The Los Angeles Lakers are considered strong favorites to repeat as champions after a successful offseason.
Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews. Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol are clear upgrades from a talent standpoint and should give the Lakers more versatility and offensive firepower during the 2020-21 season.
Each player brings edge and physicality, something vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka wanted to double down on after seeing Los Angeles storm through the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
However, the team could be even better depending on how Kyle Kuzma improves. Kuzma showed he has what it takes to be trusted in high-leverage postseason games, and that kind of experience should help him heading into next season.
The front office has been bullish on Kuzma since he came onboard, and that could factor into a potential contract extension before the Dec. 21 deadline.
“Since we’ve drafted him, he’s been terrific. We’ve all seen his growth. The way the rules work, he has next season under contract with the Lakers and he’s extension-eligible this offseason. He has great representation that when the team is right, we’ll sit down and speak with him,” Pelinka said.
“We’re proud of drafting Kuz, we’re incredibly proud of his growth as a player. I think he showed in the bubble his ability to play at the wing and 4, so some 3 and 4. When you lose a defender and wing player like Danny Green, I think Kyle, we’re going to count on him to step in and play some of that wing role as well. He has the versatility to do it. He’s been a great player for us and I expect he will continue to grow next season.”
As things stand, the Lakers can extend Kuzma this offseason or allow him to become a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 campaign. The forward did his best to accept a bench role where the basketball was not always in his hands, but he struggled at times to make an impact.
There was talk of possibly trading Kuzma, but it appears those conversations were more a byproduct of the front office gauging the market. For the time being, it appears Kuzma will be staying put in L.A.
Kuzma in line for bigger role
As Pelinka alluded to, Kuzma will probably be leaned on more to guard bigger wing players with Danny Green now off the roster. Matthews is expected to handle most of those assignments, but it stands to reason that Kuzma will take those responsibilities whenever Matthews sits.
While Schroder and Harrell will take on the bulk of the bench scoring, Kuzma can still contribute as a spot-up shooter and cutter.
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