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Rob Pelinka is ‘proud’ the Lakers were able to keep Kyle Kuzma in the Anthony Davis trade, thinks he’s ‘a key part of this team’

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Rob Pelinka is happy that the Lakers got to keep Kyle Kuzma, and for good reason.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

On the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to walk away with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant — arguably four of the 20-best players of that draft class so far. Two years later, Kuzma is the only player left from that draft night haul, and that’s no coincidence.

During a recent interview with Justin Termine of SiriusXM NBA Radio, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said the front office made it a goal of theirs to keep the 24-year-old forward in the trade for Anthony Davis, something Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported in June:

“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.”

While there’s no doubt Pelinka and the rest of the Lakers’ brass are high on Kuzma — one of the team’s two leading scorers over the last two seasons — the reason they kept Kuzma ultimately boils down to money on some level.

Had the Lakers replaced either one of Ball or Ingram in a package for Davis, they would have only been able to offer Kawhi Leonard $6 million less than his full max contract. With Kuzma, they were able to get within less than $300,000 of Leonard’s full max, which starts at $32.7 million.

Kuzma’s cap hold in 2021 will also be $17 million less than Ball’s, who will eat up $27.5 million as a restricted free agent. Even if they end up getting similar paydays, that $17 million could be the difference between them landing a superstar free agent to (hopefully) pair with Davis and not.

Kuzma is good, and there’s a decent chance he’ll look even better playing alongside James and Davis, but make no mistake — the Lakers probably kept Kuzma around because he was the most cost-effective option long-term. It may have cost them an extra pick of two in the deal, but it should pay dividends for them down the line.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.