Before the league descended on Orlando to restart the NBA season, Kyle Kuzma was part of a group of third-year players — along with Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell, and Jayson Tatum — who met with league leadership to secure some sort of insurance protection for their upcoming contract extensions.
It’s not clear if any agreement emerged from those talks, but Kuzma also doesn’t seem to be worried about his looming extension, which can be signed this offseason.
“I mean, I’m gonna get paid regardless so I don’t really care,” Kuzma told the media on Wednesday. “It’s gonna happen one day. So I don’t think about that.”
Kuzma hasn’t made that much money, relatively speaking, in his NBA career thus far after entering the league as the 27th pick in the 2017 draft. At the end of this season, he will have earned about $5 million in salary (though he likely makes a substantial amount in endorsements), so he is still waiting on the first contract that earns him life-changing money.
The third-year Laker isn’t projected to get a maximum extension like the other players who were seeking insurance, but he is highly valued by the team and governor Jeanie Buss. The Lakers kept Kuzma over all of their other young players in the Anthony Davis trade this past offseason, and the front office clearly has remained bullish on Kuzma’s star potential.
So yes, Kuzma will get paid eventually, and most likely by the Lakers. It probably won’t be this offseason as the Lakers keep their salary cap space for the summer of 2021, when the older brother of a certain two-way player will be a free agent. In due time, however, Kuzma stands to earn a pretty penny.
His teammate Jared Dudley spoke to The Athletic about how Kuzma can prove his value as a role player:
“I always tell Kuz about the money,” Dudley said. “Players want to get paid.... The question is, how can you fit in with these two players? You’re not always going to get 18 points a game.
“They think you’re going to shoot the ball every time. And when your shot is not going, can you get to the free throw line? What can you bring to this team? And, once we win? I’ve seen Otto Porter get a max contract (averaging) 13 points a game. And he’s better than him. Kuz is more talented than Otto Porter. He’s more athletic, there’s more stuff he can do with it. But Otto Porter stars in his role.”
Kuzma hasn’t yet proven that he can be a star as a role player, and his best moments have come when one or both of Davis or James is out. If he wants to guarantee his financial future, he’ll have to be more consistent during the Lakers’ playoff run and show that he fits on this Lakers team moving forward. He’s been good enough over the first two years of his NBA career to “get paid regardless,” as he said, but he has the potential to earn much more.