Editor’s Note: Welcome to our “2020 Lakers Season In Review” collection, the place we’ll be trying again at each member of this Lakers roster as the offseason commences, and answering some questions on what they contributed (or didn’t) to the group’s 17th championship, in addition to discussing what their scenario is shifting ahead. Today, let’s talk about Kyle Kuzma.
How did he play?
If there was a Kyle Kuzma hype prepare chugging alongside final summer season, I used to be the conductor.
While I by no means went so far as to say Kuzma may very well be the Lakers’ third star, I believed his position alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis was fairly clear: play off of the ball after they’re on the ground, and be the focus of the offense after they’re on the bench. Kuzma didn’t dwell as much as these expectations this previous season, for each causes out and in of his management, however that doesn’t imply the hype prepare isn’t nonetheless rolling alongside; it’s simply modified tracks.
In his third season with the Lakers, the 25-year-old ahead had the worst offensive season of his younger NBA profession, averaging 12.Eight factors per sport on 43.6% capturing from the area in the common season. He wasn’t significantly better in the postseason, the place he averaged 10 factors per sport on 40% capturing from the area.
The drop in Kuzma’s factors per sport common may have been predicted with Davis getting the lion’s share of his touches from final season, however his effectivity from the area was a little bit of a letdown, particularly after he labored out with Lethal Shooter, Phil Handy and Team USA in the summer season.
Kuzma’s third yr with the Lakers wasn’t a complete disappointment, although. In truth, there have been loads of positives — chief amongst them is the means he responded to his position drastically altering.
As a third-year participant with rather a lot to show earlier than he turns into eligible for a contract extension, Kuzma may have pouted about not getting sufficient touches — an angle would have been detrimental to a Lakers locker room that purchased right into a team-first mentality virtually instantly. Instead, Kuzma put his head down and did what he had to assist his group win, beginning with the defensive finish of the ground.
When the Lakers returned from their four-month hiatus in June, Kuzma was visibly extra energetic on the defensive finish, which isn’t at all times conducive to enchancment, however in Kuzma’s case it was infinitely higher than something he had confirmed earlier than. Whether that was a results of him being absolutely wholesome or only a product of his pure improvement, it helped Los Angeles in a giant means in the postseason.
In the Lakers’ first-round playoff collection towards the Portland Trail Blazers, Kuzma posted the second-best defensive score on the group (90.9) behind Alex Caruso (94.2). With Kuzma on the bend, the Lakers’ defensive score cratered to 110.6, a 16.4-point distinction. That’s as a result of Kuzma took on the problem of guarding all 5 positions, one thing he’s able to due to his dimension and mobility.
Kuzma’s influence wasn’t as evident in the three rounds that adopted, however his effort went a great distance throughout stretches the place the Lakers regarded lifeless on each ends of the ground. He gave the Lakers simply sufficient for his season to be thought-about successful, albeit a relative success.
What is his contract scenario shifting ahead?
Kuzma is coming into the fourth yr of his rookie contract. He’s set to make $3.56 million in the 2020-21 season. The Lakers can supply him an extension, or extra doubtless, following the upcoming marketing campaign, they will prolong a $5.2 million qualifying supply to Kuzma, which might make him a restricted free agent in 2021.
Will he be again?
Will he again? Probably. Should he again? That’s one other query.
As a lot as Kuzma grew with the Lakers this previous season, his position on the group continues to be unclear. For instance, if Kuzma’s position with this group going ahead is a high-energy participant off of the bench, is he actually somebody that’s price making a long-term dedication to? And if the reply to that query isn’t any, isn’t he extra worthwhile as an asset in a commerce? I, personally, now lean in the direction of sure.
Kuzma won’t be the Lakers’ third star, however he can nonetheless be a star on one other group, or one thing near it — look no additional than his averages as a starter.
In 9 begins for the Lakers final season, Kuzma averaged 20.9 factors on 49.7% capturing from the area, together with 36% capturing from behind the arc, and posted a internet score of +12.8. That’s a small pattern dimension, however its’ constant with what Kuzma confirmed in his first two seasons as the Lakers’ No. 2 choice on offense.
If there’s a group that believes that Kuzma may be that participant for them, the Lakers ought to take heed to what they’ve to supply. Why? Because what Kuzma’s doing for the Lakers proper now’s one thing different gamers can do for round what he’s making proper now, and certain for lower than what he’ll in all probability demand in 2021. Those gamers embody Maurice Harkless, Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green, in addition to the Lakers’ personal free agent Markieff Morris.
Additionally, promoting excessive on Kuzma would give the Lakers a possibility to maximise the expertise they’ve on this win-now window they’re in. Is a commerce bundle constructed round Kuzma sufficient to get Bradley Beal out of Washington? It’s extremely unlikely, nevertheless it is perhaps sufficient to get a sure disgruntled All-Star out of Indiana, particularly since his contract expires in 2021. Yes, I’m trying instantly at you, Victor Oladipo.
It wouldn’t be the worst factor if Kuzma was on the Lakers’ opening evening roster. It wouldn’t even be the worst factor in the event that they prolonged him this fall. But, at the very least, the entrance workplace must see what his market is, one thing that they haven’t executed in earlier seasons. The days of Kuzma being untouchable ought to be over.
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