The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to a 5-7 start this season, with promising victories and a few winnable losses that slipped away. While head coach Luke Walton has had a lot to say about where his team has to improve, he also has to be pleased with the way rookies Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball have stepped us thus far.
Every rookie entering the NBA will have their fair share of struggles, as they get accustomed to playing against the top-tier talent in the world. Adjusting to the physicality and mentally-demanding style of play is no joke, with Brandon Ingram setting an example for how to progress during a rookie campaign.
At the same time, Kuzma has been an offensive spark for this team, being inserting into the starting lineup following Larry Nance Jr.’s surgery. Since then, the rookie has shown in glimpses just how effective he can be on the court. However, Kuzma revealed to Mike Trudell of NBA.com that he envisions the next step of his overall progression to come on the defensive end of the floor:
Defensively, I have to improve. All great players, for the most part, are good defenders too. I want to clean up my handle. Get stronger. Those are the things that will help me out in the long run.
12 games into the season, Kuzma has posted averages of 14.8 points and 6.5 rebounds, shooting 52.2 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from beyond the arc. That start is rather impressive, considering that he was considered to be the third forward on the depth chart coming out of training camp.
However, Kuzma has run with this opportunity given to him, as a flexible wing player that can get out and run and also be somewhat of a physical defensive presence.
The Lakers have heavily relied on Kuzma’s offensive production leading up to this point, but in order for the starting lineup to take the next step, they need both Kuzma and Ball’s defensive production to continue to improve.
At the same time, these two rookies remain composed and motivated to prove their worth, stepping up to the plate and not backing down from any challenge.
Los Angeles faces another tough test Saturday night, clashing against an athletic Milwaukee Bucks team that is also capable of getting up and down the court. The rookie shared his admiration of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who he will oppose tomorrow night. Kuzma will face a tough challenge but should be able to step up and use his versatility to affect both facets of the game. Lakers fans have to be happy with his production thus far, as he is steadily turning into the premier steal of the 2017 NBA Draft.
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