Trade Candidate Series: Could Kyle Kuzma return to Los Angeles?


Welcome to the fourth installment of the ‘Trade Candidates Series’, where we take a look at several of the league’s players eligible for expansion with their current squads to see who the LA Clippers might be interested in in a potential trade scenario.

It started with Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors before moving north to take a look at Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors. Last edition, we focused on Harrison Barnes, a Sacramento Kings forward.


Today we are going to look at another striker. But he’s someone who already has ties to the greater Los Angeles area.

Kyle Kuzma was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft. After two productive early years, Kuzma played a valuable role off the bench in the Lakers’ 2020 title run. After another year off the bench the following season, Kuzma was eventually traded to the Washington Wizards in the final offseason.

In his first year in the nation’s capital, Kuzma averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 66 games, all starts. Rebounds and assists marked Kuzma’s career.

At 6-foot-9, Kuzma is someone who can play both small forward and power forward in the league, as evidenced by his last two seasons with the Lakers.

In 2019-20, Kuzma spent 88% of his minutes at power forward while the remaining 12% was at small forward, according to Cleaning The Glass. In 2020-21, 52% of Kuzma’s minutes were at small forward and 48% were at small forward.

Last season, Kuzma saw a noticeable change in his minutes usage. Ultimately, 91% of his minutes last season were up front. The remaining 9%, however, were in the middle. Essentially, the versatile striker could play three positions if needed.

Ivica Zubac and Kyle Kuzma were teammates with the Lakers. Could they be teammates again in Los Angeles…but with the Clippers?
Photo by John McCoy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On top of that, Kuzma hit 36% of his 3-point catch-and-shoot attempts last season. It was 37.5% the previous season and 36.5% in 2019-20. None of those numbers are mind-blowing, but it’s not a terrible mark that makes him unusable for a team like the Clippers.

The reality of the situation is that Kuzma is eligible for an extension from the Wizards that could reach a maximum of $70 million over four years or $50.5 million over three years, according to HoopsHype’s Yossi Golzan. Considering it was probably the best full season of Kuzma’s career, it’s not crazy to think he could bet on himself and thus hit free agency next offseason.

Kuzma, 27, has a player option for the 2023-24 season, but it’s only $13 million. Chances are he will receive more in the open market or in an expansion from the Wizards or a team that acquires him via trade.

Wizards are in an interesting place, however. They just handed Bradley Beal a five-year, $251 million deal with a fifth-year player option and a full no-trade clause, as well as a 15% kicker. This is the complete enchilada of the offerings.

On top of that, Washington is on the books for $33.8 million owed to Kristaps Porzingis this coming season, as well as his $36 million player option for 2023-24. Based on his injury status and his play on the pitch, it’s hard to say whether Porzingis will choose this option or not.

Is Kuzma someone the Wizards want to pay off long-term when Porzingis could potentially be tied to a deal and they still have to figure out how to handle forward Rui Hachimura’s impending restricted free agency in the next off season?

That would be a lot of money tied to a team that, at best, could fight for one of the two lower-tier playing spots. Owner Ted Leonsis might be comfortable with the idea, but the alternative for the Wizards, should they seek a deal with Kuzma, could lead them to the Clippers since LA might have a potential way to help them.

Washington Wizards vs. LA Clippers

Kyle Kuzma has already called Arena home. And a second time?
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

A hypothetical swap of Marcus Morris Sr. and Luke Kennard, both players under contract until at least 2023-24, for Kyle Kuzma and Will Barton, players who can be free agents after the 2022-23 season, could be something. thing both teams explore. However, there are ceiling ramifications in a deal like that.

For example, because the Wizards used their mid-level exception for non-taxpayers — guard Delon Wright was the one they signed — they’re under strict cap rules. A trade for Morris and Kennard would put the Wizards above the hard cap, something they can’t get past.

Even a straight trade from Morris to Kuzma would put the Wizards over the cap by just $22,000, if you can believe it. Would the Wizards be interested in a Kennard vs. Kuzma deal?

This hypothetical deal would work by the rules, but whether either side would find it useful remains to be seen. After all, the Clippers would trade their best shooter for someone who finds himself thrust into the already insane glut of forwards. And wizards would lose some forward depth without getting one back.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Washington Wizards

Kyle Kuzma is just 3-11 against the Clippers in his career.
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Based on the situation presented by this scenario, it’s hard to see the Clippers and Wizards ending up as valid business partners in a deal that would send Kuzma back to Los Angeles. While it’s what the Clippers are looking for, it’s just tough from a cap standpoint.

Given the capping and other situations, maybe Porzingis would be the easiest player for the Clippers to target when it comes to the Wizards since a package of Morris and Kennard gets the Clippers there, at least in this regarding money. The other parts will have to be determined, of course.

But any chance of a Kuzma deal for the Clippers looks dim, mainly due to the Wizards’ tight cap. Still, it’s a situation that deserves some monitoring over the next few months, as he’s the type of player who could help the team and has recent experience making the necessary sacrifices in order to fulfill a role to help a team. to win a title.

For now, a return to Los Angeles doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Kuzma. Not with the gymnastics that would require.

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