After an outstanding start to his Los Angeles Lakers career as a versatile offensive weapon, Kyle Kuzma has had to completely change his game since LeBron James and Anthony Davis joined the franchise.
With the majority of his offensive touches now gone, Kuzma has been needed to fill a different role while also being viewed as the team’s potential third star. Kuzma struggled to find his place most of last season, having, both positive and negative moments.
This season, however, the fourth-year player finally seems to be coming into his own and the Lakers are reaping the benefits.
In the Lakers’ seventh straight win, a 115-105 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, Kuzma finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, five of those coming on the offensive glass.
It was Kuzma’s seventh double-double of the season and the third time in his last four games that he’s grabbed at least four offensive rebounds. The work on the glass is something that Kuzma has made a point to focus on this season.
“It just brings a lot of energy. I don’t really like standing in the corner too much possession after possession, so I just try to find ways to bring energy to the game,” he said. “I’ve got a good nose for the ball, so I just try to find it and create second-chance opportunities for our ballclub.”
With JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard no longer part of the roster, the Lakers lost a combined average of 13 rebounds per game. Marc Gasol is more of a positional rebounder and is better at boxing players out than actually grabbing the boards.
Thus, there are far more opportunities for Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell to clean up. While some players would pout or be unhappy with their lack of shot opportunities, Kuzma has instead found another way to make an impact.
And along with his rebounding, Kuzma still wants to make big improvements on defense. “Just coming out, playing hard, playing defense and improving on defense. I think that’s the biggest area,” he said.
“I’m trying to become a great defender and that’s where I kind of mark my basis every night on how I played. I’ve got to keep shooting the ball better; I’m figuring that out. Other than that, I really base everything defensively. Especially on this team. With limited opportunities offensively, I’ve got to make my mark on the other side of the ball.”
Kuzma’s energy and versatility has been a big asset for the Lakers and something they can rely on more often than not as their bench unit remains one of the best in the league.
Anthony Davis has seen major growth in Kuzma’s game
Kuzma’s improvement has not gone unnoticed by his teammates who undoubtedly see the difference, especially those who were around last season. Anthony Davis heaped a lot of praise on the fourth-year forward.
“He’s grown, his playmaking is better, his catch-and-shoot is better, and his value for our team has grown from even the beginning of last year to now,” Davis said. “He’s making huge plays for us, his effort and energy is there every night, he’s rebounding, making the hustle plays.
“Things that you didn’t see a lot of last year. You saw spurts of it, but now you’re seeing it every game with him.”
“He’s made a jump and he’s shown why he should be here, he should be in the rotation and shown why he got paid what he got paid. We love him here. We’re very happy to have him here, and he’s only going to get better.”
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