The decision for the Los Angeles Lakers to extend Kyle Kuzma’s contract came as a bit of a surprise. He’s coming off his weakest season as a pro and it’s fair to question if he’s a fit with the team. That said, he’s still young and has shown very good potential in the past.
If the Lakers believe that he’ll return to form, then it was a good call to keep him long-term. However, not everybody was a fan of the move. Former NBA general manager John Hollinger crushed the Lakers for making the deal, via The Athletic.
“This is an awful deal on two levels,” Hollinger wrote. “First of all, this is a hard thing for casuals to realize because he’s relatively famous and plays for the Lakers, but Kuzma isn’t particularly good right now and isn’t so young that he’s likely to get a whole lot better.”
It’s definitely harsh to say Kuzma “isn’t particularly good.” He averaged 16.1 points a game as a rookie and 18.7 points in his second year. Yes, he did see his production decline last season but he’s a hard worker and does have ability. Perhaps it was premature to give Kuzma the money already but he could still have a strong career ahead of him.
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Lakers Can’t Trade Kuzma Anytime Soon
Kuzma has been at the center of trade talks for over a year now but the Lakers have kept him around. His new contract makes it almost impossible for them to trade him this season. Hollinger thinks that was a bad decision for Los Angeles:
The other reason this is bad is because it kills a lot of the Lakers’ trade optionality. One of the best ways they had to upgrade their roster in-season was to put Kuzma into a trade, especially since the Lakers don’t have a tradable first-round draft pick until 2027. The Poison Pill provision of contact extensions effectively takes this option off the board now for L.A. For better or worse, Kuzma and the Lakers are stuck with each other.
It’s good for teams to have trade flexibility but the Lakers clearly are happy with their squad. If they felt they needed to trade Kuzma to add a different piece, they would’ve done that. The young forward was part of the squad that won a championship last season so they can obviously win with him.
Kuzma off to Strong Start
Many have jumped off the Kuzma bandwagon but there’s plenty of time for him to regain his status as an emerging star. He just recently put together a very strong preseason and was solid in the season opener against the Clippers. Against one of the best defensive teams in the league, he scored 15 points on 55% shooting.
He still needs work from beyond the arc as he only made one of three 3-point attempts. Kuzma has improved on the defensive end and will always be a good scorer. Though he’s already 25, there’s still plenty of time for him to grow. This current season should be very telling.