The Los Angeles Lakers have made a habit out of finding talent late in the NBA Draft, but even they outdid themselves when they selected Kyle Kuzma with the 27th pick in 2017.
He proved himself to be one of the best players in his class, averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 37 percent from three.
As a rookie, expectations for Kuzma were minimal, but after making waves last season he set the bar high and will now be asked to be a major piece on a Lakers team that will be vying with the contenders in the Western Conference.
With Julius Randle off to the New Orleans Pelicans and Brook Lopez now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kuzma will have the ability to step into a larger role with the Lakers next season. A natural power forward, Kuzma has the versatility to slide up to small forward and even down to center in the right lineup.
He will have plenty of opportunities to share the floor with LeBron James, who should help Kuzma’s game grow by leaps and bounds with his nearly endless basketball knowledge. When James is off the floor, expect Kuzma to be viewed as the Lakers’ go-to scorer from the wing, where he showed the ability to consistently beat his man one-on-one last season.
That, combined with Kuzma’s marksmanship from behind the arc, makes him a valuable weapon for the Lakers on the offensive end.
Additionally, while his defense was much maligned last season, Kuzma actually rated in the 75th percentile on defense per Synergy stats. His versatility and length allow him to switch out onto guards temporarily in pick and roll situations, which is becoming a must in the modern NBA.
Perhaps Kuzma’s greatest asset, however, is his mentality. He is driven to become a star in the NBA, and that bodes well for a Lakers team that will focus on hard work on both ends of the floor.
If the Lakers are going to find success this season Kuzma will have to step his game up a level, and all indications are that he is ready for the challenge.