Lakers Review: Kyle Kuzma Among Standouts Through First Quarter Of 2017-18 NBA Season
Photo Credit: Darrell Ann
Darrell Ann – Lakers Nation

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Jordan Clarkson (Grade: B+)

The fourth-year player out of Missouri has thrived off the bench for the Lakers this season, averaging 15.4 points, 2.9 boards and three dimes per game.

Clarkson has additionally posted career-bests in both shooting percentage (49.4) and 3-point field goal percentage (37.3). Should this level of play continue, the 25-year-old will be in contention for Sixth Man of the Year honors.

Luol Deng (Grade: F)

Just one year removed from signing a lucrative contract with the Lakers, Deng can no longer crack Luke Walton’s rotation. The veteran has appeared in just one game this season — starting in place of the suspended Caldwell-Pope on Opening Night — scoring one bucket to go along with an assist and steal.

Otherwise, he has primarily been a healthy scratch. Deng’s days with Los Angeles are clearly numbered, as both sides seem ready to move on.

Whether the organization can find a taker for him is the biggest question. Otherwise, Deng becomes an obvious stretch candidate next offseason.

Tyler Ennis (Grade: D+)

Last offseason, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson prioritized signing a back-up veteran point guard to complement the first-year Ball. After reported conversations with Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, the Lakers opted to re-sign Ennis.

After an impressive final two months with the Lakers last season, Ennis has seen his play take a step back. The 23-year-old is posting career-lows in nearly every category, while only seeing the court for an average of six minutes per contest (10 games).

However, Ennis has shown improvements on the defensive side in his limited minutes, accumulating an 83.3 defensive rating and 0.1 win shares. As a whole, Ennis’ grade has been reflected on his lack of production and inability to stay on the floor.

Josh Hart (Grade: C)

The rookie out of Villanova has logged an average of 13.6 minutes this season over 16 games, putting up 3.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.6 steals per contest.

On the defensive end, Hart has accumulated 0.3 win shares to go along with a defensive box plus/minus of 0.9. All-in-all, his play has earned him a consistent role in Walton’s rotation.

Brandon Ingram (Grade: B+)

After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Ingram has elevated his game to the next level.

In 21 games, the 20-year-old ranks second on the Lakers with 15.7 points and has improved in both shooting percentage (46.6) and three-point field goal percentage (33.3). He is additionally averaging 5.3 boards and 2.9 assists per game, to go along with 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks.

In his most recent matchup against the Warriors, Ingram dropped a career-high 32 points and was later praised by Kevin Duran.

While Ingram has flashed glimpses of the player he’s expected to become, the Duke product looks to find more consistency in the second quarter of the season.

Kyle Kuzma (Grade: A)

After strong performances in the Summer League and preseason, Kuzma carried that success into the first quarter of the regular season.

The Utah product leads the Lakers with 16.7 points per game behind a terrific 50.4 shooting percentage, and has additionally shot nearly 38 percent from behind the arc.

Kuzma has lacked on the defensive end early on but otherwise established himself as one of the biggest steals in the 2017 NBA Draft. On Friday, he was recognized with Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors.

Kuzma missed the final game of the first quarter with back spasms, but he isn’t expected to be sidelined for an extended amount of time. When he returns, he’ll continue to provide the Lakers a boost regardless of his role, whether it’s in the starting lineup or off the bench.

Brook Lopez (Grade: C+) In one of the more controversial trades last offseason, the Lakers acquired Lopez in a deal that sent D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets.

The move was a homecoming for Lopez, as he grew up around the Los Angeles area and rooted for the Lakers as a child. To date, he hasn’t lived up to expectations and has taken a step back offensively.

With an average of 23.7 minutes, the 29-year-old has put up 13.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. To his credit, though, he’s averaging solid totals of 20.7 points and 6.9 boards per 36 minutes.

Lopez also is shooting nearly two 3-pointers each game, where he’s knocked down 30.1 percent of his shots. On the opposite end, Lopez has accumulated 1.7 blocks per contest and leads the league in contested shots.

With more playing time, Lopez would presumably post numbers closer to those from his Nets days, but he’s usually the odd man out when Walton opts for a small ball lineup.

Larry Nance Jr. (Grade: B) From his highlight-reel dunks to smothering defense, Nance provides the Lakers an energetic spark on game days.

He averages nearly two steals and one block in roughly 24 minutes per contest. Those numbers increase to 2.9 and 1.1, respectively, with 36 minutes on the floor.

Nance is also making 59.1 percent of his shots, establishing himself as one of the Lakers’ most efficient players on both ends. He missed some time with a fractured hand, but otherwise, enjoyed an excellent first quarter of the season.

Julius Randle (Grade: B)

After initially expressing his displeasure about coming off the bench, Randle has since thrived for the Lakers’ second unit.

With an average of nearly 22 minutes on the floor, Randle has put up 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s additionally totaling almost a full block per contest, and ranks in the top-five in defensive win shares among fellow teammates.

Randle has also thrived in isolation possessions, holding the opposition to a 14-for-46 mark — good for first in the league. Warriors forward Draymond Green referred to Randle as the “life” of the Lakers, and credits him for accepting a lesser role.

With Randle scheduled for free agency next season, his future with the Lakers is murky. But at the very least, his improved play off the bench has aided the team’s reserve corps in the early going.

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