Now that Kyle Kuzma has survived another offseason filled with trade rumors and will become a restricted free agent next season, it’s time for the Lakers to reopen discussions about extending his rookie contract.
It’s obvious the Lakers still think highly of Kuzma and were only willing to give him up in a mega trade for a proven All-Star player like Jrue Holiday so the smart move now would be to invest in his future by extending him. Signing Kyle to an extension before the season starts would accomplish three important objectives: bolster his confidence as a player, increase his value as a trading chip, and reinforce the team’s chemistry and culture.
1. Bolster His Confidence as a Player.
While Kyle Kuzma always seems to play with confidence, it can’t be easy trying to find a role on a team where two of the league’s top five players play your same positions and you’re the constant subject of trade rumors. Watching former Laker teammates who were traded like Brandon Ingram enjoy breakout seasons and receive contract extensions from their new teams has to try Kyle’s patience and start to undermine his self-assurance.
Signing Kuzma to a 3-year extension for $12 to $15 million per year could bolster his confidence and enable Kyle to turn himself into the third star LeBron James said the Lakers needed to win the championship last season. Knowing the Lakers believed in him could be the key to giving Kuzma the confidence to improve his subpar 3-point shooting percentage to the level he needs to enjoy the breakout season everyone’s been eagerly awaiting.
Kuzma has steadily improved his overall game as a Laker, especially his defense against elite wing scorers like Harden. Signing him to an extension would bolster his confidence and be a smart investment by the Lakers.
2. Increase His Value as a Trading Chip
Signing Kuzma to a 3-year extension would immediately increase his value as a trading chip and enable the Lakers to receive fair value in a straight trade for a comparable player or in an aggregate trade for a third superstar. Receiving fair value for a talented player on a rookie contract a year from free agency is a challenge. Signing Kuzma to an extension would eliminate those concerns and give the Lakers another valuable mid-priced contract.
The extension alone would not only confirm the Lakers’ belief in Kuzma but also establish a solid floor to his value and remove the stigma the team did not truly value him and was trying to trade him instead of re-signing him. Perception is reality when it comes to valuing players in trade talks and the act of extending Kuzma by itself would increase his value as a trading chip and give the Lakers a valuable future contract for matching salaries.
For a young player with Kuzma’s potential to have trade value, the Lakers need to show confidence in him by extending him. Investing in him is the best way to increase his value as player and creating future flexibility.
3. Reinforce Team Chemistry and Culture.
One of the strengths of the Lakers as a team and big reason they won the 2020 NBA championship was the strong chemistry and culture Rob Pelinka and the front office and Frank Vogel and coaching staff were able to build. Frankly, that’s an amazing accomplishment that defies reality considering LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the only players on the team assured of a long term future while almost every other player is on a short term deal.
The key to the Lakers’ great chemistry and culture is how they treat and respect their players. That’s why even players who are traded have nothing but positive things to say about the Lakers’ management and organization. The Los Angeles Lakers do the right thing when it comes to their players and always consider them to be part of the family. They understand that’s how smart teams build true championship caliber chemistry and culture
Kyle Kuzma has listened to his coaches and subjugated his personal game for the team and deserves to be rewarded for it. Investing in him by signing him to a fair extension would reinforce the Lakers’ chemistry and culture.
The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic has halted the rapid annual salary cap increases many teams, like the Lakers, had embraced as their core strategy to pursue superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo. Suddenly, trades and sign-and-trades have emerged as the better strategies for building championship rosters and chasing superstars as the league struggles to find a way to succeed in an era where arenas are still empty.
Collecting multiple talented young and veteran players on tradable contracts has suddenly become the smart team building strategy. The Lakers should sign Kyle Kuzma to a $12 to $15 million extension before the season starts.