Kyle Kuzma has excelled in his role for the Los Angeles Lakers even if the stats don’t show it
Kyle Kuzma deserves every penny of his $40 million extension for the Los Angeles Lakers, although his points and minutes are down this season. If only the box score mattered, Hassan Whiteside would have gotten a max contract this offseason. Kuzma’s immense contribution to the Lakers this season is far more than just his stats.
Kuzma has evolved this season into his best role on the team. He was once Hollywood personified: the only “survivor” in the Anthony Davis trade, the anointed third star to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the frontcourt, the snazzy dresser who has enjoyed everything LA has to offer.
Kuzma has now embodied his roots in the blue-collar city of Flint, Michigan. Like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble before him, this Flintstone brings it every single night. He realized last season he has to learn how to play behind both LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who are firmly entrenched at Kuzma’s two best positions, small forward and power forward, respectively.
Kuzma could have been the go-to scorer right now on the Sacramento Kings if he wanted to play like a star. By signing the $40 million extension with the Lakers, he signaled his commitment to becoming a role player for the rest of his Lakers career.
This season, he’s learned to move without the ball in order to get his buckets. His three-point shooting percentage is up nearly three percentage points from last season because he is getting much better looks within the flow of the Lakers’ offense. His defense has stepped up considerably. He has crashed the offensive glass with a renewed fervor.
There are much better candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved Player this season (Jerami Grant and Julius Randle come to mind). Kuzma is definitely the most improved player on the Lakers judging by how he has excelled in his role.