The Los Angeles Lakers, along with the Boston Celtics, reportedly are engaged in trade talks with the New Orleans Pelicans involving superstar center Anthony Davis, but there seems to be one roadblock between the two sides.
While the Lakers are willing to give up quite a bit to make a deal happen (more on that below), there's one player in particular that the Purple and Gold are hesitant to offer. Kyle Kuzma is that player, per the Los Angeles Times.
Kuzma averaged 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season -- his second as a pro. He did, however, shoot worse from the 3-point line by 6.3 percent, which is not a small amount. There's no question Kuzma is a talented player who can score in several different ways, but he's not the type of franchise cornerstone piece that you exclude from trade packages, especially when the player you're trying to acquire is a top-five NBA talent like Davis.
A strong case could be made that Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball and forward Brandon Ingram both are better players than Kuzma. If Ingram's blood clot issues are not a concern moving forward, then there's no question he has far more long-term value than Kuzma. Ingram can play multiple positions at both ends of the court, he's capable of scoring at the basket or from the 3-point line, and he's improved a lot as a defender since his rookie season. Ball is a terrific perimeter defender and an elite passer.
So, what are the Lakers willing to offer the Pelicans for Davis? Here's what Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported:
If the Lakers are unwilling to give up on Kuzma, could the Celtics field the best possible AD trade package if they include Jayson Tatum? Tatum, like Kuzma, was drafted in the first round in 2018. The Duke product is a better 3-point shooter, rebounder and overall scorer than Kuzma. Tatum also has proven to be effective when the lights shine brightest in the NBA playoffs. His career scoring average in the playoffs is almost three points higher than his regular season number.
Giving up on Tatum likely would be difficult for the Celtics given his impressive talent and future potential. Trading him as part of a package for Davis, only to have the star center leave as a free agent in 2020 would be a disaster for Boston. Still, the idea of pairing Davis with superstar point guard Kyrie Irving is pretty tempting. An Irving-Davis duo could be enough to get the C's to the 2020 NBA Finals.
The Lakers need Davis more than the Celtics, however. LeBron James is 34 years old and Los Angeles cannot afford to waste another season of his dwindling prime. This scenario is among the many reasons why the Lakers shouldn't be hesitant at all about including Kuzma in Davis trade talks. If the Lakers don't change their stance, the Celtics (or another team) could swoop in and land Davis, which would be a crushing blow to L.A.'s ability to build a championship-caliber roster around James before it's too late.
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