It’s safe to say that LeBron James has some big expectations for his young gun Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kyle Kuzma next season.
While scrolling through Twitter on Thursday night James found a Hoop Central post that said: “Name an NBA player you think will take a giant leap this season.”
James responded with: “Kyle Kuzma!”
It’s a big show up support from James for the 25-year-old forward who has been the target of criticism during his time with the purple and gold and dangled at times as trade bait.
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“In order for us to win a championship, he has to be our third-best player,” James said of Kuzma. “If I’m struggling or if A.D. is struggling he has to be our second-best player on any given night. We can’t win a championship if Kuz doesn’t play well.”
Kyle Kuzma, Lakers Have Talked Extension
The Lakers went on the win the title, but it’s up for debate if Kuzma was the team’s third-best player. After showing his potential in his first two seasons, Kuzma took on a different role thanks to an improved roster last season, coming off the bench as a sixth man of sorts. He averaged 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds coming off the bench, playing 25 minutes per game. That was down from the more than 30 minutes and nearly 19 points per game he averaged during the 2018-19 season, but Kuzma was playing on a championship-level team last season with Davis and James taking up the lion’s share of minutes at the forward position.
Kuzma is in line for an extension, with just one year left on his rookie deal. He revealed on Thursday that his agent has had talks with LA about it, but nothing has come to fruition just yet. However, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka made it clear this offseason that the team was open to extending Kuz — when the time was right.
“In terms of Kuz, since we drafted him he’s been terrific, we’ve all seen his growth. As you guys know, the way the rules work, he has next season under contract with the Lakers and he’s extension eligible this offseason,” Pelinka said. “He has great representation, and when the time is right we’ll sit down and speak with them.”
Kyle Kuzma Could Be Key Part of Lakers Future
With James and Davis locked up with max-level extensions, the Lakers will have to get creative when it comes to giving them a strong supporting cast in the coming years. And extending Kuzma sooner than later could be beneficial for the Lakers.
Kuzma will have to battle for minutes with a bunch of talented new additions coming aboard this offseason, but he’s eager to show what he’s got.
“I just want to build on what I did in the playoffs from a defensive standpoint,” Kuzma told reporters on Thursday. “And improve my all-around game.”