Kyle Kuzma is facing arguably the most important season of his career in his fourth year with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 25-year-old forward faced some uncertainty looking ahead, but agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Lakers the day prior to the deadline to do so. Had they failed to come to terms, Kuzma was poised to become a restricted free agent.
Besides contractual matters, Kuzma recently said he was unsure of his role ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. The Utah product bounced back from a poor showing during seeding games in the Orlando bubble last season but his performance tapered off toward the end of the playoffs.
He ended the postseason averaging 10.0 points and 3.1 rebounds.
However, Kuzma’s teammates and coaches stand behind the forward. “He developed his shot tremendously from last year to this year. He’s been playing well this preseason and he’s only going to continue to get better,” Anthony Davis said.
“It’s going to be a big year for him, he’s going to play a bigger role for us this year, and we need him to continue to do what Kuz do.”
The All-Star pointed out Kuzma faced a difficult task adapting to the overhaul the Lakers roster went through first with the arrival of LeBron James and then his trade from the New Orleans Pelicans the year later.
But Davis said he saw improvement in Kuzma’s performance ahead of the 2020-21 campaign’s tip-off, pointing out his defensive contribution and the fact he guarded Kawhi Leonard and Devin Booker in preseason games. “I’m not 100% sure, but the way he’s playing right now, the game is slowing down for him,” Davis said.
“When you get in that fourth year, the game kind of slows down, you read defenses better, you know your shot selection, you know where you’re getting your shots, and he understands that now.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel emphasized Kuzma’s hard work and confidence, adding the forward’s experience as both a starter and leader of the second unit is a luxury for the team. “He’s playing at a high level, he’s playing with confidence, he’s really not forcing any action,” Vogel said.
“I’m happy to see him continuing to grow. He’s a big part of what we’re going to do this year.”
James predicts Kuzma will take ‘giant leap’
James previously championed Kuzma ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season. In a tweet, the four-time NBA champion named the forward as the player who will take a “giant leap” in the upcoming campaign.
Similarly, Jared Dudley told LakersNation.com in an exclusive interview he expected more from Kuzma, saying he was “happy but not satisfied” with the young Laker’s growth.
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