Potential Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Lakers' Kyle Kuzma
Following this summer's acquisition of Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers' eventual shopping of Kyle Kuzma felt inevitable.
Unloading much of the young core for a superstar sped up L.A.'s timeline. And Kuzma was suddenly the only contract on the roster that resembled a trade asset.
If the Lakers needed to upgrade midseason, Kuzma would almost have to be involved.
Well, they may have reached that point.
"Will Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka eventually send [Kuzma] packing to upgrade the Lakers' roster for a title run?" The Athletic's Sam Amick wrote. "As our Shams Charania reported Friday, teams are monitoring his situation and wondering whether he can be had before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. What's more, sources now say the Lakers have shown a recent willingness to listen to pitches for Kuzma."
At 24, Kuzma may be a little older than some realize. And his defense has fluctuated between bad and dreadful throughout his career. But he is 6'8", averaged 18.7 points in his second season as a pro and showed flashes of three-point prowess as a rookie.
He may have some value on the trade market. For teams out of the playoff chase looking to unload veterans to contenders, maybe Kuzma could serve as a proxy for getting a second-round pick.
When scanning the league for teams that might have ambitions for turning Kuzma into an above-average player before he hits his prime, a handful emerges.
One note before we get to them, though. Because Kuzma's 2019-20 salary is so low (relative to other NBA players), you'll find Avery Bradley attached to him in most of the trade packages.
His inclusion doesn't move the needle one way or the other in a basketball sense (though he's been decent on defense for the Lakers), but his salary gets L.A.'s outgoing money close enough to the incoming contracts to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement's trade rules.
The Deal: Kyle Kuzma, Avery Bradley and a second-round pick for Bogdan Bogdanovic
"Sacramento is among the teams that has tried to engage the Lakers in Kyle Kuzma trade talks, league sources say," the New York Times' Marc Stein tweeted Monday. "The Kings know they would have to include sharpshooter (and soon-to-be restricted free agent) Bogdan Bogdanovic, for starters, in a Kuzma deal"
If your reaction to that news was some sort of "What?," join the chorus.
Bogdanovic is three years older than Kuzma, but over the last two seasons, he holds significant leads in box plus/minus, three-point shooting, assists and steals.
He's more accustomed to a role as a secondary creator than Kuzma is. His 1.16 points per spot-up possession ranks in the 81st percentile. And while he may not be a clear upgrade over Kuzma on defense, he offers the chance at another possession or two per game through steals.
As SiriusXM NBA's Justin Termine put it, "Bogdan Bogdanovic is a major upgrade over Kuzma."
Lest we do nothing but scoff at the Kings here, let's try to figure out what they might be thinking.
For starters, Bogdanovic is set to enter free agency this summer. With major commitments already made to Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield as well as upcoming deals for De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III, we can't begrudge Sacramento wanting to dodge Bogey's next contract (whether he should've been prioritized over one of the aforementioned four is a topic for another time).
Getting Kuzma back, as opposed to letting Bogdanovic walk this summer for nothing, would be a win.
And again, Kuzma is three years younger. He's on the books for just $3.6 million next season. And there's familiarity between him and Kings coach Luke Walton.
There may be another step or two of development for Kuzma. And theoretical 4/5 combinations with him and Bagley could be solid offensively.
Golden State Warriors
Alec Burks is having something of a career renaissance for the Golden State Warriors in his age-28 season.
In just 29.2 minutes per game, he's posting career highs in points (16.0), rebounds (4.4), assists (3.0) and steals (1.3). His three-point and true shooting percentages are both above average.
With the Warriors in the hunt for the top lottery odds, Burks has played himself into "valuable trade chip" territory.
"As much as the Warriors like Burks, and they most assuredly do, they are willing, according to league sources, to part with him—and several other veterans—for the right deal," NBC Sports' Monte Poole wrote. "Why consider moving arguably their most proficient offensive player? Because they want to create room to accommodate two-way guards Damion Lee and Ky Bowman."
On top of the reason outlined by Poole, Golden State can also use as many cost-controlled contributors as possible. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green all on such hefty deals, filling out the rest of the roster can be tricky. Kuzma having one year left on his rookie contract would make it a little less so.
For the Lakers, a one-two bench punch of Burks and Dwight Howard offers plenty of intrigue. And Burks has shown a knack for scoring out of isolation this season (1.03 points per possession, 76th percentile), something that could come in handy for lineups that have struggled to score when LeBron James is on the bench.
The Deal: Kyle Kuzma and Avery Bradley for Langston Galloway
Langston Galloway is another 28-year old having a mid-career breakout. In his first two seasons with the Detroit Pistons, Galloway averaged 7.5 points and 1.5 threes with a below-average 49.5 effective field-goal percentage.
This season, he's up to 10.9 points, 2.1 threes and a well-above-average 56.5 effective field-goal percentage.
Swapping Kuzma's minutes for Galloway offers a significant downgrade in size, but that's a bigger problem on the defensive end. Kuzma wasn't helping much there anyway.
The shooting Galloway would provide outweighs that. And when constructing LeBron-led rosters, you generally can't have too much shooting.
For the Pistons, it's rebuild time. And Andre Drummond's reported availability suggests the organization finally realizes that. If he's on the market, it's hard to imagine many players on the roster who aren't.
Galloway is included there, and his own availability was discussed nearly a month ago.
"If the Pistons remain in the playoff hunt and remain adamant on chasing one of the final seeds, Galloway seems unlikely to go anywhere before the deadline — though a late first-round pick might be too enticing," The Athletic James L. Edwards III wrote. "However, if the Pistons pivot, Galloway could still be traded for an asset."
That pivot may have happened. And Kuzma should hold at least as much value as a late first-round pick. Plus, the Flint, Michigan, product could give the fans a homegrown product to root for as Detroit embarks on what might be a painful rebuilding process.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Deal: Kyle Kuzma and Avery Bradley for E'Twaun Moore
More shooting! Or, in this case, Moore shooting!
All right, sorry. But that's where the overwhelming majority of E'Twaun Moore's value comes from. And again, it's never a bad idea to surround LeBron with shooting.
Over the last three seasons, Moore is 242-of-568 from three. That 42.6 percent conversion rate ranks third among the 118 players with as many attempts in that span.
Of course, this is the same team that already traded for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, all former teammates of Kuzma's with the Lakers.
The young Laker tried to defuse speculation about the encounter with an Instagram post, but you can judge the videos for yourself.
Basketball-wise, Kuzma would be behind Ingram and Zion Williamson on the forward depth chart, but he offers more long-term potential than Moore.
The Deal: Kyle Kuzma and Avery Bradley for Jae Crowder
This is another deal that could lead to a little awkwardness.
Crowder and LeBron were teammates for part of one season in Cleveland. The Cavs were minus-5.0 points per 100 possessions (27th percentile) when the two shared the floor and plus-5.7 (84th percentile) when LeBron was on the floor without Crowder.
That pairing ended with a trade that sent Crowder to the Utah Jazz.
Of course, both have moved on to new spots in the years since the trade. And Crowder was an important cog for a Utah defense that was stifling at times.
Crowder would signal L.A. doubling down on the defense-first nature of LeBron and AD's supporting cast. He can guard pretty much anywhere on the floor and could spare either of the stars by spending time on the opposition's top forward.
On the other end, he's shown a bit more playmaking this season, averaging a career-high 3.0 assists. But his three-point percentage is a dismal 32.4 over the last three seasons.
There is at least some value in the 5.6 attempts, though. Simply knowing that he's not afraid to cast off can draw defenders a step or two away from the paint, which might buy the stars an extra half second on a drive.