Heading into their Summer League semifinal matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers had found their groove, especially on offense. There have been a few surprises such as Alex Caruso, but there has been another player who has broken out, impressed dearly, and has hopefully started to make a name for himself amongst Laker fans. And his name isn’t Lonzo Ball.
His name is Kyle Kuzma, and he is starting to look like a steal every game he plays. Heading into Sunday’s game, he was averaging 19.8 points, six rebounds, and 3.2 assists on 46.7% from the field and just under 40% from deep in five games. Then on Sunday, he proceeded to drop 24 points on 8-14 shooting from the field, and 5-7 from deep. He helped lead the team, which lost Ball in the second-half, to the Summer League final. He is now averaging 20.5 points on 48.4% from the field and 45% from three.
Before we get too excited, we have to remember it’s Summer League, but they are still impressive numbers. He has been one of the best players on the floor at all times and is showing why Rob Pelinka wanted to do backflips when the power forward from Utah fell to them at 27.
He’s had scoring games of 31 points, 26 points, and 20 points, and 24 points, respectively, showing he can be an offensive threat. One of the biggest hopes LA had for him when he was drafted, was his ability to become a stretch-four. He has shown that ability so far, which is exciting. Offensively, he has more to offer than that as well. He has shown great vision at times, and combined with his ball handling skills and size, could operate as a point forward if needed in brief stretches.
His play off the ball is what makes him perfect for this team and Luke Walton’s system. He almost always does the right things and plays hard. His movement is good, has good passing ability, and can shoot the rock.
Even being a rookie, he has shown some great leadership ability, especially on defense. He has been vocal on both ends of the court, but on defense, as Luke Walton pointed out during an in-game interview, he has truly captained his four teammates.
So it is hard to fathom why he isn’t getting more exposure from fans or the broadcasters during the game. All the talk seems only to be surrounding Lonzo Ball, but that isn’t right. Ball has been impressive no doubt in his own right, but this is something we expected from a guy of his stature. Kuzma was selected at 27th overall, like Larry Nance Jr. back in 2015, so he wasn’t supposed to dominate this early, even if it is just Summer League.
But still, Summer League is full of some of the elite young talent in the game with something to prove and other under-appreciated players with huge chips on their shoulders. So it’s not like he’s facing solely a bunch of unmotivated bums. And like Nance Jr., he has the makings of a big late-round steal.
He has proven that he can play and could serve as a key player this upcoming this season. His development, plus Larry Nance’s presence, are two of the reasons why I believe that there is a chance Julius Randle could become expendable. That or Kuzma can be used in a trade. But, trading him would be a mistake because he has talent, seems to have found some excellent chemistry with point guard Lonzo Ball, and looks to be a perfect fit for Luke Walton’s system.
Add Kuzma to the list of positive surprises from this rookie front office.