The Los Angeles Lakers gambled in the 2017 NBA Draft when they selected Kyle Kuzma with the 27th overall pick. He’s rewarded them by looking like one of the steals of the selection process.
Kuzma recently put up a historic performance against the Houston Rockets when he exploded for a career-high 38 points against one of the top teams in the NBA. It continued a stellar season in which he’s leading the Lakers in scoring with 17.4 points per game as a rookie.
Those are the types of numbers that have led many to question how Kuzma could have fallen so far in the draft. But to Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, a fellow Michigan native, the answer is simple.
Green told Mark Medina of the Mercury News that the reason Kuzma was not a high draft pick was because of a perceived lackadaisical approach at times:
“When you looked at Kuz even before in college you’d see stretches where it’s like ‘Oh man, this kid is good, he’s skilled and he’s talented.’ Then you’d see some stretches where it looked like he wasn’t interested at all, which is why he was the 27th pick and not a top-10 pick,” Green said following morning shootaround on Friday. “A lot of people are beating themselves up in the head now. But even you looked at it, you can’t be like ‘Oh man, this kid is a top-10 pick.’ Sometimes this kid didn’t look interested.”
Green’s candor will probably come off as criticism to some, but it belies a genuine joy at how Kuzma has turned things around in the NBA:
“What’s been a pleasure for me to watch is how much he was in the gym this summer. Being in LA, you call him and he’s in the gym all day,” Green said. “Even then on nights off, he’s been in the gym. So it’s been great to watch and how seriously he’s taking it. He wants to be great. When you want to be great, you work and you get yourself a chance at it. He’s giving himself a shot at it. It’s been fun to watch.”
Green can also probably relate to Kuzma on some level, even outside of their Michigan roots. Green was a better college player than Kuzma, and he still fell to the second round because of some of the same types of flaws in pre-draft analysis that led to Kuzma’s tumble.
Both players were judged as too old, or lacking a true position, when the truth was that they were just versatile and experienced instead. Green knows all about the joy of proving those doubters wrong, and it seems safe to say that he’s enjoyed watching Kuzma make those same doubters look just as foolish with his phenomenal rookie campaign.
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