When it became common knowledge the Los Angeles Lakers were aggressively pursuing an Anthony Davis trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, the team’s former young core had to be prepared for the worst.
That meant Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart simply had to wait for the day their name was in the news and they would be headed to New Orleans.
Once the trade became public knowledge, Kuzma was the one who survived the blockbuster deal and was going to stay in a Lakers uniform. Because of this, Kuzma’s role for the Lakers was vaulted into third All-Star player territory after they failed to land Kawhi Leonard in 2019 NBA free agency. However, Kuzma still thinks from time to time what would’ve happened if he had been included in the trade.
Kuzma believes his personal off-court brand would not have been killed by a move to the Pelicans, but there’s a chance it would’ve been stunted, simply by nature of being traded away from the Lakers, according to Kyle Goon of Orange County Register:
He doesn’t think a trade would have “killed” the rise of his brand and commercial visibility, but “it just would’ve stunted it.”
Kuzma also reflected on the thoughts he and the other members of the young core had before the trade, saying that whoever gets traded, they knew they did everything they could for the Lakers:
“We knew we had done everything possible, and we felt good about it,” he said. “And we said, ‘(expletive), if we turn around any day now and the Lakers turn around and we’re not a Laker no more, we know we’ve done everything possible.”
It’s true that being moved from the Lakers to the Pelicans likely would’ve had some effect on Kuzma’s personal brand. For example, Kuzma recently signed a five-year deal to become one of the faces of Puma. It’s likely that this deal does not happen or is not nearly as lucrative if he was playing for the Pelicans.
That’s simply the business nature of the NBA. Ball’s ‘Big Baller Brand’ has hardly even been spoken of since the trade, even though it was one of the main things discussed about him when he was on the Lakers. Small market teams have their advantages, but one of the disadvantages is that it’s significantly harder to build a brand if they’re not a top-tier player.
Luckily, Kuzma remained a Laker and does not have to deal with those effects. However, with the extra money comes the added expectations.
He’ll face plenty of that as he’s forced to be the team’s third All-Star player in a championship-contending season.