One player who will be absolutely crucial to the Los Angeles Lakers’ championship hopes this season is third-year forward Kyle Kuzma. With so much focus on the backcourt due to the decision of Avery Bradley to not return and the addition of JR Smith, Kuzma has fallen under the radar.
This season has been a difficult and inconsistent one for Kuzma. His numbers are down across the board, but that was to be expected with the addition of Anthony Davis. His role was completely different from previous years, and injuries have been an issue as well which has severely hindered his ability to get into a rhythm this season and his overall efficiency bears that out.
Nevertheless, Kuzma will be relied upon greatly by the Lakers in only his third season, and he is embracing that. He knows that many young players have put up great numbers on bad teams, but he would rather be in this position, even making note of a current rival who went through the same thing early on in his career.
“I just look at Kawhi Leonard, for example,” Kuzma noted during a conference call. “He was a Spur for four or five years — whatever it was — waited his turn behind Duncan, Ginobli and Parker, and then did his thing.”
Though they are very different players, Leonard’s career arc is a great one for Kuzma to follow. In his third season, Leonard not only won his first NBA Championship, but even secured NBA Finals MVP. He averaged just 12.8 points that season, but upped it to 17.8 points in the Finals.
What Leonard was able to do was make his impact in other ways, particularly with his defense and in the ensuing years Leonard would grow into the player we know him as now. Coincidentally, Leonard’s Clippers teammate Paul George is another great example of what Kuzma is striving to be.
“I just take it with a progression mindset and mentality of trying to get better every day. I focus on what I can control, and my time is coming,” Kuzma added.
Kuzma has shown over his career that he is willing to put in the work. While he may not ever be amazing at those things Kuzma has shown great improvements in his defense and passing, and constantly brings great energy whenever he’s on the floor.
Even though Kuzma has been labeled as simply a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer he has taken the time to understand his faults and work on improving them. If he can embrace that kind of role to do whatever it takes to win and impact the game in other ways, the Lakers could go to another level.
Jared Dudley sees Kuzma as Lakers’ third option
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel recently explained how the team benefits from not having a dedicated third option behind LeBron James and Davis, but Jared Dudley reasoned that person in Kuzma.
Dudley has long been fond of Kuzma and taken the young forward under his wing this season.
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