Kyle Kuzma's Status Is the Key to the Lakers' Future

Ryan Phillips
Kyle Kuzma, 2020 NBA Finals - Game Five
Kyle Kuzma, 2020 NBA Finals - Game Five / Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Kyle Kuzma and the Los Angeles Lakers are still in the flush of winning an NBA championship, they're right to be focusing on their tremendous accomplishment this season. But soon enough attention must turn to the future and that's where things might get complicated. Above all else, Kuzma's status might have the biggest impact as the Lakers move forward.

Anthony Davis will reportedly opt out of his contract for next season and sign a long-term extension to remain in LA. That leaves Kuzma as the team's biggest question mark. He's due for a rookie extension this offseason but he could decide to not sign and bet on himself heading into restricted free agency next summer. I'm sure the two sides will have discussions about an extension, but a trade is also a strong possibility.

Kuzma turned 25 this summer and still has a lot of upside. During the 2018-19 season he averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 33.1 minutes per game, while shooting 45.6 percent from the field. He started 68 of the 70 games he played in. With the arrival of Davis, Kuzma moved to the bench in 2019-20 and took time to find his footing. He still finished the year averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 43.6 percent in 25.0 minutes per game. He also played much better defense in stretches.

At his size (6-foot-8, 221 pounds) on the wing, Kuzma needs to improve his 3-point shooting. He only hit 31.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc this season, down from 36.6 percent as a rookie during the 2017-18 campaign. He clearly has the tools to be an excellent scorer in the NBA, but he has to iron out the holes in his game.

It wouldn't be hard for other teams to see potential in adding Kuzma. He can do a lot of good things on the court. The Lakers may balk at an extension though, with eyes on adding a big free agent in 2021.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will hit free agency in 2021, as will Victor Oladipo and LA native Jrue Holiday while a number of other players -- including Kawhi Leonard and Paul George -- can opt out of their contracts. The Lakers have structured all their supporting piece contracts so they expire before that summer's free agency push. LA wants to have money to make a deal and a Kuzma contract (and cap hold if he hits restricted free agency) could throw a wrench in those plans.

The Lakers and Kuzma have to sort out their future together this offseason. It truly is the key to the franchise's plans moving forward.