Kyle Kuzma is finally healthy and his play has improved as a result (goose egg against the Dallas Mavericks notwithstanding). The Los Angeles Lakers have always seen him as crucial to their future, a stance that’s extremely unlikely to change now that he’s showing more consistent flashes of what they saw in him in the first place.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, other teams have noticed the uptick in production, too:
Several teams are doing their due diligence on forward Kyle Kuzma and viewing whether they can pluck the talented 24-year-old as part of their future from the championship-contending Lakers, but the Lakers value Kuzma as a core part of the future and are focused on making moves around the edges and not a major one, league sources say.
Kuzma is averaging 12.2 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 35 percent from 3-point range in 25 games, adjusting his game around an elevated roster and finding his rhythm following missing time at two different points for a left ankle injury.
The Lakers found Kuzma with the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA draft and have invested in his growth. As owners of the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, having time to figure out Kuzma’s acclimation to the rotation is a good thing.
Basically, this reads as if the Lakers aren’t at all interested in moving Kuzma, and teams are looking in on what it would take to land him. Given the time of year (we’re still a month away from the trade deadline), this general and extremely non-specific amount of information sounds about right.
Over his last five games, Kuzma has averaged 16.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game. His shooting has come and gone, but over that stretch, he’s hitting 40.8% of his shots and 32.4% from deep. In terms of sheer production, this frankly isn’t anything to write home about.
What it likely comes down to is some team making an offer the Lakers would be insane to pass up on for Kuzma. Right now, it doesn’t seem like Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office is trying all that hard to find any such trade and, given the way the team has played thus far, it seems pretty unlikely that approach will change much.
Kuzma is also basically the Lakers’ only trade chip if it becomes clear they do need an upgrade somewhere. He’s on a very team-friendly deal and has the kind of gravitas and theoretical upside that some other team can sell to their fans, even if it doesn’t necessarily match the 24-year-old’s actual production to this point.
At the very least, the fact that teams are interested is a good sign given how few other assets they have available to trade.
So if things take a turn for the worst and it becomes clear that Kuzma is too far behind the Lakers’ current timeline, then maybe they change their stance and look into what they could get for him. But for now, it sounds like the focus remains on how he can help the team as best he can.
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