For the past few years, Los Angeles Lakers fans haven’t had much to root for other than the development of the young, promising players that the team was picking up in draft after draft while occupying the bottom of the Western Conference. That mood slightly adjusted once LeBron James came to town in the 2018 offseason, but young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma were still on the team with all of them still needing to be developed in their own personal ways.
We know now that the development for three of those players will be continuing on another team, as Ball, Ingram, and Hart were traded to the New Orleans Pelicans (along with draft picks) for Anthony Davis. The deal was done in July, but really was set in motion in February prior to the 2019 trade deadline. It was the culmination of many months of work which included the shifting of roles and responsibilities in both teams’ front offices due to firings, hirings, and even resignations. At many points, it seemed as though that the Lakers would have to trade all of their young core, but one remained after the trade: Kyle Kuzma.
Many wondered if he was the less desired player out of Kuzma, Ball, and Ingram, but from what the Lakers and Rob Pelinka have said regarding the matter, he was left out because the Lakers really, really wanted to keep him.
“To be able to consummate the transaction for Anthony Davis and keep Kyle was just an amazing win-win for us… Being able to keep Kyle was an objective that we’re proud of, because we think he’s a key part of this team and how we want to play, with the length and the versatility and the defensive ability and shooting that he brings. It was definitely a win-win for us to be able to get Anthony Davis in a trade, and also keep Kyle Kuzma as a Laker.”
"Anthony Davis…represents both the now and the future." @Lakers GM Rob Pelinka opens up on why they didn't give up too much for AD, how important it was to keep Kyle Kuzma & more pic.twitter.com/vWstZ2qC08
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) October 8, 2019
Now, of course, Pelinka may still be “adjusting” the truth a little bit here. It’s easy to say Kuzma was desired in comparison to Ball, Ingram, and Hart when he’s the only one out of the four that you have to please anymore, but there are definitely legitimate arguments to be made regarding Ball and Ingram’s respective upsides compared to Kuzma’s.
There’s also the argument of fit and money. Although Kuzma may have less of an upside than Ball or Ingram, he’s shown the ability to be the best 3-point shooter out of them as well as being able to guard a wider range of players with his size and length. On the business side, Kuzma’s contract has less of a salary impact than Ball’s or Ingram’s, as Kuzma was a late first-round draft pick compared to Ingram and Ball who were drafted 2nd overall, respectively (it should also be noted that Ingram will be a restricted free agent after the 2019-20 season while Kuzma won’t be one until after the 2020-21 season).
Either way, all of that is in the past and it’s time for Kuzma to step up and be the third, complementary piece for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Those two seem to be confident in his ability to do so, while Pelinka is very obviously confident in him.