Kyle Kuzma went on a meteoric rise after being selected by the Los Angeles Lakers 27th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. He shined in Summer League and earned MVP honors in the championship game, and capped off a debut season by being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
“That was one of the goals I had at the beginning of the year,” Kuzma said from the Lakers’ facility shortly after the NBA made the official announcement. “Wrote it down on Media Day. Everybody had a type of goal, and that was mine. To see it come true is pretty rewarding.”
Kuzma ranked second among rookies in points per game (16.1), fifth in rebounding (6.3), seventh in 3-point percentage (.366) and ninth in field goal percentage (.450). He broke D’Angelo Russell’s Lakers rookie record for most 3-pointers made in a season, and tied or surpassed franchise marks set by Jerry West and Magic Johnson.
“I think after that second Summer League game, we played Boston, we lost but I think I had 30 (points) or something like that. From that point my confidence just rose and rose,” Kuzma said.
While being named to an All-Rookie Team is an individual honor, the versatile forward gave credit to Lakers head coach Luke Walton and his staff for allowing him to succeed. “From Day 1 they let me be who I am,” Kuzma said.
“A lot of rookies don’t come into the league and have the type of leeway that coach Walton and the staff gave me. A lot of it goes to them. Of course I’m out there doing what I do but to have a leash like that as a rookie definitely helped.”
Along with Kuzma, Lonzo Ball also represented the Lakers, earning All-Rookie Team Honors. “It just speaks to our season, how we played, how we made improvement from last year,” Kuzma said of the two being recognized. “It’s definitely rewarding.
“This is one of the best Draft classes in the past 10, 15 years, or they say since ’03. It’s a credit to the level of the talent that came into this league and took it by storm.”
In what was a bit of a surprise, Josh Hart didn’t so much as receive a single vote for either All-Rookie team. Albeit after being prompted, Kuzma couldn’t help but poke fun at Hart over his affinity for the video game, “Fortnite.”
“I don’t really know all the NBA players that play Fortnite like he does but he’s probably the MVP, Rookie of the Year, something like that,” Kuzma quipped.