The Los Angeles Lakers will have Kyle Kuzma for at least two more seasons. On Thursday, the team announced that they’ve exercised the fourth year in Kuzma’s rookie contract, which will keep him in Los Angeles through 2021, barring a trade.
Through two seasons with the Lakers, Kuzma has averaged 17.3 points per game on 45.3% shooting from the field, including 33.5% from 3-point range. In both seasons, he’s been a top-three leading scorer. He’s also contributed 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
There are still a few glaring holes in Kuzma’s game — most notably his defense — but few players can offer the same production Kuzma does at his price tag.
Last season, Kuzma averaged 18.7 points per game while making $1.69 million. The only other player that came close to providing that type of value was John Collins, who averaged 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game on a $2.3 million salary.
Over the next two seasons, Kuzma will make $5.5 million, including $3.5 million in the 2020-21 season. Once his rookie deal expires, though, the Lakers might be forced to make a difficult decision.
While Kuzma’s relatively small $10.6 million cap hold is team-friendly, it will have to be renounced if the Lakers want to pair LeBron James and — presumably — Anthony Davis with another star in 2021 like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard or Paul George. The only way they won’t have to do that is if James takes a paycut to stay in Los Angeles or leaves the Lakers altogether.
If the Lakers decide Kuzma is that third star, they can offer him a contract extension around this time next year, although for the reasons mentioned before, they’ll probably wait until the summer of 2021 even if that’s the conclusion they come to.
Kuzma may be an imperfect player, but his combination of production and value is one of the big reasons the Lakers will be a contender this season and next season. Hopefully the front office finds a way to keep him around beyond his rookie contract.