The Los Angeles Lakers announced they have picked up team options on the contracts for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma for the 2019-20 season on Thursday. The move might have been a no-brainer for the Lakers, but that doesn’t change how significant it was for the team’s future.
On almost any other team in the NBA, picking up the contracts for second and third-year players wouldn’t be such a huge deal, especially with late first-rounders like Hart and Kuzma, but the front office did such a sensational job of drafting players that are ready to contribute now that their contracts are already bargains.
Next season, Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will make a combined $19.8 million. That’s four quality NBA players for the price of one Tyler Johnson.
In fact, the value of their contracts is so good that Ball, who will make $8.7 million next season, will be the team’s second-highest paid player. The Lakers will have the opportunity to change that next summer, when they’ll have $38 million to try and lure an superstar free agent to pair with LeBron James, and they won’t have to tinker with their young core to get there.
It’s for that reason Ball, Hart and Kuzma aren’t expected to go anywhere anytime soon, as Silver Screen and Roll’s own Alex Regla suggested in August.
The Lakers’ best path ultimately may just be what recent indications have shown they are leaning towards doing, which is to ride it out with their current young core plus LeBron, then expand. In terms of the dollars and cents this seems like the right move.
The team as currently constructed has potentially set themselves up for sustainable success as the group of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Moritz Wagner, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will only make an approximately combined $22 million in the 2020-21 season (James’ guaranteed third year) whereas a player like Kevin Love will singlehandedly make $31 million in that season alone.
To recap, that’s Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James and the financial flexibility to sign a max free agent and/or re-sign Brandon Ingram before 2020. Meanwhile, teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder will have close $120 million guaranteed tied up between four players through 2021.
No, there’s no specific reason I picked the Thunder to make fun of (yes, there is).
It took time and a handful of difficult decisions, but the Lakers’ future is as bright as it has been in a while. Their present isn’t so bad either.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.