The Los Angeles Lakers may have landed the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft when they used the 27th overall pick to select Kyle Kuzma out of Utah.
The versatile forward finished his rookie season with averages of 16.1 points, 2.1 3-pointers made, and 6.3 rebounds per game, making him one of the most intriguing young athletes in the NBA. However, heading into the 2017 Draft, Kuzma wasn’t even considered a lock to be selected in the first round.
He was at the older end of the class, causing some to question his upside as well as his overall skill set. As such, it was something of a surprise when the Lakers pulled the trigger on Kuzma with the 27th pick.
During an interview at the 2018 NBA Draft Combine, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka explained the team’s rationale in selecting Kuzma, via ESPN:
“There’s a few different stages of evaluation. There’s the college games, where you’re getting a chance to see him. Then there’s the combine where he participated, then the agents have pro days, and the last component is when the players come into your building and work out. Kyle stood out really in all four of those stages. Magic and I are trying to build a team of interchangeable, versatile, position-less players. Kyle fits that, for sure. He really had an energy to his movement that we saw right away. Didn’t have plodding feet or slow feet. Just a bounce. Every time we hit him in an evaluation point, he confirmed that.”
The Lakers have developed a reputation for finding talent late in the draft, so it’s no surprise that they hit a home run with Kuzma. It is worth noting that Pelinka confirmed that he and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson are attempting to assemble a lineup of versatile, position-less players.
While that’s something that could be said for most teams in the modern NBA, it’s still worth noting as the Lakers look to add more talent in the NBA Draft and free agency this summer. Pelinka didn’t say that the team would pass on players who don’t fit that description, but it could give an insight as to which players to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.
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