Update: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN went on “The Sedano Show” on ESPN Los Angeles and made it clear that while the Los Angeles Lakers don’t want to include Kyle Kuzma in a trade for Anthony Davis (as written about below, he’s not necessarily untouchable):
“The one thing that I have been told has not been included is Kyle Kuzma. But that’s within the context of, ‘if you want those two, you don’t Kuzma. If you want Kuzma you don’t get say, hypothetically, the pick.’ It’s always a sliding scale, generally.”
So that’s good to know.
Original story follows.
The Lakers may be putting Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft on the table as they try to get a trade for Anthony Davis done, but they are evidently attempting to keep Kyle Kuzma out of the deal, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, and Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times:
My sense is that the Lakers, to this point, have tried to keep Kyle Kuzma out of the talks and the full package New Orleans would receive in an Anthony Davis deal obviously depends on what the third team provides— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 12, 2019
And while there will be no shortage of opinions of the team’s decision to keep Kuzma out of a deal, it should be noted that — according to Turner and Ganguli in their expanded story — that Kuzma is apparently the player that the Pelicans want most (emphasis mine):
The New Orleans Pelicans are interested in three of the Lakers’ young players — whether that’s Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart — and the No. 4 pick in order to acquire Davis, according to people familiar with the trade discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly because of the fluidity of the situation. It’s possible New Orleans could use the No. 4 pick to acquire a player from a third team.
Among the current young Lakers, New Orleans covets Kuzma the most.
It’s unknown right now if this is all just posturing from both sides, but it’s fascinating that Kuzma — who is not the consensus pick as the most valuable young Laker in most corners of the internet by any means, as Ball, Ingram and potentially the No. 4 pick are widely seen as better assets — is the one who the teams seem to be fighting over most here. Even to the point that the Lakers might be able to keep their draft choice if they let Kuzma go, according to Turner and Ganguli, who also gave a bit more reasoning on why the Lakers value Kuzma so highly:
According to people familiar with the Lakers’ thinking, Kuzma has ingratiated himself with the organization both on the court and off it and their management does not want to trade the forward who is entering his third season.
The Lakers might have an opportunity to keep their No. 4 pick should they agree to part with Kuzma.
All that stuff mentioned above is nice, and Kuzma is a fine young player. He’s a steal for his draft slot, and a hard worker who does seem driven to be the best he can be on the court. Those are great qualities for any player, and ones that any organization would want in one of its young prospects.
That noted: Kuzma is not the type of player you let derail a deal like this, and certainly not at the expense of an asset like the No. 4 pick. It doesn’t even matter if you think Kuzma will be a better player next year than whoever the Lakers pick No. 4 overall. What matters is the way they’re perceived as assets around the league, and it’s hard not to believe that a mystery box of potential like the No. 4 pick wouldn’t have more value league-wide than a 23-year-old forward who shot 45.6 percent from the field last year. No matter how much he acts like Kobe.
Anyway, it’s unknown exactly how this will end up, but for now, it’s safe to say this was a stalemate almost no one was predicting.