2019-20 Lakers Season Preview: Kyle Kuzma
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

2018-19 NBA Season Review

The 2018-19 NBA season was an interesting one for Kyle Kuzma, who showed growth in some areas while regressing in others in his second year with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Though Kuzma’s scoring improved slightly (16.1 to 18.7), his three-point percentage dropped drastically (36.6% to 30.3%). Additionally, his rebounding also dropped (6.3 to 5.5), a relatively small number for someone playing primarily at power forward. Regardless, it is still difficult to classify the season as anything other than a success overall.

Kuzma proved his rookie season was no joke as he continued to show an uncanny ability to score at any spot on the floor in any number of ways. One big reason was due to Kuzma’s chemistry with LeBron James, which was apparent from the outset of Year 1. Kuzma understands how to move without the basketball and find open spots in the defense and with his new teammate’s basketball IQ and passing ability, he was perhaps the biggest beneficiary.

More impressive was Kuzma’s work and effort to improve other facets of his game, namely as a playmaker and defender. He will likely never be outstanding at either, but he made a concerted effort to improve both and it showed.

On more than one occasion, Kuzma was willing to take on the responsibility of guarding the other team’s best player and did an admirable job of doing so. Likewise, the 24-year-old was a much more willing passer, giving up good shots for himself to get great shots for his teammates.

Many of the rumors throughout the season and into the offseason suggested Kuzma was untouchable in trade discussions for Anthony Davis and as it turned out, he was the lone member of the team’s young core not moved in the eventual trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

2019-20 NBA Season Outlook

This has a chance to be a real breakout season for Kuzma with many wondering whether he can make that leap into All-Star territory for a team with hopes of having three of them. Kuzma will undoubtedly play a big role for this Lakers team, but figuring out the right lineups and rotations will be of the utmost importance for head coach Frank Vogel.

With Davis insisting that he play power forward for the most part, it would seem most likely that Kuzma serves as the team’s sixth man. It is a role that Kuzma is definitely well suited for as he would be the primary offensive option and should be able to feast against other team’s backups. He would then likely be able to close games with Davis and James to form an almost unguardable frontcourt.

Another big question for Kuzma is his shooting. Most would not expect him to knock down 40%, but he must at least return to around the 36.6% he shot as a rookie. Additionally, he must also continue to improve the other aspects of his game. Everyone knows he will put in the work as that has never been in question, but his defense, rebounding, and passing must continue to be on an upward trajectory.

Many look at Kuzma as the one Laker with a real chance to become the third All-Star player the team is searching for. No one is more suited to benefit from the attention Davis and James will receive than Kuzma, who knows how to get open and hit shots. However, with the team currently constructed the way it is, the amount of minutes he stands to see with both Davis and LeBron on the floor is a question.

Kuzma has the ability, mindset, and work ethic to thrive in any position Vogel puts him in. The potential for him to grow into the All-Star player many believe he can be is there, but maybe more than anyone else on the team, the rotation could play a big role in how much he ultimately grows.

The best-case scenario is that all of Kuzma’s hard work translates into the best season of his young career and he is able to take advantage of the attention James and Davis draw by making teams pay. Another possibility is that Vogel struggles to figure out the best rotations and lineups and as a result, Kuzma’s time on the floor with them or even a playmaker like Rajon Rondo is limited overall.

The 2019-20 NBA season is where Kuzma can prove he is not just a streaky scorer and can play a big role on a championship-contending team. The opportunity will be there for him, but there are undoubtedly some obstacles that could conceivably get in the way heading into Year 3.

However, the immediate concern is Kuzma’s ankle injury where the Lakers reportedly ‘increasingly fear’ he could miss the start of 2019 NBA training camp on Sept. 28.

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