One’s been classified as a poor fit and future trade bait while the other was ridiculed as a bust on the way out of the league but Kyle Kuzma and Dion Waiters suddenly have an opportunity to change their future trajectories.
While it may be silly and presumptuous after just a couple of scrimmages to expect Kyle Kuzma’s 3-point shooting woes and Dion Waiters’ behavior issues to suddenly be solved, we’re in unprecedented, unpredictable times. The four month coronavirus hiatus has turned the sports world upside down, changed the landscape of what’s now normal, and opened doors to unexpected opportunities for struggling players like Kuzma and Waiters.
For Kyle Kuzma, the four months off allowed him to work on his body and shot, improve his confidence and shot selection, and revamp his game to better fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis both on and off the court. For Dion Waiters, joining the shorthanded Lakers who lost Avery Bradley to family issues and Rajon Rondo to injury gave him a lifesaving opportunity to play a major role on a championship caliber team and redeem his career.
While Kuzma and Waiters will have to prove their contributions are not training camp mirages, the potential one or both of them might enjoy breakout playoff performances are heady spirits for thirsty Lakers fans. Short term, Kyle and Dion could be the wild cards the Lakers need to win their 17th NBA championship. Long term, they could be the missing talent the team needs to build an NBA dynasty that outlasts LeBron James.
While helping win a championship would be a huge bonus, the grand prize that would dwarf that result would be Kuzma and Waiters becoming long term components and contributors to the next Los Angeles Lakers dynasty. A pair of talented budding young stars like 25-year old Kyle Kuzma and 28-year old Dion Waiters to play with 27-year superstar Anthony Davis would dramatically extend the post-LeBron Lakers’ championship window.
Before coronavirus forced the NBA to suspend the season, the Lakers were expected to trade forward Kyle Kuzma in the offseason for a combo guard who could fill the team’s need for a third scorer and second playmaker. Should the early promise shown by Kuzma and Waiters turn out to be true, the Lakers’ offseason plans could suddenly change and team might focus on signing both players to affordable and tradeable multi-year contracts.
That would not only give the Lakers the option of keeping both players and building around them but also give them two valuable trading chips whom they might be able to include in a package to bring back a true superstar. Not only would the Lakers suddenly have a much deeper and younger roster but they might suddenly be looking to keep their first round draft pick and maybe even buy a second pick from a team looking to cut expenses.
Alternatively, the Lakers might put a package together that included Kyle Kuzma, Dion Waiters, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, and a pair of first round picks in a trade for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, or Zach LaVine. Before the coronavirus hiatus, the Lakers had zero chance of being able to put together a package to trade for a legitimate third superstar. Kuzma and Waiters enjoying breakout performances in the playoffs could change that.
There’s no question Kuzma and Waiters will have to prove themselves in the next 8 seeding games and throughout the playoffs but what’s at stake for the Lakers is more than just a championship; it’s about a future dynasty.