Throughout trade talks, it became clear the Lakers were unwilling to part ways with Kyle Kuzma, likely due to a mix of his abilities and the chance at keeping a max deal slot.
The Lakers sticking their neck out to keep the young player puts a lot of added pressure on Kuzma as he’ll now have to assume the role of the third player on a team with Davis and LeBron James. Luckily, there’s one former Lakers legend who believes that Kuzma has the skills necessary to do so: Kobe Bryant.
Bryant believes Kuzma’s ‘versatility’ is what made him untouchable in the Davis trade and that today’s game is much more suited for him, who ‘can play all facets of the game,’ via Real 92.3’s The Cruz Show with Jeff G. — The Sports Dude:
“Probably his versatility and I think the game used to be about having specialists on the floor and I think it’s gotten away from that. They have guys that can play all facets of the game. That includes offensively and defensively. And defensively, he has the potential to be a great defensive player. That’s probably one of the things they looked at as well on top of the shooting ability, the passing ability, and just his size. Yeah, you put it all in the pot and I think it made him indispensable.”
Based on this argument, it’s pretty clear to see why the Lakers prioritized keeping Kuzma over the rest of the young core. Ball — while likely the player with the most potential — consistently struggled to score in all phases. Ingram — alongside his health issues — could never put it all together for longer than 10-15 game stretches. And Hart — while versatile — will likely never be an All-Star player in this league.
Should Kuzma stick to his word and improve as a defender and a playmaker, he has legitimate All-Star potential in this league. If Kuzma can shoot the three-pointer at above 35% while racking up some assists and fixing his on-ball defense, he might be the perfect third player on this Lakers roster as currently constructed.
While always refusing a role in the Lakers front office, Bryant always seems to know what he’s talking about. As a result, if he believes Kuzma’s versatility made him indispensable, it’s likely the thought process the Lakers front office had as well.