Jared Dudley Champions Kyle Kuzma As Lakers’ Third Star
Kyle Kuzma, Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have some notable voids to fill in their backcourt with the loss of Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo ahead of the NBA restart at Walt Disney World.

However, even before the new rotation became an issue, there was still some concern regarding their lack of a definitive No. 3 option behind the pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Although the efforts of James and Davis positioned the Lakers to secure the top seed in the Western Conference, many feel they are still in need of a third player in order to reach the next level.

Los Angeles has enjoyed the benefit of having a number of players step up in different situations throughout the course of the season. They even ushered in a new dynamic by signing Dion Waiters and JR Smith.

Regardless, Jared Dudley has expressed full confidence in Kyle Kuzma emerging as the go-to option outside of James and Davis. Despite Kuzma’s lack of consistency this season, Dudley believes he is more than capable of filling this role when the Lakers need it the most.

“Our third guy is Kyle Kuzma. Now, has Kyle Kuzma been exactly consistent to the point where you have this third guy. I think people have to realize being behind A.D. and ‘Bron being able to move to the 4 sometimes, takes [Kuzma’s] minutes,” Dudley explained.

“But any time A.D. has missed a game, I guarantee if you look at those numbers, he’s averaging over 20. I think he even scored 30 in that OKC game. So for me, in my eyes, Kyle Kuzma is our third guy.”

Dudley added that while the playmaking prowess of James and Davis has given each player a chance to shine, the situation should prove to be most advantageous for Kuzma.

“Now, the advantages of not having a guy who is averaging 16 or 17, on any given night we have two superstars in LeBron and A.D., someone is going to get open shots because they’re both unselfish and demand so much attention,” Dudley added. “At one point in time it was Avery Bradley, it was Danny Green, KCP got in the flow, Rondo. It’s been a different guy each night.

“When you try to scout us and prepare for us, you know that you need to go 1-on-1 with those guys and pick your poison of them having an off night. Or bring extra help and know LeBron and A.D. are two of the best passing, most unselfish superstars in the league.

“And for us role players, we have to hit shots. That’s going to be the key for us winning a championship. Hitting timely shots and not fouling. I look at it as an opportunity for Kyle Kuzma to solidify being the third guy.”

Dudley’s praise for Kuzma hardly comes as any surprise considering he has become a mentor for the Lakers’ young forward. It is clear that the veteran’s opinion on Kuzma’s vast potential has not changed throughout the course of the season.

Kuzma feeling good ahead of first postseason

The prolonged hiatus provided players with their own set of challenges when it came to staying in shape amid the restrictions placed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Fortunately, the extra time off helped pay huge dividends for those laboring through the grind of the season.

Kuzma admittedly was excited to take part in the first playoffs of his career. “It means a lot, and that’s why I’m taking it so serious,” he recently said.

“Like I’ve said over this whole quarantine, I’ve kind of just been preparing my mind and body. Just getting ready for this opportunity. Not many players have an opportunity to win rings, and I have a chance to do that in my third year and really make moves with my career going forward. That’s important.

“Guys can go across this league and average 20 or 25 (points) and never win. I don’t want that. I want a legacy and to do something as a kid I’ve always wanted to do.”

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