While Talen Horton-Tucker has been the star of preseason for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kyle Kuzma has also impressed.
Through three games, Kuzma has looked more comfortable within the offense while still maintaining the defensive effort he showed in the Orlando bubble. Against the Phoenix Suns, Kuzma got the start and spent most of his time defending Devin Booker.
It was an apparent sign head coach Frank Vogel might lean on him to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter option on some nights. Lakers vice president of basketball operations Robe Pelinka had previously alluded to such possibility.
The forward spent most of the 2019-20 campaign trying to fit in next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis and often times struggled as a result. Kuzma was a primary scoring option in his first two seasons, then relegated to a bench role where his involvement fluctuated from game to game.
So far, Kuzma seems primed to handle more responsibility on both ends of the floor, but when asked about what his role will be during the 2020-21 season he admitted he was unsure. “I have no idea,” Kuzma said. “We’ll see.”
While not the conventional solution, Kuzma could conceivably replace Danny Green in the lineup if his 3-point shooting holds up. Kuzma revealed that it was a focus of his during the shortened offseason. “Yeah, I just got up a lot of threes during the short offseason,” he said.
“Just trying to figure out my role. And one thing I could add Frank said in my exit meeting was being able to shoot off the move. For me, I’m just trying to hunt shots. Every time I get an open look I’m shooting confidently.”
The 25-year-old scored 23 points and knocked down four of his eight three-point attempts in 32 minutes against the Suns, showing he can hit shots either on the move or spotting up. Even though Green’s outside shooting tapered off in the playoffs, he was still a threat that defenses had to account and perhaps Kuzma could fall into that role.
Teammates like Jared Dudley are happy with Kuzma’s development but still expect more out of him, so hopefully he continues to improve over the course of the year.
Kuzma’s long-term future with the Lakers
This is a pivotal year for Kuzma as he will be up for an extension following the season if a deal is not reached within the next several days. So far, talks have occurred but no progress on an actual contract has reportedly happened.
Even if the Lakers decide Kuzma is not in their long-term plans, they should still consider signing him anyway as he could eventually be used as a trade chip down the line.
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