The Los Angeles Lakers made a somewhat surprising selection with the 27th pick in this year’s NBA Draft, selecting Utah’s Kyle Kuzma.
Most draft experts had Kuzma’s stock a bit lower, although rumors of L.A,’s interest in the days leading up to the draft led to a bump up in the final projections.
The thought was that Kuzma, who entered the draft after his junior season, just didn’t have the wow factor that teams were looking for, and especially didn’t make sense for the Lakers because they already have Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Luol Deng occupying the power forward position.
Kuzma spent the Las Vegas Summer League proving everyone wrong. Just a 30 percent three point shooter in college, Kuzma was hotter than the desert sun, knocking down an impressive 48 percent of his shots from deep en route to winning the MVP award of the Summer League championship game.
His impressive performance landed him on Mike Schmitz of ESPN’s list of rookies who will outshine their draft positions:
Kuzma is in a perfect situation to thrive as the Lakers have no stretch-4 on the roster and want to push in transition and move the ball quickly.
Lonzo Ball loves to give it up early in transition, and Kuzma’s ability to push in the open floor will play really well next to the UCLA product. While the Lakers aren’t short on big bodies with Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Brook Lopez and Ivica Zubac, Kuzma brings a different skill set and can play alongside any of those bigs fairly comfortably.
Schmitz hits the nail on the head in regard to Kuzma’s versatility. While Nance, Randle, and possibly Deng should see a lot of minutes at power forward and Lopez, Zubac, and Thomas Bryant will eat up the minutes at center, Kuzma’s ability to fit in alongside any of them should be valuable.
Additionally, the instant chemistry that Kuzma showed with Lonzo Ball in Las Vegas will serve him well. If he can prove quick enough, it’s even possible that Kuzma forces head coach Luke Walton to toss him some minutes at small forward as well, just to get him valuable minutes on the floor.
He still has a lot to prove, but for now, the Lakers have to be very happy about getting Kuzma so late in the draft.