Heading into the 2019-20 season, it was assumed that LeBron James and Anthony Davis would BE incredible on a nightly basis the Los Angeles Lakers. However, there were questions about the rest of head coach Frank Vogel’s roster.
Namely, who would emerge as the consistent third option. Most pegged that to be Kyle Kuzma, as he’d shown stretches of being capable to assume the role. However, early injuries and struggles to settle into a role plagued him, requiring others to step up.
Kuzma has since fully recovered from injuries, afforded that luxury due to the NBA hiatus, and now he has been one of the team’s better players in the bubble. Vogel admitted Kuzma was the logical option to be the primary third scorer, even if it didn’t play out that way initially.
“The longer answer is we hope Kuz would do that at the beginning of the season,” Vogel said. “He struggled with his injury and adjusting to a new role. What we found was a blessing is we really are more of a different guy every night as a third option.
“We saw that all throughout the year, whether it was the two centers doing what they do, whether it’s Rondo, whether it’s Caruso, Danny Green had some big nights, Avery Bradley had big nights, KCP had big nights and Kuz had some big nights. That’s better than having one third option, to me.
“That’s who we’ve been all year. Now, since we’ve been in the bubble, Kuz has been our most consistent player. I’m happy with what he’s brought to the table. He had a little jitters in his first playoff game. Air-balled a 3 in the first quarter, that’s not like him. But I expect him to have a really big playoffs for us.”
Vogel is right in that the Lakers’ versatility within the roster is part of the reason for their success. While James and Davis will always be remarkable, the third-best player on the roster can always be someone new.
That requires defenses to give everyone equal attention, and not just double-team James and Davis while forcing the other players on the court to perform at a high level.
For Kuzma, developing is an everyday challenge
Even though Kuzma has improved his game significantly — and has been rewarded for it so far this postseason — he still has lots of work to do to become a star in the NBA.
Kuzma is aware of this, and knows it will be an everyday challenge to succeed. “It’s an everyday challenge,” he said of becoming a complete player. “It’s all about getting better every day. Us athletes may say that and it kind of goes over peoples’ heads, but to me that’s what it is.
“I’m far away from being the defender I want to be and I’m far away from being the offensive player I want to be. It’s all about just every day trying to get better and compete. Not only compete against my teammates in practice and opponents, but competing against myself mentally every day.”
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