Kyle Kuzma: All aboard the Kuz train

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, who has been electric so far this season, is poised to be an NBA sensation.

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(Photo Credit: Quinton Soloviev)

Kyle Kuzma has been a force to be reckoned with to start his rookie season. He gave us clues of his potential greatness during the NBA Summer League and has carried that form into the regular season. Speculation is now rife that the 27th overall pick has a higher ceiling than second pick and teammate Lonzo Ball. While we have seen only a small sample size, Kuzma has the potential to become the face, and the future, of the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Numbers don’t lie

Through the Lakers’ first 22 games of the season, Kuzma has posted six double-doubles, including a 30-point and ten-rebound effort in a home loss to the Phoenix Suns. His stat line for the season reads 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, which while impressive for a rookie still doesn’t tell the whole story. 

Kuzma leads the Lakers in total points scored and field goals made, and ranks second only to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 3-point field goals (34) made for the season. The only other rookies this season to lead their team in any of those categories are Ben Simmons (field-goals made) and Lauri Markkanen (total points scored). Aside from Kuzma’s individual statistics, the Lakers’ offense is much more efficient and productive when he is on the floor. Los Angeles post a 105.7 offensive rating with Kuzma on the floor versus 98.8 when he is watching from the bench. 

Yet, there is still work to do. While he is a tremendous offensive player in the making, Kuzma’s defense is a glaring weakness. Los Angeles touts a better defensive rating when he is watching from the sidelines, while Kuzma has only accrued two blocks and eight steals for the year. To put that into perspective, the 6’9″ power forward has tallied less blocks this season than point guards Damian Lillard, Jeff Teague and Eric Bledsoe in roughly two minutes less per game. On the plus side, the 22-year-old rookie has plenty of time to develop on that side of the court.

Steal of the NBA Draft?

The 2017 NBA Draft was one of the deepest in recent history, yet Kuzma managed to fly under the radar. His potential greatness was highlighted when he returned from a back injury and caused the Nuggets problems in Saturday’s 100-115 defeat. Kuzma posted 13 points and ten rebounds on the night, despite playing a cautious 26 minutes. From being overlooked by NBA franchises in the early stages of the NBA Draft to dealing with injury, it seems he is equipped to handle adversity. 

Simmons will likely win Rookie of the Year this season, but Kuzma has been the most impressive NBA newcomer beyond the 76ers star and Jayson Tatum. Markelle Fultz remains out indefinitely, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson are both buried on lottery teams, while Lonzo Ball has been underwhelming outside of his two triple-doubles. If Kuzma continues to build on his rookie-season success, he will position himself front and center as the future of the ambitious Lakers franchise.

Will Kuzma cool off, or is he a star in the making? Comment below!

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