As the Los Angeles Lakers continued to shop Kyle Kuzma around to just about every team in the league and look to move up in the 2021 NBA Draft, we’ve learned that there is at least one team they called with both goals in mind: The Indiana Pacers.
Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported that the Pacers declined the Lakers’ trade advances, but we now have a better sense of what Rob Pelinka and the front office might be trying to do:
Kuzma and the Lakers’ 22nd pick was also discussed with the Pacers. The talks centered around acquiring the 13th overall pick from Indiana and needed salary filler but was turned down, HoopsHype has learned.
J. Michael of the Indy Star confirmed the report:
This is accurate. TJ Warren is healthy so they declined Kuz. Lakers have been hustling to jump into the lottery to get ahead of the Wizards https://t.co/ozto9dFRAZ— J. Michael (@ThisIsJMichael) July 27, 2021
And we already have some idea of who the Lakers might be trying to get ahead of the Wizards to select: Chris Duarte, who other teams in the NBA think the Lakers have given a promise to. Whether that promise part is true or not, all of this reporting does paint the picture of the Lakers as very interested in moving up to draft the Oregon sharpshooter, even if this specific deal didn’t get done.
As for Kuzma, this is obviously not a tremendous endorsement of his value around the league, but it’s also not shocking that the Pacers weren’t willing to trade back nine spots in what is generally considered a pretty good draft class for the privilege of paying him for the next three years. Kuzma probably has value on the market, but not that kind of draft value.
This is likely far from the last team we’ll see Kuzma shopped to this summer, but if this deal didn’t get it done, we can probably cross the Pacers off the list of potential trade partners for him. Luckily for the Lakers, they don’t have to move him, but if they want to, they still have a few days to wheel and deal before Thursday’s draft and free agency next week.
This article has been updated to reflect that it is not certain who the Pacers’ “salary filler” in this reported deal was. An earlier version mistakenly assumed that TJ Warren was in the proposed deal because his salary matched with Kuzma, but that is unknown at this time.