With just a little over three full days to go until the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline, the question of whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers will opt to trade Kyle Kuzma remains an open one.
Kuzma has seen his name in the most trade rumors of any Laker this season, something he’s at the very least used to from his time in Los Angeles so far. That rumor mill started churning again on Monday morning, when Zach Lowe of ESPN — who is among the best and most reliable in the business — reported some more info on where the Lakers are at with Kuzma as the deadline approaches:
The Lakers have investigated the market on Kyle Kuzma, per sources and prior reports. They have poked around on a long list of ball handlers.
It will be interesting to see if the Lakers attempt to somehow acquire another salary in the $12 million range which they then use in a trade for a higher-priced guy — Iguodala or someone else.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN offered a bit more context on his latest episode of “The Woj Pod,” previewing what various Western Conference teams might do in advance of the deadline:
“I think with Kuzma, with Kyle Kuzma they have talked, they have listened. I think his contract makes it hard, he’s just making over $2 million... It makes it hard to make the money work on a trade somewhere, because how do you make it work with him financially? If you’re trading for an established veteran player, you assume he’s making a lot more than $2 million... You never know, but right now I think the idea of maybe having to gut their depth a little bit to trade for one guy, it may not make sense for them. And maybe is only a marginal improvement over what they have in Kuzma anyway.”
So between both of those reports and previous ones, it really does not seem like the Lakers are in a rush to move Kuzma. It does seem like they’re very open to a trade involving perhaps their best remaining asset, but they aren’t going to do a deal with Kuzma just to do a deal, which makes sense for the reasons Wojnarowski listed above, and several others.
And while Lowe reported that the Lakers were looking at ballhandlers in a Kuzma trade, it has to be noted that there is potentially a pretty good ballhandler they can get without making a trade: Darren Collison, who is reportedly still choosing between the Clippers and Lakers, and hopes to decide before the NBA All-Star break. If the Lakers can get some intel that they’re ahead in the Collison chase, it may be more prudent to use Kuzma to get a defensive-minded wing like Robert Covington, if they trade him at all.
Again, all the moving targets right now make this a hard situation to analyze, but it also bears mentioning again in this space that making a trade right now while this organization is still banding together to grieve the loss of Kobe Bryant may not be such an easy thing to do on a human level. Ultimately none of us know how much the team will weigh those factors, but it’s somewhat hard to imagine them trading the player that most looked up to and was mentored by Bryant just weeks after his death. This isn’t NBA 2K, and there may be (completely understandable) feelings involved here, especially when additionally considering how much Kuzma has endeared himself to this organization over the last few years with his work ethic, and how he's seen as one of Pelinkas's biggest draft wins.
None of that will stop the fact that there will be plenty more rumors about Kuzma over the next few days, and perhaps it won't even stop him from being traded. Right now it's basically impossible to say. It's just worth remembering all of the context on all of this while monitoring rumors about this team as the deadline approaches.
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.