New Orleans Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin did everything he could to convince Anthony Davis to stay, but the All-Star center looked determined to be moved, leaving them with no choice but to find him a new home in the 2019 NBA offseason. Recently, the Pelicans reached an agreement to trade Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks.
In a Twitter post, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times said that the Pelicans are “happy” that they got the “haul” they wanted in return for Davis. However, in their initial trade negotiation, Turner revealed that the Pelicans also tried to acquire Kyle Kuzma, but the Lakers refused to include the former No. 27 pick in the trade package. In an interview with Sirius XM, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN shared an interesting opinion regarding why the Lakers stood firm with their decision to keep Kuzma on their roster.
“I also think Kobe Bryant really likes Kyle Kuzma,” Youngmisuk said, as quoted by SB Nation‘s Silver Screen And Roll. “Kyle Kuzma is a guy that has had dinner with Kobe Bryant. Of the three young guys, he exuded more of a mamba mentality openly, and I think obviously Kobe Bryant, who is very close friends with [Lakers general manager] Rob Pelinka, best friends, in fact, for 20 years.”
The Lakers reportedly wanted to keep Kyle Kuzma both because they like how he fits with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and also possibly because Kobe Bryant likes him. https://t.co/QCTMXBfFiL pic.twitter.com/h2ewHkNdGm— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) June 17, 2019
Aside from Kobe Bryant’s influence on the Lakers’ front office, Youngmisuk thinks that the Purple and Gold see Kyle Kuzma fitting nicely as their third scoring option behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, especially if they fail to acquire another superstar in the 2019 NBA free agency period. Youngmisuk believes that the Lakers also view Kuzma as one of the players who can lead them to title contention when James’ game finally goes downhill.
“Of course, the same could be said for Lonzo and Brandon Ingram, and even, perhaps, Josh Hart to a lesser degree. But they really like Kyle Kuzma, and I think they see Kyle Kuzma fitting in right now on a team that is expected to contend for a championship.”
Like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have also shown lots of superstar potential since they started their NBA career with the Lakers. However, of all the Lakers’ young core, Kuzma emerged as the best sidekick for James in the latter’s first season wearing the Purple and Gold. Kuzma didn’t have a hard time adjusting to James’ game and proved that he has the ability to excel in an off-ball capacity.
Though he will be forced to accept a lesser role on the offensive end of the floor, Kuzma could also receive some benefits with the arrival of Davis in Los Angeles. With Davis’ ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc, it will be easier for Kuzma to drive inside the basket or kick the ball out when he’s trapped by the opposing team’s defense. Sharing the frontcourt with Davis will also enable the Lakers to hide Kuzma’s weakness on the defensive end of the floor.