Kyle Kuzma has thrived since the Los Angeles Lakers traded him to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Russell Westbrook last summer.
During his four-year spell with the Lakers, Kuzma proved versatility belongs among his best traits. The former 27th overall pick kept adapting to his ever-changing role following the arrivals of LeBron James and Anthony Davis in L.A.
Kuzma started in 68 of the 70 games he played in James’ first season with the Purple and Gold, finishing as the team’s second-best scorer behind the All-Star forward.
The following year, newly-hired head coach Frank Vogel deployed the Utah alum mostly off the bench during the 2019-20 championship pursuit — although some championed him to become the Lakers’ third star by James and Davis’ side.
Those hopes never materialized, even though the forward would steadily improve his game, particularly on defense. However, Kuzma has bounced back in D.C., where he quickly became one of the Wizards’ leading figures. The 26-year-old told The Athletic’s Josh Robbins he enjoys the stability he’s had since leaving the Lakers:
“It’s been a great change of pace for me, a change of scenery,” Kuzma said. “I did as much as I (could) to maximize (myself) when I was with my former team, with changing my role every single year for the betterment of the team and trying to fit in with great players. But here, it’s been a lot different, because I don’t necessarily have to do that. My role has changed here. If you think about the first 25 games, I was in a different type of role than I am now: more scoring and just doing more things with the ball. It’s just great to be in a situation where I can just be myself and do what I do, and not dummy myself down.
“It’s great because I’m not looking over my shoulder. Every time I’m making a mistake, I’m not looking at my head coach. I can focus on the game. Obviously, I don’t want to make mistakes. But that’s a part of it when you’re growing. I’m 26, but I’m really growing.”
Kuzma averages 17.2 points and records career-highs in rebounds (8.7), assists (3.4), steals (0.7), and blocks (0.9) this season.
Also, he clocks in 33.6 minutes per game, the most in his five-year NBA career.
Kuzma had no hard feelings for James & Lakers following Wizards trade
After the Lakers struck a deal with the Wizards last year, sending Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to D.C., the former said L.A. would remain his family — even if they had to part ways.
Kuzma added it was “all love” toward James, his other Lakers teammates, and the franchise’s board, many of whom wished him all the best during the new chapter of his career.