Kyle Kuzma, who was just drafted in 2017, is now the longest-tenured player on the Los Angeles Lakers roster. That is pretty crazy to think about.
Before him it was Brandon Ingram, and while lot of Lakers fans wanted to keep one of Lonzo Ball or Ingram out of trade talks, it was ultimately Kuzma who was the sole player the team wasn’t willing to offer. This choice left many fans confused, but there are actually a lot of possibilities as to why the front office wanted to keep Kuzma over the other pieces of the young core.
One of those possibilities is that the Lakers valued his contract more than Lonzo and Ingram’s. Kuzma is going to make $2 million dollars this upcoming season, and next season he has a team option at $3.5 million dollars. Another popular theory was that the Lakers viewed him as a player with “mamba mentality.” He previously worked out with Kobe Bryant, and Kobe spoke very highly of Kuzma.
But while I think all of those reasons and more are parts of why Kuzma is still around, the main reason I believe the Lakers chose Kuzma as the “untouchable” player on their roster was because of his fit alongside LeBron James.
Let’s take a closer look at where that showed up on the court:
James had a total of 454 assists last season. 120 of those went to Kuzma, which was the most James delivered to any player on the Lakers. JaVale McGee was second closest with 88. Kuzma always knew that when James had the ball in his hands, James would find him as long as he kept moving without the ball.
Still, Kuzma desperately needs to improve in a few areas next season. He had 263 wide open threes last season, and shot 31.9% on those attempts. With Anthony Davis now on the roster, there’s a good chance Kuzma gets even more open threes. He’ll have to make them at a higher rate than he did last year.
And with how hard it seems Kuzma has been putting in work at the gym, as well as the fact that he’s been working with a shooting coach, it seems like he will. For those reasons and more, I think we’re going to see a much improved Kyle Kuzma next season, and that, as much as anything, might be why the Lakers wanted to keep him over all of his fellow young teammates.