Los Angeles Lakers: Why it’s time to trade Kyle Kuzma

NBA Los Angeles Lakers Kyle Kuzma Lonzo Ball (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
NBA Los Angeles Lakers Kyle Kuzma Lonzo Ball (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers should trade Kyle Kuzma because they are currently using him as 3-point shooter/floor spacer which is his biggest flaw

American author, speaker, and pastor John C. Maxwell once said: “a man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” This is the story of Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka who refused to include Kyle Kuzma in the Anthony Davis trade.

Pelinka believed that Kuzma had the length, versatility, defensive ability, and shooting to help the team on its quest to win a championship. His decision to keep Kuzma hasn’t paid off yet as Kuzma is averaging 11.1 points with 0.9 assists on 43.3 percent shooting from the field over his first 20 games.

This is a decrease of 5.6 points, 0.6 assists, and 4.2 percentage points on his field goal percentage from the first 20 games of last season. The statistical decline is attributed to spending more time as a 3-point shooter/ floor spacer.

A prime example of this can be found late in the first quarter of the road game against the Portland Trail Blazers. Kyle Kuzma stood on the right-wing as Rajon Rondo passed the basketball to Anthony Davis, who had established post position on the left mid-block.

Once AD received the ball, he faced up and started to shoot a mid-range jumper when Hassan Whiteside fouled him.

The role of a 3-point shooter/floor spacer has led Kyle Kuzma to shoot 4.5 3’s per game. The 4.5 3’s currently account for 47.9 percent of his field-goal attempts. This is an 11.7 percent increase from the first 20 games of last season.

Unfortunately, shooting is the biggest weakness in the game of Kyle Kuzma. For instance, Kuzma averaged 1.8 3’s per game in three college seasons with the Utah Utes. He was only able to convert 30.2 percent of those attempts during his college career.

His inability to consistently make three’s continued in the NBA as he is shooting 33.8 percent from behind the arc in two-plus seasons. His subpar shooting allows defenders to leave Kuzma wide open when he is in the role of a 3-point shooter/floor spacer.

A prime example of this can be found early in the second quarter of a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kuzma stood in the right corner as LeBron was in the middle of isolating Gorgui Dieng.

As a consequence, Kyle’s defender, Jarrett Culver stood near the paint for the whole possession in position to provide help defense. Unfortunately, Culver decided not to provide help defense on LeBron which allowed James to dunk on Dieng.

However, one can argue that these possessions will hurt the team in the playoffs because there is a  better chance of the help defender rotating over. A double team forces LeBron to choose between taking a heavily contested field goal or passing the ball to Kuzma for a low percentage 3-pointer.

LeBron would be in a no-win situation as both scenarios should most likely produce a bad outcome for the team. If the Lakers want to increase the productivity of Kyle Kuzma, they should put the ball in his hands. For instance, one of the best stretches of his career came when LeBron James and Rajon Rondo were out with a groin strain and broken finger respectively.

Over a 12 game stretch, he touched the ball 61.1 times a game in 35.1 minutes. This is an increase of 28.5 touches per game from the first 20 games of this season, as he is currently averaging 32.6 per game.

The 61.1 touches per game allowed him to drive the ball to the basket nine times a game. This is an increase of 5.9 drives per game from the first 20 games of this season, as he is currently averaging 3.1 per game.

These drives helped him create 6.6 points and 0.8 assists per game for the team. This is an increase of 4.7 points and 0.7 assists from the first 20 games of this season as he is averaging 1.9 points with 0.1 assists. The drives accounted for 29.5 percent of his points and 24.1 percent of the assists as he averaged 22.4 points with 2.9 assists.

Unfortunately, it appears that he won’t get a chance to have the ball in his hands this season because he has shared the floor with LeBron James or Rajon Rondo over 90 percent of the time this season. LeBron and  Rondo have averaged 75.6 and 84.3 touches a game, respectively, over the last six-plus seasons.

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Consequently, the Los Angeles Lakers would be better off trading Kyle Kuzma for a player who can make a 3 pointer consistently. For example, Los Angeles can trade Kuzma to the Detroit Pistons for Luke Kennard, who has a career 3-point shooting percentage of 40.4 percent.

Although Kyle Kuzma is more talented than Luke Kennard, the former is a better fit for the Lakers.