Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has hit a bit of a rookie wall over the last week, but the first-year phenom has still shown plenty of potential during a breakout debut campaign that would see him squarely in the hunt for Rookie of the Year if Ben Simmons didn’t exist.
Kuzma is already leading the Lakers in scoring (17.2 points per game), and that’s despite him coming off of the bench and seeing his role fluctuate throughout the season. Kuzma has additionally been the Lakers’ best 3-point shooter (38.4 percent) and has forced his way into the rotation to the degree that he’s played the second-most minutes (1,176) of any Lakers player.
All of those stats have left Lakers fans and the organization alike with sky-high expectations for Kuzma, who has even managed to capture a decent amount of the fan vote in the first voting returns for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.
That might seem like a lot of pressure, but Kuzma sounds like he’s just fine with that. As he made clear to Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com, no one puts higher expectations on him than himself:
“I just want to be one of the greatest players to play,” Kuzma said. “That’s my mind set. That’s how I approach the game. I got here by working hard.”
Not only does Kuzma work hard, he tries to hold others to the same standard. That was on full display when he called out the team for what he perceived was a lack of effort after their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. When the team lost their next game, Kuzma said he was playing like “garbage” and vowed to improve.
That’s exactly the type of mindset most great players have, and while it might seem farfetched to pencil in the No. 27 pick as a player with a chance to be one of the greatest to ever play, Kuzma has also defied expectations every step of the way so far.
His drive, desire to soak up information and improve drew praise from Kobe Bryant, who unquestionably is one of the best players to ever take the hardwood.
Because of these factors, it’s probably foolish to doubt Kuzma at this point. No matter how outlandish his expectations for himself might seem.
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