Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has been able to make a far larger impact in the NBA than he did in college, a rarity for rookies entering their first year playing against grown men.
While the best most first-year players can hope for is simply treading water in the new, more competitive environment they’re thrust into, Kuzma has instead set nets on fire, including the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, who he lit up for 21 points on 11 shots one night after scoring a career-high 22 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kuzma has been good in more than just his last two games, too. He ranks second on the Lakers in scoring with an average of 15.1 points per game, trailing only Brook Lopez’s 15.7, and Kuzma has done so on an efficient 63.8 percent true-shooting percentage, which ranks third on the team.
After setting the nets ablaze against Brooklyn, Kuzma spoke to reporters about why he feels he’s been so much better in the NBA so far than he was in college.
“Just the spacing [is better],” Kuzma said. My jump shot got a lot better so I am able to increase my game. Guys now have to guard me out there and when they close out I can make plays too.”
The spacing is better in the NBA in general, but what’s perhaps most impressive about Kuzma’s success is he’s been doing it without the benefit of much extra room to operate. The Lakers rank last in the NBA in three-point percentage, meaning the larger floor and better passing might be generating some extra space for Kuzma to get his shots off, but the team’s shooters almost certainly aren’t.
Despite that, Kuzma has been able to thrive even while his own three-point stroke has regressed along with the rest of the Lakers. If he’s able to nudge his percentages back up to even just league-average rates, he’s going to be even more incredible, especially once the Lakers get a few more shooters around him and he can see what actual NBA spacing is like.
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