Kyle Kuzma was one of the few trade chips the Los Angeles Lakers had going into the offseason. Their only other tradable assets were Danny Green’s $15 million expiring contract and the No. 28 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, both of which were sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Dennis Schröder.
Unless the Lakers find a deal for Kuzma in less than a week, he’ll be on their opening night roster, which is something one anonymous executive who recently spoke to Sam Amick of The Athletic didn’t expect:
I’m surprised (fourth-year forward Kyle) Kuzma is still on the roster. I thought they’d be moving him … because of chemistry stuff.
Ignoring the ambiguous “chemistry stuff” comment, the anonymous NBA executive wasn’t crazy to think that Kuzma would be on a different team by now.
As much as he grew in some areas last season — particularly on the defensive end — he wasn’t the Lakers’ third star like he and so many people expected him to be, nor was he their third-best player. Additionally, he didn’t play his role as a high-energy defensive wing well enough to be considered untouchable in the offseason, and that was true even when you took his low salary figure into account.
However, now that the Lakers have loads of cap space committed to LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the 2021-22 season and beyond, trading Kuzma isn’t something that they should be considering — at least not until he signs a new contract. Even then, it would be in the Lakers’ best interest to wait and see how Kuzma looks with this new group of players.
Kuzma looked great playing alongside a playmaking center in Marc Gasol on Sunday, and he’s averaged 21.5 points per game while shooting 46.2% from behind the arc in the preseason. Those numbers will almost assuredly drop when James and Davis return to the starting lineup on Wednesday, but that’s okay because the Lakers don’t need him to average 20 points per game in order to be successful this season; they just need him to knock down his 3-pointers at an efficient rate and play respectable defense.
If he does all that, everything else — including his big pay day — will follow, whether it’s from the Lakers or another team.