The NBA’s trade deadline is Thursday, February 6th. That is, at the time of this writing, exactly a month away. On December 15th, the 40% of the league that signed contracts as free agents this past summer became trade eligible under NBA rules. You know what this means, right? IT’S TRADE RUMOR SEASON.
Act accordingly, ya’ll.
The latest rumor involves the Lakers and…you guessed it, Kyle Kuzma. I say it this way because Kuzma is the one Lakers player who actually has any real trade value. He’s young, his contract is cheap, he has obvious talent, and the question of fit on a roster where the team’s best players happen to play in the front court has been a question since the team traded for Anthony Davis.
The lead up to trade rumor season for Kuzma started a few days ago with a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania stating that teams around the league are doing their due diligence on Kuzma and monitoring his status to see if he can be had in a deal. This, honestly, is to be expected. Every team wants a good player who could be seen as a distressed asset because the price on those players is usually lower than their talent would normally allow. Kuzma may or may not actually be a distressed asset, but that’s what due diligence is for, to make that determination.
To further move the Kuzma trade discussion along, The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported that the Lakers are now “listening” to offers on Kuzma, though it’s not yet clear if that means they’re open to a trade or if the Lakers are simply doing their own due diligence on what types of packages are out there for their young forward. Amick further explains the rationale for doing or not doing a deal, highlighting Kuz’s support within the organization (namely from GM Rob Pelinka) vs. the idea that a mostly veteran team might be better off with another vet that can help more than Kuzma can now.1Amick highlights Kuzma’s decline in production this season, while also citing his lower minutes.
So, the Lakers are listening. But who’s calling?
According to Marc Stein, it’s a rival in the state capital:
The phrasing in Stein’s report is interesting because A). it implies it’s the Kings who have interest in Kuzma and B). it implies that the player they understand they’d have to give up — Bogdanovic — might not even be enough to get a deal done! I won’t get into my full thoughts on Bogdonavic now, but I’ll quickly say that I like him as a player. A lot.
Stein’s report, then, feels very pro-Lakers. It’s the Kings who are calling and it’s the Kings who’s starting package isn’t enough. I’ll give you one hint as to who might be on the side of providing information on Stein’s report: it’s not the Kings.
Trade Rumor Season is not complete without reports that almost completely contradict the framing of the original report — even when that report comes from someone as respected as Stein. Enter, again, Amick who tweeted, “Re: @TheSteinLine’s intel about possible Kuzma-for-Bogdanovic swap, I’m told Kings are unlikely to be interested straight up. They value his versatility, are comfortable w/ his restricted free agency & are 0-6 w/out him.”
Then, Amick added this:
Amick, a very well respected national NBA reporter has ties to the Lakers,2He’s reported extensively on the team in the past, including an exclusive sit-down with Jeanie Buss not even two years ago. but used to be a beat reporter for…the Sacramento Kings. Considering the language in Amick’s tweet — “no interest” is strong wording — I’d presume this type of push-back is coming from folks either with the Kings or who understand their thinking pretty clearly.
Where does this leave us in this edition of Kyle Kuzma trade rumor season, you ask? I’d imagine some place in the middle of all these reports. My best guess: that Kuzma is of interest around the league, that teams are calling, and that the Kings probably are one of those teams. As for the language in Stein and Amick’s tweets? My guess is that this is the sort of public sparring between two teams that makes trade rumors so ugly.
Lakers fans should be familiar with this as it’s in the same ballpark of the public negotiations that occurred when the Lakers and Pelicans were engaged in trade talks for Anthony Davis in the lead up to last year’s trade deadline. These Kuzma talks feel much less toxic than those, but the ingredients are the same: two teams have talked, certain specifics have been leaked, and now both teams have offered versions of the truth for all sides to snipe back against.
Fans then go to their trade machine of choice, make the most favorable deal they can for their team/push back against wanting to make a trade at all, the names of the players and teams involved trend on twitter, and then we all sit back and argue about it. Rinse, repeat. I know this is how it goes since I just did these exact things. I, too, am an NBA fan!
After thinking about this more, do I think a deal is going to happen between the Lakers and the Kings? I do not. The teams have not traded with each other in the time the Kings have been in Sacramento and even though there’s been discussions between the teams in the past,3Remember the Ingram for Cousins rumors? nothing has ever come to fruition. That certainly could change, but until it does, I’ll take this stuff for what it is right now. Rumors. If we all had a dollar for every trade rumor that got leaked and didn’t happen, we could chip in and buy an NBA team to leak our own rumors about.
So, sit back and take a deep breath. The Lakers play the Knicks tomorrow. And we know, for sure, that is going to happen.