- The Lakers are reportedly interested in trading Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan.
- Kuzma is eligible for a rookie contract extension this offseason.
- The Spurs have coveted Kuzma since 2017 when he was drafted by the Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers have important decisions to make this offseason. The newly-crowned NBA champions have several free agent decisions to make.
For sure, Anthony Davis will be returning after he signs a max deal when free agency starts. But while that’s resolved, they still have to decide on the fates of unrestricted free agents Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, and Dion Waiters. Then there is the case of Kyle Kizma who is eligible for a rookie contract extension.
Kuzma is an interesting piece. He was protected from the Anthony Davis trade and was not moved at the last trade deadline because of his perceived value to the team. But the 25-year old regressed this season after he was relegated to a bench role. Kuz was LeBron’s sidekick when they missed the playoffs in 2019, averaging 18.7 points per game while starting 68 of 70 games played. But with Davis in Tinseltown last season, he moved to the bench and averaged just 12.8 points per game last season.
According to a report from The Ringer, the Lakers could end up shipping Kuzma to San Antonio for DeMar DeRozan in a trade package that is supposed to include Danny Green. The Spurs are reportedly looking to move DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge in an attempt to rebuild after missing the playoffs last season.
Lakers have interest in trading for DeMar DeRozan, per @KevinOConnorNBA
Spurs would get Kuzma and Danny Green pic.twitter.com/fz1JVGDmbx
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 12, 2020
Interest in Kuzma and Green
Gregg Popovich became ‘big fan’ of Kyle Kuzma during Team USA training camp.
Written by: @TheeCoreyH.https://t.co/zNGo4ChYwg pic.twitter.com/IFX4tVZeZa
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) November 7, 2019
The Spurs would be interested in a Kuzma trade. Not only do they have a fondness for Danny Green but Greg Popovich and the Spurs have long coveted Kuzma. It can be recalled that Kuz’s trainer Clint Parks once said that the Spurs would have picked Kuzma if the Lakers didn’t draft him him two picks earlier. San Antonio continued its infatuation with Kuzma when they reportedly wanted to include him in a Kawhi Leonard trade in 2018.
Popovich and Kuzma also developed a good working relationship when the latter attended the Team USA camp before the 2019 World Championships. Pop even compared Kuzma to Manu Ginobili in his ability to contribute as a sixth man. On the other hand, Kuzma openly talked about the many things he learned from Popovich, especially on defense. Kuz even went on to say that Pop was his all-time favorite coach.
As for Green, he played seven seasons with the Spurs and was a part of the team’s 2014 championship team. Green was warmly welcomed by the fans during his first game back in San Antonio after he was traded to the Toronto Raptors. Green has always said he enjoyed being coached by Popovich and there is no doubt that the fans would love to have him back after all these years.
Good Fit For The Lakers
The Lakers have reportedly expressed interest in DeMar DeRozan. ? pic.twitter.com/2KHcEJGjpA
— theScore (@theScore) November 12, 2020
While the Lakers are also willing to give Kuzma an extension, he has not shown that he can thrive in the role that the Lakers want him to play. His best season came when he was a starter and last season, he struggled on offense while being relegated to the sixth man role. Kuzma is also a frontcourt player and the Lakers’ two stars also play up front so playing time will always be an issue.
That won’t be a problem with DeRozan as the Lakers don’t have a player with his skillset. DeRozan has developed into a playmaker in San Antonio and the Lakers could use that when LeBron James goes to the bench. DeRozan also has the more proven offense that Kuzma and his scoring throughout these years has been more consistent.
A four-time All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist, DeRozan would bring the star power that the Lakers want after Davis and James. He also grew up in Southern California and was a Lakers fan during his youth. More importantly, he will be entering the final year of his contract, which would allow the Lakers salary cap flexibility at the end of next season while still getting the best chance at defending their 2020 NBA title.
Kuz Decision Key to Title Run
Report: Lakers are ‘open’ to an extension for Kyle Kuzma despite ongoing ‘trade conversations’ https://t.co/Mo1r1LJGRP
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) November 12, 2020
There’s no doubt that DeMar DeRozan checks many boxes for the Lakers and it won’t be a surprise if they pursue this trade. Not that Kuzma isn’t a good player but given the Lakers’ plans and timelines, DeRozan fits both better than Kuzma.
The Lakers continue to be in a win-now mode with LeBron James’ window starting to close. While Kuzma has shown flashes of brilliance, James cannot wait for him to develop into a reliable star who can contribute on a nightly basis. DeRozan can do that now, and he continues to do it well.
There’s a lot of pressure on the Lakers now as they are the odds-on-favorite to repeat as champions. The Purple and Gold are currently listed at +225 to rule the West and a +350 to win the 2021 NBA title at BetOnline.ag. Rivals will obviously try to get better with the draft and free agency and so do the Lakers. Once they make AD’s extension official, Kuzma should be the next order of business. Deciding what to do with him could be key in their title run in 2021.