Kyle Kuzma preseason

Lakers three-year Kuzma extension is win-win for player and franchise

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Kyle Kuzma was among the more polarizing players in the NBA the year he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers at #27 in 2017. In hindsight, it’s strange to remember that there were those who genuinely believed he would turn out to be a better player than Jayson Tatum, who has since blossomed into a full-blown superstar for LA rivals the Boston Celtics.

But for Kuzma, who recently signed an extension to remain with the Lakers, fans still can’t say the same after all these years.

Kuzma’s team-friendly deal—a $40 million contract extension to remain with the Purple and Gold—is certainly a win-win on both sides, as it allows the Lakers flexibility to let him go should he not produce in the coming season. It’s also a small price to pay for keeping the team generally intact after the departures of Avery Bradley, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, and JaVale McGee.

For Kuzma who is entering his fourth season in Los Angeles, it takes the weight of a possible waiver off his shoulders and affords him the security to focus solely on basketball for the next few years.

Over his junior campaign, Kuzma—who has been a Laker longer than anyone else on the team’s current roster—averaged generally meagre numbers across the board with 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game on 43.6%, 31.6%, and 73.5% shooting splits en route to his first championship with the Lakers. This came after LeBron James told reporters that Kuzma would have to be the third-best player on the team in order for it to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.


On top of carrying a larger scoring load, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has also said he expected #0 to defend multiple positions during his on-court minutes, though the advanced stats do not attract much optimism towards Kuz’s defensive chops.

Though he landed 87th among 529 players in defensive win shares, Kuzma ranks at the 141st percentile in defensive box plus-minus, behind players like Joe Harris, Kevin Huerter, and Cedi Osman, per Basketball Reference.

Kuzma’s role

A serviceable swingman at best, Kuz Control’s role on the Laker squad was always relatively unclear, at times a spark plug-type scorer off the bench, and other times a starter in place of Anthony Davis, not easy shoes to fill by any means. The power forward from Flint, Michigan has himself said that he has ‘no idea’ what his role coming into next season is going to be, per the Los Angeles Times.

The potential for Talen Horton-Tucker, who largely impressed fans with his pre-season play on both ends of the floor, to edge into the rotation could also extract precious minutes from Kuzma’s opportunities this season.

While some of the LA faithful have resigned themselves to accepting Kuzma’s supposed ceiling as a competent role-player, some consistency could do good for the 6-foot-8 Kuzma moving forward, who still showed flashes of potential in his limited minutes in the NBA bubble, all this considered. After all, he went from playing heavy minutes alongside Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to playing under LeBron James and Anthony Davis practically overnight. He’s also played for two head coaches in three years.


The good news is that with the signing of his contract, there’s now nowhere to go but up for Kuzma, who once again displayed his potential during the team’s three pre-season games where he shot 10-of-21 from deep and averaged 22 markers a night on 46.7% field goal shooting and 47.6% shooting from distance.

Should he continue down this direction, he could very well end up as the Lakers’ coveted third star, something his teammates and general manager seem to have the utmost faith in.

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