Los Angeles Lakers: 3 inexperienced playoff players who could boom or bust

Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Lakers playoff boom or bust potential: Kyle Kuzma

Statistically, Kyle Kuzma has taken a big step back this season. Following per-game averages of 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists last season, Kuzma is averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists this year. Catch-all advanced metrics like his VORP and BPM are down significantly as well.

While some could and do point to the fact that the Lakers have more star power this season leading to fewer opportunities for Kuzma to excel, his usage percentage has been about the same. Kuzma’s playing time is down, but on a per-minute basis, most of his stats are still down.

At times, watching Kuzma play can be a frustrating endeavor. His development is front and center on one of the most-watched teams in the NBA, so it’s easy to see good and bad alternating right in front of your eyes when tracking him on the screen.

Kuzma is best when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands and when he moves decisively. Four months ago, I wrote about how the Lakers can help Kuzma’s development, and it involves sticking him in lineups with a premiere facilitator like LeBron James as much as possible so that he can move off-ball in cutting or catch-and-shoot situations.

He gets himself in trouble on plays when he has to make multiple decisions all in a row, a fine struggle for a young player to be facing.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, placating to Kuzma’s needs by pairing him with LeBron in clunky lineups shouldn’t be a priority. They simply don’t have the minutes to make that happen naturally, and in the postseason, optimal lineups at the right times matters more.

At this point, many Lakers fans hoped Kuzma would have developed into a fringe All-Star capable of being the team’s third star in a playoff run. It’s not there for Kuzma at this point. Sure, Kuzma is likely to have a really solid quarter or two here and there throughout the postseason, but in all likelihood, he’ll be an average, role-playing piece for the second unit and nothing more.

Boom potential: Low-medium

Bust potential: High