Kyle Kuzma may not be destined for a move up north after all. According to a report from NBA insider Marc Stein on Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs would be interested in helping DeMar DeRozan get home to the Los Angeles Lakers... as long as L.A. sent them Kuzma back in return.
The Lakers' talks with Sacramento on a potential deal headlined by Buddy Hield and Kyle Kuzma are the most serious so far, league sources say, but San Antonio is also believed to have interest in Kuzma in possible sign-and-trade scenarios involving free agent-to-be DeMar DeRozan.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 29, 2021
As noted by my former Bubble neighbor @kylegoon and @ericpincus, acquiring DeMar DeRozan via sign-and-trade hard caps the Lakers, which could complicate further roster upgrades more than they already are ... suggesting the Hield scenario may be more enticing for the 2020 champs.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 29, 2021
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has previously made it clear that he is a fan of Kuzma’s, comparing him to Manu Ginobili, and San Antonio wanted Kuzma in it’s original trade discussions with the Lakers on a Kawhi Leonard deal in 2018.
This isn’t the first time DeRozan has been linked to the Lakers. Last week, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Compton native would take a discount to play for his hometown team. DeRozan also said that it would be “great opportunity” for him to join forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a recent interview with with Shannon Sharpe of Fox Sports.
Up until Thursday, though, the interest wasn’t being reported as mutual. Now that it is, a deal seems more likely, but the type of deal matters to the Lakers.
If the Lakers acquired DeRozan in a sign-and-trade, they’d be hard capped once again, and force themselves to make tough decisions with their own free agents, most notably Dennis Schröder, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker. From a roster-building standpoint, that’s a bad place to start. Although at this point, given all the possible sign-and-trades they’ve been linked to, it’s fair to wonder if the Lakers feel the same way.
The alternative to pursuing a sign-and-trade for DeRozan would be to offer him the taxpayer mid-level exception — worth $5.89 million — but it’s unclear if DeRozan would sign for that little. DeRozan made $27.7 million in the 2020-21 season, so a pay cut to him could be $15 million, which is close to the max the Spurs could send out in a sign-and-trade with Kuzma as the lone piece.
One of those scenarios is obviously more ideal for the Lakers than the other, but it also doesn’t seem as realistic — and if that’s the case, the rumored Buddy Hield trade may be the Lakers best path to improving this summer.