The Los Angeles Lakers fell well short of vying for a second straight NBA title. The Lakers‘ shortcoming featured plenty of the criticism directed toward Kyle Kuzma‘s playoff struggles. As Kuzma heads into the offseason, he made a bold prediction that came with a subtle jab at Los Angeles.
Kyle Kuzma’s struggles to find his footing in the 2020-21 season
In his fourth year, Kuzma experienced a rollercoaster-type season as he struggled to find his footing with consistency.
With a three-year, $39 million extension in his back pocket, the 25-year-old’s put forth sporadic production throughout the season. He finished the campaign averaging 12.9 points on 44.3% shooting from the floor and 36.1% from 3-point range, along with 6.1 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per contest.
Kuzma played 68 out of the possible 72 regular-season games while starting 32 contests. It was mainly due to the Lakers‘ significant injury issues with LeBron James and Anthony Davis missing extended time. He experienced his stretch of production occurred in March, averaging 16.4 points on 43.2% shooting along with 7.9 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per contest.
However, Kuzma struggled in the playoffs as he became a complete offensive non-factor, averaging 6.3 points on 23.5% shooting and an abysmal 10.8% shooting from beyond the arc. He tallied two double-digit scoring outings but capped it off by scoring just two points in the series-ending Game 6 loss against the Phoenix Suns.
His lack of production became one of the glaring reasons for the Lakers’ downfall and pitted even more uncertainty around his long-term future in Los Angeles. As Kuzma heads into the offseason, he made a bold declaration while also bashing the Lakers.
Kyle Kuzma delivers bold claim while taking a subtle jab at the Lakers
In his brief NBA career, Kuzma has experienced it all.
The 25-year-old’s reached the point where the pressure is squarely on him to showcase progression forward as a high-end talent. Kuzma has yet to take the significant leap, despite demonstrating flashes of promise.
Through all that, the confidence in his ability hasn’t waned as he recently told Bleacher Report that he believes he can become an All-Star talent if he receives consistent playing time.
“I definitely can. I definitely believe that, too. I don’t really care what nobody thinks or says. I know myself, and I know my ability. It’s hard to be consistent in an inconsistent role. I’m excited for a more consistent space next year,” Kuzma said.
“I’ve done a great job every offseason of trying to build something and add something to my game. I’ve turned myself into a great defender. My rookie year, I was a stop sign on defense. I didn’t really stop anybody. Now, whether it’s elite wings, 4 men, even point guards and shooting guards, I have the ability to guard four positions now and really affect the game on that end of the court.”
Although the crux of Kuzma’s comments centers on his confidence level, it’s hard to ignore the verbal jab he takes at the coaching staff for his lack of a consistent role. His playing time fluctuated this past season due to injuries to James and Davis, along with his inconsistent production.
At the same time, he performed better in the starting forward role, averaging 17.1 points on 45.6% shooting from the floor and 40.8% from 3-point range in 10 games. Ultimately, Kuzma’s playing time will always fluctuate due to playing behind James and Davis.
Los Angeles may look into trade scenarios
The Lakers‘ early playoff exit immediately shifts the direction of the franchise toward offseason roster changes.
Kuzma may become a central part of the wave of moves as the front office has considered trading him in the past. Recent reports outlined the Lakers attempted to offload him in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie before this past season’s trade deadline.
Kuzma could become thrown into a sign-and-trade deal simply due to his $13 million salary to help offset the incoming financial commitment. His value around the league has diminished due to his struggles in the playoffs and often inconsistent production.
Nonetheless, Kuzma’s status in Los Angeles is up in the air.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.