The trade front has been understandably quiet for the Los Angeles Lakers over the last week or so, given that the team has been dealing with far more serious real-life concerns in the wake of the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
But there has been an update on the talks about Kyle Kuzma this morning, and while it’s tough to get back to talking about basketball as normal, we are almost at the point where we have to. The Lakers will take the floor again for the first time tomorrow, and we thought you’d want to know about this as well. If you aren’t there yet, we completely understand you closing the tab here.
If you are ready to talk a bit of basketball, you likely remember a few weeks ago that there was some level of dispute over exactly what happened when the Lakers and Sacramento Kings talked about Kuzma. The first report made it seem as though the Kings had offered Bogdan Bogdanovic for Kuzma, a report the Kings quickly made it clear through the media that they disputed.
The Kings reportedly aren’t in a rush to trade Bogdanovic, despite him entering restricted free agency soon, and there was a leak that the Lakers are the ones who reached out to the Kings about the deal. A report from Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has offered a bit more clarity on how those talks exactly went, and features a new name not previously mentioned in any of the reporting before:
Sacramento doesn’t need to trade Bogdanovic, and it has declined some offers already. The Kings offered Nemanja Bjelica and a pick to the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, and Los Angeles countered by asking for Bogdanovic, according to multiple league sources. Sacramento refused.
Based on the patterns of the leaks, this makes a lot more sense. The Lakers wanted to try and get Bogdanovic, and apparently weren’t that interested in the first offer featuring the LeBron James dunk victim and Kings forward, Bjelica, so it follows that they would have let it be known as such. The Kings, understandably, pushed back on that publicly since they seem reticent to part with Bogdanovic.
It’s also not clear how much Bjelica would help the Lakers. He’s shooting 43.4% from 3-point range this year, but he’s also 31, so the Lakers would be giving up on Kuzma’s theoretical upside for a player that it’s debatable whether could help them win more now. Especially since Bjelica has less positional versatility than Kuzma, and would thus run into similar problems getting on the floor given that Anthony Davis still mostly wants to play power forward.
Getting a draft pick — O’Connor’s report doesn’t make it clear what type of pick was offered, but my guess would be a second-rounder — potentially helps L.A. in restocking its chest of assets that it depleted during the Davis trade. However, a pick is also of somewhat negligible impact on this discussion given that we don’t know where it would land right now, and because the Lakers have so little space to develop youth on this current team anyway.
However, if you’d like a counterpoint to all that, our own Ben Rosales offered some solid ones on Twitter:
Bjelica is a +1.57 RPM/+0.68 PIPM guy shooting 43.4% from three on 4.5 attempts per game, good for an overall 60.7 TS%. And he's a good passer (14.8 AST%) and not a poor defender. He's 100% a huge upgrade on Kuz. And you get him for next year. AND you get a pick. It works.— Ben Rosales (@brosales12) January 30, 2020
For now, it appears these talks may be getting put out there to serve as a baseline for the Kings, letting it be known that Bjelica is available but also trying to get teams to give them something better than Kuzma for Bogdanovic. The Lakers have since been reported to have spoken with multiple teams about Kuzma, so who knows if the two sides will even go back to the bargaining table.
Given everything else the Lakers are facing right now, trade concerns seem trivial, but they are still worth keeping track of given how much the decision between standing pat and making a move could theoretically affect this team’s ceiling.
You can keep track of every trade rumor involving the Lakers here, and for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.