Kyle Kuzma has been the shining star of the Los Angeles Lakers inside the Orlando bubble so far. While LeBron James and Anthony Davis have had their ups and downs and head coach Frank Vogel continues to tinker with different role players as he figures out his playoff rotation, Kuzma has looked every bit the part of the Lakers’ third star.
Much of the talk about Kuzma during the NBA restart has been about parts of his game other than scoring. The third-year forward has been much improved defensively since the season resumed, often times doing an admirable job at trying to contain the opposition’s star players.
And that’s to say nothing about his playmaking and rebounding which have also been excellent. But Kuzma’s scoring and shooting have also been far more consistent and efficient in the bubble.
Kuzma has been far and away the Lakers’ best 3-point shooter in Orlando and that range resulted in a game-winning shot against the Denver Nuggets. Even with 7’2 Bol Bol closing out on him, Kuzma had no hesitation when he caught the ball.
“I think Jesus could be in front of me and I’d probably still shoot. It doesn’t really matter to me,” Kuzma said. “Got an open look, it’s a play we ran in practice a few times prior to the restart, and coach had faith me.”
It is this mindset that has made Kuzma a fan favorite since he joined the Lakers in 2017. He has always had confidence that he can get a bucket on anyone trying to guard him for better and for worse.
It has surely led to some frustrating moments, but it also makes him a very dangerous player heading into the first playoff run of his career. The pressure and the bright lights can overwhelm some players, but Kuzma seems to be more than ready to step up when the time comes.
The attention that comes with being a member of the Lakers organization is not meant for everyone, but regardless of his struggles Kuzma’s confidence has never wavered and that should serve him well.
Davis and James will obviously lead the team most nights, but having someone Kyle Kuzma who wouldn’t be afraid if Jesus is guarding him is a great asset. There will surely be moments when the ball finds Kuzma in clutch situations and one thing that is for sure is that he won’t be afraid when that time comes.
Kuzma focused on defending at a high level
Kuzma has long been known as a scorer, but he has worked hard to improve the other parts of his game. With James and Davis taking so many shots, Kuzma altering his role is a necessity and one he continues to focus on. In particular, continuing to play defense at a high level is at the forefront for him.
“My scoring doesn’t matter,” Kuzma said. “Coach says it all the time: he wants us to be a well-rounded team that moves the ball outside of our superstars. I never judge my performances off trying to score and have a certain amount of points because that’s not my situation.
“The situation I’m in is trying to figure out a niche, defending at a high level, and being a great teammate. That’s what I can control.”
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