Throughout his brief NBA career, Kyle Kuzma has dealt with constant trade rumors. The Los Angeles Lakers have elected to keep him as a critical part of the core group. However, Kuzma may have just sent a subtle message to the front office concerning his future.
Kyle Kuzma struggles to find consistency
After helping guide the Lakers to an NBA title, Kuzma had a promising opportunity to string together a productive fourth campaign.
The 25-year-old remained in a prominent bench role, averaging 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 44.3% from the floor and 36.1% from 3-point range in 28.7 minutes per contest. He experienced a significant uptick in his 3-point shooting, jumping nearly 5% better from beyond the arc, while he started 32 out of 68 regular-season games.
However, Kuzma struggled to find consistent offensive production as he fell into his typical streaky scoring burst. He failed to reach double-digit scoring 23 times while hitting that mark on 45 occasions. It included him topping 20 points 12 times and one 30-point performance along with posting 13 double-doubles.
Kuzma picked up a more prominent role throughout the season due to injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but his production fluctuated. With the light shining the brightest in the playoffs, he stumbled, averaging 6.3 points on 29.2% shooting from the floor and 17.4% from 3-point range. He failed to notch double-digit scoring all but twice, while his shot selection didn’t help his efforts.
With the offseason quickly approaching, Kuzma may have indicated what he wants to unfold.
Kyle Kuzma may have revealed his Lakers future without saying a single word
The Lakers‘ early playoff departure immediately shifts the focus over to the front office’s offseason plans.
Kuzma’s long-term future remains among the pressing questions. Los Angeles elected to keep him as the lone young talent that wasn’t part of the lucrative trade package that landed Davis.
However, his tenure with the Lakers may finally end this summer after a porous postseason showing. Kuzma was a complete offensive non-factor, which could make retaining him a difficult decision.
It appears that Kuzma may finally see the writing on the wall as he recently elected to remove “@Lakers” from his Instagram profile bio. It’s a minor change, but one that many fans quickly took notice.
All that comes shortly after the Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears voiced that Kuzma may desire a change of scenery to garner a more significant role.
“[Kyle Kuzma] has been in this LA bubble, he’s behind LeBron, I think he’s ready for a new start with a bigger opportunity,” Spears said on ESPN’s The Jump via NBA Central.
Kuzma is no stranger to trade rumors, as he’s dealt with it throughout his brief NBA career. The front office reportedly attempted to move him to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for guard Spencer Dinwiddie before this past season’s trade deadline.
After the Lakers’ recent playoff shortcomings, his $13 million salary for the 2021-22 campaign may make him a vital piece to either acquire other talent or help orchestrate a sign-and-trade.
Kuzma has no control over his future until his player option for the 2023-24 season. Until then, the team can decide his fate. Beyond all that, the latest development adds another wrinkle to the Lakers’ offseason plans.
Los Angeles holds several other prominent offseason decisions
Addressing Kuzma’s future is one of the many situations the front office has ahead.
The Lakers will revamp the roster to get back into NBA title contention led by their two stars. The team must first determine what talent heading into free agency will return with Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Wesley Matthews hitting the open market.
After that, the Lakers can shift the focus toward Kuzma’s fate. Ultimately, it may all lead to seeing a vastly different team next season.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.