Speaking on The Hoop Collective, Brian Windhorst reported of Kuzma’s desire for an extension this offseason. Windhorst said, “Then you got Kuzma, who is extension eligible, still has a year left on his contract but is extension eligible… And from what I understand, is expecting a sizable deal, hoping for a sizable deal.”
Bobby Marks, Tim McMahon and Windhorst all seemed to agree that Kuzma won’t be extended by the Lakers this winter. The Lakers are on course to have significant cap space for the 2021, something they will be looking to preserve. They are short of a max slot, but it’s possible they can attract a max player on a reduced salary next offseason.
We, at this stage, don’t know what a ‘sizeable’ deal is for Kuzma. Jaylen Brown received a four-year pact for $115 million from the Celtics – Kuzma will not get anything near that level. The restricted free agency of Bogdan Bogdanovic might be what Kuzma has his eye on or maybe the four-year, $80 million deal that Aaron Gordon signed.
The Lakers should not go anywhere near a contract like Gordon received. What Kuzma is envisaging for his first big payday is probably a long way from what the Lakers are willing to pay.
One of Gordon’s teammates, Terrence Ross, received a four-year, $54 million contract last year. That looks a reasonable (ish) deal for Kuzma, but is this about value for the Lakers? Or is cap space in 2021 the priority?
Cap space, and that vital flexibility, next offseason is likely what matters most to the Lakers. It’s hard to foresee a scenario where Kuzma is on the team for 2021-22.
As the Lakers weigh up their 2020 offseason moves, trading Kuzma has to be on the table. He’s their main asset, having sent all their other young players and picks to the Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade. Kuzma, although useful at times last season, is an imperfect fit alongside Davis and LeBron James.
The 2017 first-round pick provided the Lakers with scoring off the bench, and he improved as a defender, but he’s far from irreplaceable. With JaVale McGee almost guaranteed to pick up his player option and a good chance that Markieff Morris returns, the Lakers have plenty in the frontcourt. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will probably get a new deal, but it’s unclear what happens with Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo.
The Lakers’ backcourt was their weakness. Trading Kuzma for a guard on an expiring contract would be perfect. Derrick Rose for Kuzma works straight up. As with any Kuzma trade, the question is how much the Detroit Pistons like him. Would they be willing to pay the ‘sizeable’ extension in the midst of a rebuild? Can the Pistons get better value for Rose elsewhere, like a couple of draft picks?
Of course, the Lakers will investigate more ambitious deals like Jrue Holiday or Victor Oladipo. Kuzma and Danny Green‘s salaries work if the Lakers want to swing another blockbuster deal with the Pelicans. Again, though, New Orleans might not be too keen on Kuzma alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
The same combination could be used for Oladipo. Would Indiana be interested in Kuzma when they’ve got T.J. Warren? Maybe the Pacers are tempted into such a deal if interest in Oladipo is lower than they expect, but they’re in no rush to trade the All-NBA guard.
Kings wing Buddy Hield is another option. Hield is the best shooter of the four, but he can be a liability defensively and owns a lengthy contract which would take the Lakers out of 2021 free agency.
Finding a worthwhile trade depends on a franchise rating Kuzma highly, liking him enough to be ready to extend him this year or next. The Lakers should be exploring trading Kuzma for a guard, but there’s no need to rush a deal before the season starts – there should be opportunity to flip him at the deadline.