LOS ANGELES: Forward Kyle Kuzma has agreed to a three-year, US$40 million extension to remain with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, a person familiar with the deal said Sunday (Dec 20).
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Lakers didn't disclose the terms of the deal in their announcement of an extension. ESPN first reported the terms of Kuzma's rookie contract extension, which begins in 2021 and includes a player option for the 2023-24 season.
Kuzma has been a key component of the Lakers' core for three seasons since the team acquired him in a draft-day trade in 2017.
“It is especially gratifying for our Lakers franchise to draft, develop and now sign one of our own to a contract extension,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Kyle has shown tremendous growth over the last three years, and played a crucial role on last season's championship team.”
Kuzma made the All-NBA rookie first team in 2018, and the smooth scorer averaged a career-best 18.7 points in his second pro season after the arrival of LeBron James.
When Anthony Davis and several veteran additions transformed the Lakers into title contenders last season, Kuzma transitioned into a supporting role as a reserve scorer and a wing defender. His scoring average and shooting percentage declined, but he worked on improving his defense and playmaking.
Despite his decline in numbers, Kuzma is a valuable component for the defending champs because of his versatility and capability of providing quick offense. James and Davis have mentored Kuzma on defense as well, and Kuzma is expected to compete for a starting job and more minutes this season.
The Lakers begin defense of their 16th NBA championship on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The champs will be pressed hard against the salary cap for the foreseeable future, so their ability to re-sign their own players is crucial. Kuzma also has significant value as a potential trade component at this salary if the Lakers and Kuzma decide to break up in the future.
The Lakers locked down a significant portion of their core during the short offseason after their triumph in the Florida bubble. Davis and James agreed to lucrative deals that will keep them together for three more seasons, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got a three-year deal worth more than US$39 million.