The NBA trade season is officially upon us with the February deadline less than a month away, and the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to try and improve their roster with the limited assets they have. At the top of those assets is Kyle Kuzma: A career 16.5 point per game scorer who’s due just $5.5 million over the next two years.
As good as Kuzma’s been for his value, though, he’s struggled to adapt to his role as the Lakers’ sixth man this season, averaging just 12 points per game on 42.5% shooting from the field in 23.4 minutes per game. With a 35-year-old LeBron James and an impending superstar free agent in Anthony Davis, the Lakers’ window for a championship is now, and if Kuzma isn’t going to get them closer to that goal with his play, the belief is that they’ll get someone who will.
One player the Lakers have reportedly inquired about recently is Sacramento Kings swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic. The 27-year-old is shooting 38.3% from 3-point range on 6.9 attempts per game. He’s also a capable playmaker and defender — two areas Kuzma is still improving in.
However, those talks haven’t gone anywhere so far, and according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Kings are more likely to keep Bogdanovic than trade him before the February deadline:
The Kings see Bogdanovic as a key part of their playoff push, and team sources swear they’re comfortable letting his situation spill into this summer. Translation: It will take a lot to land him, but they might be more willing to listen if the postseason seems out of reach early next month.
Given the allure of the Sacramento market, or lack thereof, it makes a ton of sense for the Kings to match any offer for Bogdanovic in restricted free agency. It’s for that same reason that they paid Buddy Hield more than they would have liked to in October.
So, if we’re to go with the assumption that Bogdanovic is going to play out the final season of his rookie contract, who should the Lakers shift their focus to before the trade deadline?
The list of players that would be worth trading Kuzma’s cheap production is short, and the list of players they can trade for with his small contract is even shorter. That list, depending on who you ask, includes names like Derrick Rose and Robert Covington, both of whom would fill needs in the Lakers’ rotation and are under contract for at least one more season. The question is whether those two teams — the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves — value Kuzma enough to surrender a proven player on a good contract.
If the answer to that question is no, then the Lakers may be better off keeping Kuzma around until next summer, when they can package a combination of expiring contracts and their own first-round pick (after the 30-day restriction is lifted) for a bona fide starter. There’s also a chance Kuzma shows he’s a piece worth keeping around before then, which is a fine result, too. Either way, waiting may simply make more sense.