For teams that missed the post-season, the playoffs are a great time to scout talent. Playoff experience adds a degree of intensity and vigor that is otherwise difficult to replicate in the regular season. Having an NBA roster with players who have logged meaningful playoff minutes is crucial in building a competitive roster. Look no further than the Phoenix Suns this year and see how the addition of Chris Paul completely changed that team’s DNA.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are severely limited due to their lackluster cap situation. Still, they will be looking to use what little leeway they have to add a competent player who ideally has some playoff experience. Minnesota’s problems at the 4 last season were well-documented, so it would make sense that they would attempt to sign or trade for a big man. This would shore up a glaring weakness as they prepare for the most important year of this front office’s tenure.
As the offseason rumor mill churns, one name popped up as a potential target for Minnesota. If I told you that a career 15.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG power forward who shot 36% from 3 last season was available by trade, would you be interested? Well, you should be. At the very least, you should be intrigued.
Stay with me here. I want you to open your mind to the idea of trading for Kyle Kuzma.
It is far from a sure thing, but there are rumors that the Los Angeles Lakers are interested in trading Kuzma this offseason. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given that anything less than another championship is a failure for this Lakers team. Their roster couldn’t recapture the magic they found in the bubble, so it would make sense that they try to blow it up and maximize on whatever they have left of LeBron James‘ time.
Kuzma is, somehow, one of the most tradeable players on that roster. Getting rid of the young Kuzma and his impending contract extension (three years, $39 million) would give the Lakers more freedom to spend that money on veterans who are a bit more proven and ready to win now.
Conversely, moving Kuzma for the right package would also allow their franchise to take a flier on some younger players that may be able to develop and contribute once LeBron is gone. James is 36 years old, so the Lakers may be wise to start planning for life without their new superstar.
I do not want to speculate on the motives of another franchise too much. The bottom line is this: Kuzma will be made available for the right price, and the Timberwolves would be wise to inquire about his availability.
If you’re still reading at this point: great! I’m glad you’re giving Kyle Kuzma a chance. While he may easily be one of the most meme-able players in the NBA, Kuz has showcased that he can be an effective player in the right situation. For all of his foibles, this has not stopped him from tearing up the Wolves in the past:
While his playing time has taken a major hit since the roster was overhauled to bring in LeBron, Kuzma has settled into an effective scoring role off the bench. Kuzma certainly hasn’t been known for his defense (108.6 DRTG last year). Still, his scoring versatility at the power forward position can help a Timberwolves team that has struggled to get positive contributions off the bench at the 4.
Beyond looking at Kuzma’s potential fit, it would be interesting to see who or what the Wolves would be willing to give up to acquire such a player. I would speculate that Kuzma’s value isn’t egregiously high right now, due in large part to the Lakers’ failures in the postseason as well as Kuzma’s relatively poor standing in the eyes of many NBA fans.
If the Wolves were to add a player like Kuzma, it would also likely involve addition by subtraction. By last season’s end, head coach Chris Finch seemed to have too many players who were vying for minutes in the standard rotation. Regaining access to send players to the G-League will help mitigate this situation, but the Wolves could stand to flip a couple of players to get one solid rotational guy back. Gersson Rosas is already in a situation where he has to go all-in on the current roster. Making a move to cut out the excess rotational pieces would benefit the current batch of players.
The first two names that come to mind in a Kuzma trade are Juancho Hernangómez and Jarrett Culver. Juancho never seemed to regain his form after a bout with COVID-19 during the offseason, shooting only 32% from 3 after shooting 42% across 14 games in a Wolves uniform the year before. While Hernangómez initially showed promise as a stretch-4, he regressed this last season and does not appear to have a solid place in the rotation moving forward.
Culver still has the athletic skills to be a quality NBA rotational player, but he will not realize that potential in a Wolves uniform. While he showed incredible strides in the first few games last season, his injury and subsequent return appeared to shatter his confidence. Wolves fans so desperately want Culver to find success, and there is still a chance that he may find his footing in the NBA as a quality defender. However, until he develops any semblance of an offensive game and learns how to play with conviction, his future in Minnesota is murky at best.
Offloading these two players for one Kyle Kuzma would, memes aside, be a win for Minnesota. Kuzma (somehow) brings a championship pedigree and scoring versatility off the bench. The Timberwolves would have to find a way to make these financials work because Kuz costs more than Hernangómez and Culver, but Rosas has shown financial savvy before and could very well do so again here to make a Kuzma trade happen.
While these might not be the exact terms of a deal, I would not be surprised to see Rosas and the Wolves pull off a two-for-one in some capacity for Kuzma. He’s the same age as the KAT/DLo core and would fit the temperament of the roster. Another goofy mid-20s guy who loves the spotlight would line up nicely with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.
The defensive woes may continue, but getting consistent scoring from the power forward position should be a priority for Rosas, and Hernangomez did not fulfill that role last season. However, I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. I want to roll the dice and bet that Kuzma can.