Despite not having played in the preseason yet, the Lakers made the widely anticipated decision to extend Kyle Kuzma‘s rookie contract by picking up his fourth-year team option. Figuring to be an integral part of the Lakers’ roster on an extremely cost-effective rookie deal, the Lakers picking up Kuzma was already almost a foregone conclusion.
Lakers Extend Kyle Kuzma’s Contract, Exercise Fourth Year Option
As the 27th pick in the 2017 draft, Kuzma’s rookie deal is exceedingly team-friendly. Due only $3,562,178 in his fourth year, Kuzma offers a level of production that far exceeds his value. Compared to fellow 2017 draft class members Lonzo Ball ($11,003,782) and Jayson Tatum ($9,897,120), Kuzma arguably offers the most bang for your buck.
Coming off back to back seasons that saw him thrive as a natural scorer, Kuzma made some major adjustments to his game in the offseason. Most notably, Kuzma worked hard to refine his shot from deep while putting an increased emphasis on the defensive end. In his limited showing with USA Basketball before his foot injury, Kuzma looked to have taken major strides in both categories as he consistently knocked down the three in USA Basketball’s exhibitions and seemed to be much more confident on the defensive end.
Studying under legendary defensive wizard Gregg Popovich seemed to rub off on Kuzma and with his injury seemingly almost behind him, Laker fans will be able to see firsthand just how much of an impact Kuzma can have on both ends of the floor.
Kyle Kuzma’s Role on the Lakers
When Kuzma returns from injury, he will likely find himself in a bit of an interesting spot regarding his role. While undoubtedly one of the five most talented players on the team, Kuzma is stuck behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the two forward positions. While in theory Davis can play center and free up a spot for Kuzma, Davis is most comfortable (and at his best) playing power forward with a true center alongside him.
Playing Kuzma at shooting guard might be something worth considering for the Lakers, though he lacks the pure speed to hound quicker defenders along the perimeter and a lineup featuring Kuzma, James, Davis, and McGee might simply be TOO big for its own good. That said, at the very least the jumbo set should get a bit of run and could become an extremely useful tool to force opposing teams away from their gameplan.
This leaves Kuzma as the odd man out and likely relegated to a role off the bench. Similar to the move Lamar Odom was forced to make with Gasol and Bynum on the court back in 2009, Kuzma could wind up being deployed as a versatile sixth man to dominate second units. While Odom had an entirely different skill set compared to Kuzma (Odom functioned more as a point forward whereas Kuzma is a pure scorer) it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to expect Kuzma to have a similarly large impact from the sixth-man spot.