Kyle Kuzma’s time with the Los Angeles Lakers might have been tumultuous, but it molded the Washington Wizards forward into the player he is today.
After a standout rookie season in 2017-18, Kuzma failed to turn into the Lakers’ third star as many expected. The Utah product couldn’t find his place on the team after LeBron James and Anthony Davis joined L.A. with his role changing from season to season.
Still, Kuzma averaged 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists before leaving the Purple and Gold after four years together. And he proved himself to be a valuable role player as the Lakers cruised toward the 2020 NBA championship, earning himself a $39 million contract extension that further boosted his NBA stature.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Kuzma expressed appreciation for vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka for rewarding him with the new deal:
“The sky’s the limit,” Kuzma said. “In my first deal, I definitely did the Lakers a little favor to have the hometown discount. I always appreciate (Lakers vice president of basketball operations) Rob Pelinka for the deal that he gave me, because it gave me security and it gave me a player option. I was one of the few players in NBA history without being a lottery pick to have a player option in an extension. Everything has worked out in my favor from signing that deal to my progression as a player to this summer too.”
With the experience he gained in L.A., Kuzma has made the most of the opportunity to become one of the Wizards’ leaders. After establishing as one of Washington’s starters last season, the forward is averaging 20.6 points per game on 45.9% from the field, both career-high numbers.
Kuzma can hit free agency as soon as next summer if he declines his player option — with Charania claiming the forward’s new deal could earn him between $20-$25 million per year, nearly double the $13 million he currently earns.
Kuzma thinks Lakers would have defended NBA championship had they stayed healthy in 2020-21
After the championship-winning 2019-20 season, the Lakers struggled with injuries in 2020-21, ending their title defense with a first-round playoff exit. L.A.’s misfortunes had profound consequences as later that summer, the front office decided to trade for Russell Westbrook in a deal that sent Kuzma to D.C.
Many wondered how far would the Lakers have gone during the 2020 postseason if they had stayed healthy. Kuzma recently offered his take on the issue at hand, tweeting the Purple and Gold “would have repeated” with better health.
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