When the Los Angeles Lakers’ acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans last summer, most people viewed Kyle Kuzma as the third star on the team’s roster. The Lakers may have managed to win the NBA championship title in the 2019-20 NBA season, but Kuzma didn’t seem to be ready for that type of role, as he was noticeably struggling to make himself fit alongside Davis and LeBron James. Luckily, though he failed to live up to expectations last year, he could still play a big part in helping the Lakers’ fulfill their dream of creating a legitimate Big Three in Los Angeles.
Kuzma is set to become a restricted free agent after the 2020-21 NBA season. Though the Lakers aren’t expected to throw away a huge amount of money to bring him back on their roster, Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports thinks that they could use Kuzma as a “key sign and trade piece” to land a real third star that they could pair with Davis and LeBron James in the 2021 NBA offseason.
“As a free agent in 2021, the Lakers could use Kuzma as a key sign and trade piece. He’ll be eligible for a contract all the way up to the max, but seems more likely to settle in somewhere around $20 million or so. If LA needs him for depth, they’ll re-sign Kuzma and keep him. If not, he could be signed and traded to bring a star to Hollywood or to add two to three players to flesh out the rotation, with $20 million going a long way in salary-matching.”
As of now, Kuzma isn’t in any way a max contract type of player, but if he managed to show a massive improvement with his game next season, he could receive an offer somewhere around $20 million in the 2021 NBA free agency. By combining his projected salary with the contracts of Marc Gasol, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and other players who could be signed and traded, the Lakers could create a salary cap space in the $35-40 million range, which could be enough to go after some of the big names on the free agency market in the 2021 offseason, including Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Paul George and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Despite the complicated path that they would need to take to land a third superstar, the Lakers are already being linked to some of the top free agents in the summer of 2021. According to a previous The Inquisitr article, the Lakers brought Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, and Kostas Antetokounmpo to Los Angeles to build a relationship with Octagon, the agency that represents the “Greek Freak.”