After a breakout season that culminated with a selection to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, the Los Angeles Lakers challenged Kyle Kuzma to make a considerable leap forward in his second year. He went into the offseason focused on improving regardless of how free agency would ultimately unfold.
When the Lakers signed LeBron James, Kuzma was among the team’s young players who put an emphasis on ensuring they were a strength next to the three-time champion, not a liability. Part of the maturation for Kuzma initially entailed playing center in a small-ball lineup.
He struggled to adjust to the role and the Lakers were out-rebounded more times than not when going small. While the team as a whole struggled in those cases, Kuzma wore the brunt of the blame because his strength is in scoring.
Coming off back-to-back 21-point games, Kuzma discussed where his focus is offensively while also explaining he’s mindful of contributing in all areas, as seen on Spectrum SportsNet:
“I’m just playing more under control right now. Remaining to be aggressive but also trying to look for my teammates more. Getting into the paint and trying to become an overall play; defensively, too. … I don’t want to be a player that’s just depending on hitting shots (to determine) whether I’m good or not. Whether that’s hitting shots, getting to the rim, passing, facilitating, making defensive plays, I’ve got a lot on my plate right now but I’m trying to do everything.”
Kuzma has formed early chemistry in the starting lineup with James, which helped him overcome a slow and inconsistent start to the season. Kuzma attributed his scoring outburst against the Orlando Magic as reverting back to his aggressive nature of attacking the basket.
While he matched the same scoring output, Kuzma didn’t do so by the same means in Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Scoring may remain his strong suit but Kuzma was recently recognized by Lakers head coach Luke Walton for taking on a wide range of responsibilities.