuzma was an important part of the 2020 title team and he will always have a special place in Lakers fans' hearts but we have to call a spade a spade. You could make the case that Kuzma isn't even worth one first-round pick, let alone two.
First of all, the team trading for Kuzma would be trading for the four-year, $90 million contract he signed prior to this season. To be fair, the salary numbers actually decrease with each season which makes it an easier pill to swallow. But he still has a cap hit of over $20 million in the first two years, which is too much for how he is playing.
There are 51 players in the NBA who have at least 1,000 minutes played this season. Kuzma ranks dead last in both win shares and win shares per 48 minutes. Sure, being on the Wizards doesn't help his case, but he is still worse than his teammates. The only player on Washington with a worse WS/48 than Kuzma with at least 200 minutes played is Jordan Poole.
Kuzma is the classic case of putting up decent counting stats on a bad team. Sure, his 20 points per game looks great, but there are a lot of players in the NBA who would score over 20 on this Wizards team. His effective field goal percentage is at a career high (53.4%) but that still is not great. Of the 13 players with at least 600 shot attempts this season Kuzma ranks 10th in eFG%. Of the 35 with 500 shot attempts he ranks 23rd.
There is value in Kuzma. At his best, he is someone who can come off the bench and score in bursts, playing 20-25 minutes or so on a title-contending team. Any role larger than that and he starts to become a negative asset.
That is not worth two first-round picks. The Wizards are either going to have to change their expectation or accept the fact that Kuzma won't be traded.