After trading away most of its young core to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma was the lone young prospect the Los Angeles Lakers had left.
The Lakers reportedly were unwilling to trade Kuzma, the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, due to his relationship with the front office as well as his on-court contributions, and that choice looked like it was beginning to pay dividends during parts of the 2019-20 season.
Although Kuzma started the campaign unable to play after suffering a foot injury during his time with Team USA in the summer, the forward eventually made his return and provided a scoring spark off the bench. However, Kuzma had an inconsistent start as he learned to play next to both LeBron James and Anthony Davis who dominated the ball on most possessions.
Despite some bumps and bruises along the way, the Utah product began to find his rhythm and looked like he turned a corner before the season was put on hold due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While the stop in momentum was unfortunate, the season’s return is on the horizon and Kuzma will get a chance to show that he truly improved over the course of the year.
Showing his growth is key ahead of a pivotal offseason where he will be eligible for an extension following the conclusion of the season. In preparation of that, Kuzma along with Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and other notable members from the 2017 draft class, reportedly spoke with the league about possibly protecting their future money, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Miami’s Bam Adebayo, Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Boston’s Jayson Tatum — five players with significant star and earning power — talked with executive director Michele Roberts and senior counsel Ron Klempner about the NBPA facilitating talks with the league on possible insurance allowances for players, sources said.
The issue was brought up amidst the players’ pending move to the bubble location in Orlando at Walt Disney World because the quick turnaround time from the hiatus to live game action raises the risk of significant injury. Ample time to condition and prepare was a major issue for players when discussions about a restart were ongoing, and now the league’s young stars are looking to protect themselves from situations that could affect their earning power.
It is a difficult issue to tackle as there are several factors that need to be considered, so it will be interesting to see what the league ultimately decides on.