Though Kyle Kuzma is still under contract for the season, the Los Angeles Lakers need to start thinking about what they want to do with him. He’s coming off his weakest season since entering the NBA but he should still hold some value. The Lakers need to figure out if they want to lock him up long-term or if they should trade him.
Luckily for Los Angeles, Kuzma will go into restricted free agency next offseason, which will give them the upper hand if he’s considering leaving. General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Rob Pelinka admitted that they haven’t talked extension with the forward yet, but it could be on the table.
“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, via Silver Screen & Roll. “He has great representation, and when the time is right we’ll sit down and speak with them.”
The Lakers would be unwise to hand Kuzma an extension yet. He wasn’t overly impressive last season and the team shouldn’t invest too much money into him. However, should they decide to not trade him, they should keep the contract extension option open in case he has a bounce-back year.
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Kuzma Could Play at the Wing More
With the Lakers’ decision to trade Danny Green, they now have a need at the wing. Kuzma has mostly played power forward in his career but Pelinka thinks that he has upside playing elsewhere.
“We’re proud of drafting Kuz (and) we’re incredibly proud of his growth as a player. I think he showed in the bubble his ability to play at the wing and the four,” Pelinka said. “When you lose a defender and a wing player like Danny Green, I think Kyle, we’re going to count on him to step in and play some of that wing role as well. He has the versatility to do it.”
It’s safe to wonder if this is how the Lakers get Kuzma into the starting lineup. His best games almost always come when he starts. He hasn’t proven to be great off the bench. Inserting him into Green’s starting spot would be interesting but it could also be an odd fit because Kuzma isn’t a great 3-point shooter. Regardless, Pelinka believes the forward will get better.
“He’s going to be a great player for us and I expect that he will continue to grow next season,” Pelinka said.
Will Kuzma Get Traded?
The Lakers will probably never admit it but there have been numerous reports that they are open to trading Kuzma. He was even reportedly mentioned in a potential trade for Jrue Holiday that never materialized.
The Lakers clearly value Kuzma and don’t want to trade him without a solid return. However, his value across the league clearly diminished last season. The smartest route might be for the Lakers to keep Kuzma for the beginning parts of the season and see if he can impress. If he looks good, his trade value should increase. As of now, it seems unlikely he’s getting moved quite yet.