Lakers News: Kyle Kuzma Hoping To ‘Build On’ Defensive Improvement
Kyle Kuzma, Lakers, Jared Dudley
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Kuzma has undergone a major transformation during his three years with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Utah product dazzled in his rookie season, shooting 37% from deep and — as the No. 27 overall pick — proving to be one of the steals of the 2017 NBA Draft.

The following year, Kuzma registered career-high averages in points (18.7) and minutes played (33.1) next to LeBron James, although his efficiency from behind the three-point line dropped to 30%.

Last season, Kuzma struggled with nagging injuries before the games were paused in March but then emerged as a defensive force in the Orlando bubble. The 25-year-old forward, however, struggled offensively and scored only 12.8 points per game in the regular season and 10.0 in the playoffs.

But Kuzma said building on his defensive improvement is his goal for the 2020-21 campaign. “Just make those steps as a defender and improve my all-around game,” he said. “That’s always a process every offseason, when you reflect you always try to build on what you did last year, work on it and just improve.”

However, Kuzma refused to predict what role he will be playing for the defending champions, who hoping to repeat last season’s success. “You never truly know until the ball goes up and the season starts going,” he said. “We’ll see. Obviously it’s ultimately what Frank views me as.”

The young forward has the support of his more experienced teammates. In a social media post, LeBron James predicted Kuzma would register a “giant leap” in the 2020-21 campaign. And Jared Dudley, who returned to L.A. on a one-year minimum contract, said he would continue mentoring the 25-year-old.

Kuzma, Lakers engaged in contract extension talks

Kuzma revealed his agent had held talks with the Lakers over a contract extension. “It’s obviously just talks between my agent and the organization,” he said. “They’re working through things, so we’ll see.”

Both sides have until Dec. 21 to iron out the details of the new deal or they will have to hold off negotiation until the offseason when Kuzma becomes a restricted free agent.

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