Detroit Pistons should trade for Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma may be traded and the Detroit Pistons should try to bring the Flint native closer to home. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma may be traded and the Detroit Pistons should try to bring the Flint native closer to home. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers are listening to offers for Flint native Kyle Kuzma, who the Detroit Pistons should attempt to acquire, but may need help doing so.

The Detroit Pistons could use a blossoming young forward like Kyle Kuzma and the Los Angeles Lakers could use veterans to bolster their return atop the NBA.

The Lakers weren’t the best team in their own city the past decade, let alone the NBA. Los Angeles is looking to make its first playoff berth since 2013, ending a six-year drought. Even more troubling, the Lakers haven’t reached the Western Conference Finals since beating the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals.

That could change this season as the Lakers (28-7) sit atop the West by four games. However three teams are on their heels, including the Clippers (25-12) who beat their city rival 111-106 on Christmas Day with Kawhi Leonard outplaying LeBron James.

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On Friday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported teams are monitoring the Lakers and Kuzma. Two days later, Charania’s teammate Sam Amick pondered whether the Lakers will trade the 24-year-old forward.

"“Will Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka eventually send (Kuzma) packing to upgrade the Lakers’ roster for a title run? … What’s more,” Amick wrote, “sources now say the Lakers have shown a recent willingness to listen to pitches for Kuzma.”"

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Kuzma, a native of Flint who played college ball at Utah, averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while starting 68 of 70 games last season. In roughly 10 minutes per game less coming off the bench this season, Kuzma has struggled and is down 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game.

His production has dropped, especially as a playmaker, with the upgrades around him, including a healthy James and Anthony Davis. But Kuzma’s offensive rating dropped from 106 to 99, which says more about the Lakers and their bench struggles. Moreover, his box-plus/minus as worsened from -1.7 as a starter to -4.7 this season.

Detroit has veteran pieces the Lakers – and other contending teams – could want in a trade. Andre Drummond isn’t the only attractive piece for teams, though he’s gaining the most traction.

While the Pistons (13-23) are four games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh seed, they’re also tied for the seventh-worst record in the league. The Pistons are shooting 37.2% from 3-point range, which ranks third in the NBA. It’s also one of the Lakers’ biggest deficiencies, shooting 35.4% from distance, ranking 18th.

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Tony Snell could be of interest on the wing. He leads the Pistons, shooting 42.9% from 3-point range. But he comes with a steep price tag at $11.3 million and the Lakers are comprised of much smaller contracts with James, Davis and Danny Green eating up the majority of the cap space.

One deal could include Kuzma, Quinn Cook and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for Snell and Markieff Morris, who is converting 41.1% of 3-point attempts. Though this deal would require Caldwell-Pope to waive his no-trade clause.

Another move could include Langston Galloway, who is shooting 39.8% from 3-point range and comes with a $7 million expiring contract. Pairing him with Morris for Kuzma, Cook and DeMarcus Cousins, who has a $3.5 million expiring deal, would work out salary-wise. Cousins tore his ACL and has not played this season but is beginning to work out on a track to play this season, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said this week.

Alas, neither of these deals may entice the Lakers without picks. Perhaps the Pistons could execute a Drummond trade to gain draft capital to send to Los Angeles to entice them. It would allow the Pistons to add to their young core of Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya and Bruce Brown.

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Pairing Kuzma with fellow Flint native and Pistons owner Tom Gores would create a plethora of marketing opportunities and generate excitement, especially playing alongside a young Pistons core. But as it stands, the Pistons will need to acquire additional assets or find a third party to help with salaries to make a deal work.