Kuz got the Jordan Clarkson Deal

Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Clarkson both signed contracts this fall, and the deals are eerily similar to one another. The only difference is Clarkson’s deal is one year longer. Yesterday, Kuzma signed his extension with the Lakers, and despite reports to the contrary, it wasn’t something he had been thinking about. He said “I wasn’t too bent to really try to get something done unless it was the right situation. It’s never always about the money. I’m still so young.” 25 years old to be exact.

Jordan Clarkson, affectionately known as JC, inked a free-agent deal with Utah last month, defying scouts who questioned his ability to get his shot off in the NBA. Because of the questions, Clarkson lingered in the second round of the 2014 draft. His draft year had been a tough one for Clarkson. His father had recently been diagnosed with cancer.  He had to disprove a negative about his game, that he could distribute the ball and score efficiently. When the Lakers bought his rights from the Washington Wizards, Clarkson had a big chip on his shoulder which he carried with him to the largest NBA market.

Of the players drafted in the 2014 second round, Clarkson has played the most games, the most minutes, and only Nikola Jokic has a higher point per game average. Clarkson is the 8th best scorer in his draft class.

Kyle Kuzma was drafted late in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. In college, Kuzma was a versatile skilled forward who could score on the inside and he had a fiery, confident nature. A four-year player, he was more mature than the typical one and done.

Scouts loved Kuz. “Kuzma is a unique player in the fact that he can both handle and pass the ball well from the power forward position. He is capable of changing speeds and directions and uses his versatility to score and facilitate both in transition and in the half-court. (Draft Express)”

Kuzma has played the 5th most games of players drafted in the first round (2017). He has played the third-most minutes. He is the 6th best scorer of the players drafted in the first round. Redo the draft and Kuz is a lottery pick.

Kyle Kuzma signed a three-year extension that kicks in beginning in the 2021-22 season, $40 million. He has a player option in 2023-24 when he is 28 years old. His contract is aligned with what is expected to be LeBron James last season. If Kuz outperforms his contract, he will be due a big payday from the Lakers or someone else, smack dab in his prime. Already, he has something Jordan Clarkson doesn’t have, although Clarkson was in the 2018 NBA Finals. Kuzma has a ring.

Jordan Clarkson was traded from Cleveland to Utah at the Feb. trade deadline, a shrewd move. The Jazz was in desperate need of scoring help off the bench and can use Clarkson late in games next to Donovan Mitchell, if they need more perimeter offense in the lineup. Like Kuzma, Clarkson is playing next to two max players and All-Stars in Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, who just inked the supermax extension a few days ago.

Clarkson signed a $51 million dollar for four years with the last year, 2023-24, being an opt-out year. Clarkson makes more than Kuz in the second and third year of his deal but in the fourth year Kuz makes $60,000 more.

Season Kyle Kuzma Jordan Clarkson
2021-22 $12,345,000 $12,420,000
2022-23 $13,333,333 $13,340,000
2023-24 $14,320,988** player option $14,260,000**   player option
2024 UFA UFA

Since their salaries are equal, are they equal players? The season before the bubble, their stats:

2018-19 FG% Last 3 Minutes Points Off. Rating PER
Kyle Kuzma 45.6% 45.7% 18.7 106 14.0
J. Clarkson 44.8% 43.8% 16.8 ppg 107 16.8

Kuzma is the better defender. He’s long and has better instincts. With a defensive coach, and just in his 4th year, Kuzma hasn’t reached his defensive ceiling yet. Clarkson is a better offensive player, someone you can trust late with the ball, plus he is a driver and can get to the rim with ease. Kuzma isn’t a particularly good jump shooter, in the mid-30 percentile range, while Clarkson is a 40% jump shooter.  It makes you wonder why Frank Vogel has Kuzma camped out behind the arc instead of closer to the rim. His skill is more aligned with mid-range shots.

Jordan Clarkson is three years older than Kyle Kuzma. Both had challenging upbringings, Kuzma in Flint, and Clarkson in San Antonio. Clarkson is the only Filipino-American in the  NBA.

Kyle Kuzma is pleased about his extension. A media favorite, he is honest with reporters and shared how much this means to a kid from Flint. Now he can do more things to help his community.

What he didn’t say to the media was that Jordan Clarkson is a Kyle Kuzma cautionary tale. Clarkson was with the Lakers three seasons and in his fourth season, he was traded. Kyle Kuzma has been with the Lakers for three seasons. This is his fourth season.