Los Angeles Lakers third-year forward Kyle Kuzma has arguably been the team’s best player in the Walt Disney World bubble.
Appearing in seven seeding games, Kuzma averaged 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 steals while shooting 46.3% from the field and a ridiculous 44.4% from three. These numbers are all improvements on his regular season averages.
Beyond the increase in production, Kuzma played better defense than he has his whole career. His most impressive performance came against the Denver Nuggets, where he put up 25 points including the game-winning three.
It came on a night that saw Kuzma join the starting lineup for just the ninth time this season, something he believes could be a regular thing if not for who was ahead of him on the depth chart.
“I’m starting on most teams in this league. Everyone knows it,” he said. “It just so happens that I play behind the best two players in the NBA. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just trying to fill in my role, find a nice and try to win. That’s all that matters, because if we don’t win, it’s bad news.”
Kuzma is correct that starting on a team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis is a bit of a difficult proposition. However, there is a real argument to be made that he should be starting over JaVale McGee, which would push Davis to the center position.
This change could not only rid the Lakers of the bad starts that have plagued them in the bubble, but could allow Kuzma to have more space to operate on a consistent basis.
In Kuzma’s 52 games as a reserve, he has averaged 11.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists, to go along with 41.8% shooting from the field and 30.6% behind the arc.
However, in his nine games as a starter, these numbers get a huge boost as Kuzma puts up 20.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting over 8% better from the field.
Frank Vogel envisions Kuzma as a sixth man
Lakers head coach Vogel doesn’t have any plans to make Kuzma’s move to the starting lineup permanent, as he wants to expand on his role while keeping him on the bench to start games.
“He’s going to be a big-minutes guy for us if he continues to play the way he’s playing and bring that competitive spirit and shot-making,” Vogel said.
“It’s likely going to be a Sixth Man type of role, where he’s playing big minutes but off the bench, to help just balance out our 48 minutes. He’s going to be huge for us in any role we end up using him.”
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