Thanks to a lot of big-name players choosing to not take part in Team USA, the opportunity is there for a number of young players to make their mark such as Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, and De’Aaron Fox.
Though the team is young, it is talented and in his quest to stand out, Kuzma has turned to parts of his game he isn’t known for.
Mitchell discussed Kuzma’s defense during Team USA training camp, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers:
Donovan Mitchell on Kuz’s defense: "He’s a defensive player now. He can play defense. People kind of knock (his defense), I don’t know why … But he’s a guy who’s taking the charge, communicating … I think that shows a lot to his maturity and a lot about his work ethic."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) August 15, 2019
Kuzma’s offense has never been in question as he can score in any number of ways, but he showed last season an increased focus on defense, sometimes spending time guarding the other team’s best player. Even though the results weren’t always the best, the effort and willingness to do so was proof of his dedication to evolving his game.
Kuzma’s own words also mirrored what Mitchell spoke of as he said he’s focusing on defense and rebounding in order to stand out on this Team USA roster, according to Trudell:
Kuz on what he’s been able to show, and his own development: “Being able to show what I got offensively, improvements on my body and show the type of shape I’m in, getting up and down the floor.” Added that he’s keyed on “defense and rebounding,” since it’s a loaded roster.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) August 14, 2019
With Team USA rosters, players are often needed to take on different roles than they are used to for the betterment of the team. Kobe Bryant famously became the 2012 defensive stopper, allowing the likes of James and Kevin Durant to lead the team offensively without complaint.
Kuzma is embracing this role and it should also help him once he returns to the Lakers. Davis and James will get much of the attention leaving Kuzma to pick his spots and find other ways to make an impact.
By doing this, Kuzma will be more than prepared for the 2019-20 NBA season that lies ahead.