Kyle Kuzma and the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a contract extension this weekend that will keep him with the franchise through at least the 2022-23 season. The terms of the deal are incredibly favorable for Los Angeles. Along with locking the 25-year-old in for two more years, the Lakers also increased his trade value in the process. General manager Rob Pelinka scored yet another great deal for his franchise.
Kuzma's new contract will kick in after the 2020-21 season. It's a three-year deal worth $40 million, but the third year will be a player option. Considering Kuzma is only 25 and has averaged 16.0 points and 5.5 rebounds over his career, that salary number is incredibly low.
The Lakers clearly wanted to keep Kuzma around, at least for now. LeBron James has sung his praises repeatedly and he's popular with his teammates. While he moved to the bench once Anthony Davis was imported last offseason, Kuzma was still an important part of LA's championship-winning rotation. He had his worst season statistically as he adjusted to his new role, but had key moments down the stretch and in the playoffs and showed his value to the organization.
That's all great, but here's the part of this deal worth remembering: the Lakers made Kuzma a hell of a lot more valuable by extending him without breaking the bank. If LA needs a piece at the trade deadline this season, Kuzma will be an attractive return. The team acquiring him knows he can't just bolt in the offseason as he could have done before this deal. He's no longer a rental.
The flipside to that is Kuzma could find ways to raise his profile this season. James and Davis will need to be eased into the season. Both men put a ton of miles on their legs during LA's run to a title last season and the Lakers only got a short break before the start of the 2020-21 campaign. That will almost certainly afford the rest of the roster the chance to step up. As a 6-foot-8 wing who can create offensively, Kuzma is an obvious choice as a guy who could fill the void.
Kuzma's 3-point shooting has been dismal since he entered the NBA as a late first-round pick in 2017. He shot 36.6 percent as a rookie, but that fell to 30.3 percent during the 2018-19 season, and sat at 31.6 percent last season. If the former All-Pac-12 product wants to raise his game, he'll have to start consistently hitting from deep. He's shown the ability to do so, as he hit three or more 3-pointers in a game 19 times last season. But he was wildly inconsistent and suffered long droughts. It's all about repetition and honing his stroke from beyond the arc if he wants to take his game to new heights.
If that doesn't happen this season, he'll still make an attractive trade piece given his age and track record. During the 2018-19 season as a starter, Kuzma averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 33.1 minutes per game. There's no reason he couldn't do that again for a team with less depth.
The Lakers put themselves in a great position with Kuzma's extension. They didn't overpay, tied a young asset to the franchise until 2023 and made him more attractive as a trade piece. It was a home run for the franchise.