Lakers teammates have big expectations for Kyle Kuzma as he embarks upon contract year

Ryan Ward
5 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma is a promising young player with a potentially bright future in the league with three seasons under his belt and an NBA title on his resume.

However, the Lakers are expected to be a championship team for the foreseeable future, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way. This puts pressure on the coaching staff to get the best out of every player and roster spot available.

Kuzma’s situation in Los Angeles is a complex one. He’s eligible for a contract extension with the deadline to get a deal done being only days away on Dec. 21, which is one day before the 2020-21 season begins.

The fourth-year forward recently admitted that his agent and the Lakers have talked about an extension, but a new deal has yet to come to fruition with time running out.

Along with the uncertainty of a contract extension, Kuzma’s role with the team has been put into question with a lot of new faces on the revamped squad. Even Kuzma himself admits that he doesn’t know what his role will be, as he made clear after dropping a game-high 23 points on the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

“I have no idea,” Kuzma said. “We’ll see.”

Kuzma is the only player on the current Lakers squad who has had to drastically adjust to his surroundings from year to year.

The University of Utah product went from being a breakout rookie star alongside Lonzo Ball to a primary scorer behind LeBron James and then the third option last season after the team acquired Anthony Davis.

With the additions of Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol this season, the 25-year-old doesn’t know where he fits nor has been told by head coach Frank Vogel what role he’s expected to play.

Vogel recently talked about what he envisions for Kuzma moving forward, and there wasn’t much clarity given on his plans for the one-time champion.

“We’ll see,” Vogel said. “We have a different team, but he’s still going to be asked to carry the scoring load when he’s out there to make the right play offensively while being in attack mode and very aggressive and continue to be a big body that can guard multiple positions for us.

“Where that lands in terms of starting or coming off the bench is still to be determined, but we have a great luxury with Kyle and a lot of guys on this team that have experience doing both.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his future and Vogel’s reluctance to define his role on the team, Kuzma’s teammates continue to speak highly of him during the preseason. Davis believes it will be Kuzma’s time to shine during the 2020-21 campaign.

“It’s going to be a big year for him,” Davis said. “He’s going to play a bigger role for us this year and we need him to continue to do what Kuz do.”

James recently took to Twitter and endorsed Kuzma as the NBA player he believes will take a giant leap this season.

Lakers newcomer Schroder has also been impressed with what he’s seen from Kuzma in his short time with the Lakers thus far.

“Great talent,” Schroder said. “Works really hard. That’s my first impression about him. Good guy off the court. All the guys doing a tremendous job of getting everybody together. Chemistry is there and Kyle Kuzma is one of them.

“Great guy, but even more impressed by how he works and how he stretches the floor and shoots the ball. He’s really capable of making shots and putting the ball in the basket. It makes it easy for me as well.”

As the start of the 2020-21 NBA season quickly approaches, Kuzma’s future with the team will remain a hot topic of discussion.

Kuzma will likely have an opportunity to showcase his skills once again this season after taking a step back last year with a career-low 12.8 points per game.

The real question is whether he’ll start the season with a new contract, playing for a new contract, or be used as a trade chip before the NBA’s deadline on March 25, 2021.

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Ryan is a veteran sportswriter who has covered the NBA and NFL for nearly a decade. Along with numerous exclusive interviews with professional athletes, Ryan has been credentialed by the Los Angeles Lakers since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWardLA.