Kyle Kuzma has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the NBA season so far for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kuzma has started the season averaging 13.7 points per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field, the third-highest scoring total on the team and fourth-highest field goal percentage. All this has come while playing solid and versatile defense to boot.
Performances like that would be pretty good for any NBA contributor, much less for a rookie forward who was taken at the end of the first round.
Kuzma’s college coach, Larry Krystkowiak, says Kuzma’s success has been not just impressive, but a model for him to show his current players as an example of how they can make their own dreams come true via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“I mean, it’s been a heck of a journey for him,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We have it printed in our program or in our facility. We talk about the process a lot, not having shortcuts and putting in the work. … He’s an extremely hard worker, grounded kid, really matured. His body changed. I think you can see what playing with some confidence will do for you.”
Kuzma’s success is also an example of how a player can be better suited for the NBA than the college game. At Utah, Kuzma was asked to perform more traditional big man tasks in a more restrained college system. With the Lakers, he’s been unleashed as a quick-shooting, hybrid forward who can play multiple positions and move well in space on both offense and defense.
Kuzma couldn’t have found that success at the next level without continuing to work hard throughout college, however, and his journey shows just how important staying ready for the right situation is. He’s so wildly outperformed his draft stock that he just might help Krystkowiak with his next recruiting class, too.