Kyle Kuzma has been one of the most criticized players in the NBA for the past two seasons or so. After his rookie year, people had high expectations for him, but that changed after the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, breaking the young core they had with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kuz.
Now, he's a bench player, contributing to the team whenever he has the chance, getting a lot of praise for his attitude and his sacrifices on the court. Yet, not everybody thinks the same, including plenty of fans that don't consider him a valuable player for the 2020 NBA champions.
It seems like Kuz is perceived that way among executives, too, after one revealed that the Lakers have been trying to move the player unsuccessfully. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report indicates that the purple and gold could undergo a major roster overhaul if they can't get past the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs.
One of those changes would involve Kuzma, who was already included in trade talks during the regular season.
Los Angeles did engage teams with packages involving Kyle Kuzma before March's trade deadline, sources said. Kuzma begins a three-year, $39 million contract next season.
"They made a bunch of calls," one assistant general manager told B/R. "They were very active.
"In addition to their pursuit of Lowry, the Lakers were canvassing the league for opportunities to acquire a rookie-scale player who could perhaps bridge this James-Davis chapter and the inevitable post-James future. Before Spencer Dinwiddie's injury, Los Angeles even inquired about adding Brooklyn's reserve ball handler in exchange for Kuzma.
"I think they've been trying to move Kuzma for a long time," added another assistant general manager. "His defense has always been questionable, and I think his early success has become a bit of fool's gold.
"Kuzma is among the glut of big men behind James and Davis on the Lakers' depth chart—a group that will be tested should Davis miss further time against Phoenix.
A considerable portion of the Lakers fanbase would make this deal in a blink but Kuzma is showing he can be a good piece in the first-round series. As Fischer writes, now that Anthony Davis is dealing with a groin injury, players like Kyle, Montrezl Harrell and more will have the chance to shine and convince the fans they are valuable assets on the roster.
Another player who can exit the team this offseason is Dennis Schroder. After rejecting a 4-year, $84 million offer, the German playmaker must prove that he's worth $100+ million for the Lakers. If not, they will try to find a way to sign-and-trade Schroder to get more talent.
"The easiest way for them to acquire more talent is to sign-and-trade Dennis Schroder," the cap expert said.
Although he's not the best scorer of all, Kuzma brings something to the table that is often overlooked. The coaching staff (and some fans) know that, and losing this guy would be bad for the franchise. They have big expectations as the defending champions. If they can't meet them, the front office may have some work to do in the offseason.
"They were built to be in the Finals," said one assistant general manager. "If they don't meet the criteria this year, they will definitely look in the mirror."
The Lakers face the Suns in Game 5 tonight, hoping to steal a win in Arizona to en route the first-round series in their favor.