Los Angeles Lakers: 3 Big questions heading into the All-Star break

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Lakers
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Should Kyle Kuzma be part of the Lakers rotation?

This season Kyle Kuzma’s vacillated between a broken-hearted teen and a shy introvert. Half the time, Kuzma runs up and down the court with sagging shoulders and sad puppy dog eyes. The other half of the time, he simply disappears on offense, hiding out in the corner, hoping that LeBron James passes him the ball for a 3-point attempt.

Kyle Kuzma’s been sub-par on offense. Kuzma’s averaging 12 points per game while knocking down a mere 33 percent of his shots from deep this season, good for 12th on the squad.

Kuzma’s been even worse on the less glamorous side of the ball. There’s a glaring problem in “Kuz’s” defense. He spends 91 percent of his time playing at the power forward position, but he’s too small to body up and harass the bulky 4’s he’s assigned to stop. At the same time, when he switches onto smaller wings, he lacks the side-to-side agility necessary to contain them from driving to the rack. Kyle Kuzma doesn’t guard any position well.

The numbers back up me on this. Kyle Kuzma ranks 15th on the Lakers in defensive rating at 111. He’s also 12th in defensive box plus-minus (-1.5).

Kyle Kuzma’s overall metrics jump off the scream and shout “bad player.” He comes in dead last on the Lakers in value over replacement player (a statistic that measures an athlete’s performance compared to an average player in the NBA). If you’re still not convinced, the Lakers are 5.3 points worse when Kuzma’s on the floor.

Kyle Kuzma’s the Lakers golden boy. He’s the only member of the young core who still calls Hollywood home. However, playing Kuzma, simply because he’s Kyle Kuzma is starting to make less and less sense.

Jared Dudley’s one year removed from starting in the playoffs. He’s shooting 49 percent from downtown this year, and even though Dudley’s comically slow, he’s a better defender than Kuzma, because he’s capable of bodying up his assignment in the post. He’s also a wily defender out on the perimeter. Every defensive metric shows that Dudley’s a better defender than Kuzma.

We all know that the Lakers offense falls off a cliff once LeBron sits. Frank Vogel should remedy this problem by molding the Purple and Gold bench after the Bucks starting unit. Milwaukee surrounds Giannis Antetokounmpo with four above-average 3-point shooters and then lets “The Greek Freak” go to work.

When LeBron rests, Vogel should encircle Anthony Davis with Alex Caruso (36 3P%), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (42 3P%), and Jared Dudley (49 3P%). They will give AD room to work on the block. Shifting away from Kuzma could help morph the Lakers bench unit from a glaring weakness to a strength.