The rumor mill is churning and it is only going to pick up speed in the coming days leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday.
The Kings and Los Angeles Lakers have discussed a potential trade with Buddy Hield and Kyle Kuzma as the principal pieces, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Sunday morning citing sources.
“The Lakers and Sacramento Kings have discussed a deal centered around guard Buddy Hield, sources tell The Athletic,” Charania writes. “Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma would be involved in a potential package, per sources. The Lakers have received interest from several teams regarding Kuzma, sources said.”
Kuzma has been a favorite of the Kings for a while, regardless of who is running the front office. The 6-foot-9 combo forward turned 26 years old on Saturday, and fits the Kings’ player arc and style of play.
In his fourth NBA season, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 28.7 minutes per game for the Lakers last season. His overall numbers are hampered by the presence of both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but there is potential for him to take a leap forward in production.
During the 2018-19 season, Kuzma flourished under then Lakers head coach Luke Walton, averaging 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Would a reunion with Walton help him get his career back on the right path?
Sacramento passed on Kuzma multiple times during the 2017 NBA Draft, selecting both Justin Jackson (pick No. 15) and Harry Giles (pick No. 20) over the former University of Utah star. Kuzma has outperformed both of those picks during his four seasons in the league.
Losing Hield would be a blow to the Kings’ offense. The 28-year-old shooting guard had a down year last season, but still managed to attempt 10.2 3-pointers per game and finished second in the NBA in 3-point makes. He’s an elite floor spacer that would fit well with the Lakers’ offense.
Kuzma’s versatility would be the key to this roster reshuffle for Sacramento. His ability to play both the three and the four would work well with Harrison Barnes and while he isn’t in the same category of shooter that Hield is, he still managed to knock down 36.1 percent from long range on 5.6 attempts per game.
In order to make a swap like this, additional pieces have to be involved. Kuzma is in the first year of a three-year, $40 million contract and is set to make $13 million this season.
Hield has three years and $63 million remaining on his contract and is owed just under $23 million this season. To make the trade work, the Lakers would need to include an additional player in the deal.
Montrezl Harrell’s one-year, $9.7 million contract fits perfectly into the trade, but he has a player option and can opt out of his contract between now and July 31.
While Harrell would be a nice addition to the Kings’ rotation, he can't be traded until he opts and his contract becomes guaranteed.
In addition to a Kuzma/Harrell package, the Lakers could also offer up veteran Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Pope is owed $13 million this coming season and another $14 million during the 2022-23 season, but only $4.9 million of the second year is guaranteed.
Caldwell-Pope’s inclusion would add another $3 million to the Kings’ salary for this season, but the 28-year-old is a solid NBA veteran that could help the team’s defense. Caldwell-Pope averaged 9.7 points on 41 percent shooting from long range and he brings a toughness Sacramento is searching for.
Like Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope played for Walton when he coached the Lakers, and there is familiarity.
The Kings plan on being aggressive in the coming days leading up to the draft and free agency. A Kuzma/Hield swap makes sense for plenty of reasons, but this is one of likely a few trades Kings general manager Monte McNair will have to mull over.