Lakers Power (Forward) Jam: The Kuz is in the Building
Kyle Kuzma is the new 6’9″ enforcer for the Lakers. Kuzma was drafted 27th overall with the Pick that was once traded for Lou Williams via Houston. Not looking too bad at this moment. I mean the kid (who is one year my junior) has lit up summer league and now the preseason. Needless to say I love him. It is clear now that either Nance or Randle must go to make minutes for the 3 point shooting big.
Kuzma is not the bruiser that Randle is. He also cannot quite play the defense that Nance can, but he is getting there. The Kuz spent three years at Utah where he made 1st Team ALL PAC-12 his junior season. The most interesting piece of Kuzma is, where did he come from? He is a guy that fell to 27th overall. He was not at a traditional power house school, but he looks like a top 10 talent right now.
Here is the issue. Plain and simple all three of Nance, Randle, and Kuzma cannot be here long term. Randle has the highest salary, and also a restricted free agent after the 17-18 season. Next, Nance cannot play a lick of offense besides dunking, but does possess strong defensive rotations and leadership. So it comes down to the money? Or what? Well let me help you with that.
As NBA resident expert of ABS it is my job to help make these decisions. Lets start with age verse years on contract:
Randle: Age 22, Last Year of his deal, he will want big money after this season. He will likely ask for roughly 16-19 mill a year.
Nance: Age 24, 2 years left of service on his deal: Cap hit will be 2.2 and 3.3 mill.
Kuzma: Age 22, 5 years left: Cap hit is 1.4, 1.6, 3, 5 mill respectively.
So we see how the money and the ages factor out. My first concern about the front court jam up is with the centers. Brook Lopez makes 22.3 million this year, but only this year he has a contract. That frees him up off the Lakers cap when the season ends. Next Iviza Zubac makes 1.5 million. That is a very good number. Lastly Andrew Bogut makes 2.4 million on an only this year deal as well. So in total 26+ million devoted to centers.
What I for see happening after this season is they keep all the Power Forwards. That is because Kuzma is so good already. Him being named Summer League Championship MVP, and the darling of preseason is a legit notion. Which forces the hand of the staff in the front office. Secondarily Luke Walton came from the Warriors where they barely used a Center. And my God not for 26+ million. So my prediction is that they dump the center money and go for a cheap reliable option to mirror the Warriors.
I am not calling Kyle Kuzma Kevin Durant. However, I am really hoping that (in shape) Julius Randle (below) will be able to make the difference in creation of open shots.
Two key players that will be benefiting from open shots this year will be ……… you guessed it Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Lonzo doesn’t care if he scores or not. He cares if they WIN. So far an 0-2 start to preseason is not stellar. Although they may have played against two upper tier teams, and battled very hard. It is encouraging, but no one likes moral victories in LA. WE LIKE VICTORIES. I will add this as a victory to start we drafted Kyle Kuzma 27th. That is a win.
Kuzma is already demanding high volume work load because he has earned it. Everything that has been said about him is, “He is one of the hardest workers out there.” That does not go away. In fact it stays. The Lakers are just about all I have these days. Kuzma and Lonzo will be the saving grace to a 55 degree winter here in LA. For me .. that is alright.