Shortly before the 2020-21 season tipped off, the Lakers inked Kuzma to a three-year, $39 million extension. The move was somewhat surprising if only because Los Angeles forfeited the opportunity to utilize his impending restricted free agency as a means to swing a meaningful trade.
The 25-year-old has repaid the front office's faith by averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 28.8 minutes on the floor. He's also shooting 35.7 percent from beyond the arc, up from 31.6 in 2019-20.
As they look to defend their 2020 championship, the Lakers have been hammered by injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James. While Los Angeles isn't in danger of missing the playoffs, the team could slip far enough down the Western Conference standings to where its path to another title is too difficult to overcome.
Having a deep bench is also critical to the Lakers' quest for an 18th ring.
Los Angeles can't afford to lose any more ground, so Kuzma's injury isn't something head coach Frank Vogel can shrug off as insignificant.