The Los Angeles Lakers drew some criticism for selecting Kyle Kuzma at No. 27 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, but he quickly put that to rest. Kuzma shined at Las Vegas Summer League, then during the preseason, and produced an impressive rookie campaign
His competitive spirit and confidence led to similarities being drawn between Kuzma and Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, which the young forward wholly embraced. Kuzma sought out Bryant during the season to absorb whatever knowledge he could from the five-time champion.
The two have worked out together this summer, to which Bryant raved about Kuzma’s play and continued development.
In an interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Kuzma expressed confidence he’s improved since the end of his rookie season:
“A lot. A lot better. Totally different. I’m stronger. I got more handle. I watch more film now to really understand things on the floor that I didn’t see last year.”
Kuzma tied for with a team-leading 16.1 points per game last season, while also averaging 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists en route to being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He ranked second among rookies in points per game, fifth in rebounding, seventh in three-point percentage (.366) and ninth in field goal percentage (.450).
During the season, Kuzma was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in October and November. He broke D’Angelo Russell’s Lakers record for most 3-pointers made by a rookie in a single season, and also became the franchise’s first rookie Jerry West in 1960-61 to score at least 25 points in three consecutive games.
Moreover, Kuzma tied two of Magic Johnson’s franchise rookie records and finished fifth on the team’s all-time rookie scoring list.
Johnson and Lakers general manager nonetheless challenged Kuzma and the rest of the young core to take this offseason as an opportunity to grow and improve. The signing of LeBron James further accentuated the significance of that, and Kuzma certainly appears to have taken the message to heart.