Five days before Christmas this past year, Kyle Kuzma was pretty sure what his immediate future looked like.
He signed a 3-year, $40-million contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers, just months after helping bring the city of LA an NBA title with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The deal was structured perfectly for a player such as Kuzma, who showed early signs of being a star in the league before the addition of more 'seasoned' players began to slow his development.
His extension was supposed to keep him in Los Angeles through the 2022-23 season, giving him a player option ahead of 2023-24 season. The player option comes when Kuzma will be 28 years old and should be entering his prime, so if he out-plays his current contract, he should be able to negotiate a new deal.
But it's crazy how fast things can change.
Kuzma struggled mightily during LA's run to the NBA title, leading to many questions being asked regarding why the Lakers would've offered him an extension. After this past season, Kuzma did not help his own case to truly justify the contract extension.
He finished the season averaging 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on 44.3% shooting from the field and 36.1% shooting from the floor. Although the total numbers weren't ideal, the percentage from beyond the arc gives hope that Kuzma could develop into a cornerstone piece for a franchise.
Well as we've learned recently, Kuzma will have a chance to be a cornerstone of a franchise — just not with the Lakers.
According to reports and later confirmed by Sports Illustrated, the Lakers and Wizards have agreed to terms on a monster trade involving Kuzma and Russell Westbrook.
Draft day for Kuzma was extremely interesting — and confusing at parts. He was mentioned in three different trades throughout the day, most notably being linked to Sacramento in a trade for sharpshooter Buddy Hield. But while the scenario eventually fell apart, the Laekrs were able to get a superstar to join James and Davis — even if it came at a steep price.
For Kuzma, the trade is a fresh start and a chance to recapture the magic from his first two seasons in the league when he averaged 17.4 points, 5.9 rebonds and 2.2 assists in 32.2 minutes per game. Kuzma should immediately slot in Washington's No. 2 role behind prolific scorer Bradley Beal.