Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has gotten off to about as good of a start as any rookie could hope for. Kuzma has forced his way into the starting lineup and ranks second on the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game while shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from behind the arc.
Kuzma has been more than just a scorer, though, ranking third on the Lakers in rebounds (6.3) and guarding multiple positions on defense.
That kind of production would be good for any player in their first year, but Kuzma doesn’t consider himself just another rookie. He’s holding himself to a higher standard, via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
“I don’t really compare rookies because my focus is one, winning and two, I try to focus on all the top players in the league, because that’s where I want to be, so I don’t feel like rookies are a stick point for me to try to battle with…I look at guys like (Giannis) Antetokounmpo and LeBron (James) because eventually, that’s where I want to be,” Kuzma said.
Now it’s important to note that both James and Antetokounmpo were both 19-year-olds during their rookie seasons while Kuzma is 22, but it is interesting that his numbers compare relatively favorably to those two superstars, per Basketball-Reference:
Can Kuzma ever be as good as those guys? It’s unlikely if only because both James and Antetokounmpo are generational talents, the types of players teams can build around for the majority of two decades.
Still, at this point, it just seems foolish to doubt Kuzma, who has proven doubters wrong at every turn to rise from late-first round pick to Las Vegas Summer League sensation and now Lakers starter.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka called Kuzma a “perfect” draft pick, but if his confidence and work ethic can ever result in him even getting mentioned in the same breath as those two players, then the Lakers won’t just have made a “perfect” pick. They’ll have made one of the best selections in NBA history.
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