Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers Rising Star
The Los Angeles Lakers have reached the moment they have been waiting for since their rebuilding phase in 2014. They finally have a chance to compete with a team full of talent and potential. Yes, they signed arguably the best player in the league, LeBron James, but he’s not the only Laker that we should keep an eye out for. Second-year standout Kyle Kuzma is a rising star with the ability to make his mark in the NBA.
Young Baller In The Making
Getting to play for one of the most notable teams in the NBA, doesn’t happen overnight. For Kuzma, his basketball career began back in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. His talents earned him a spot at a prep school on the East Coast. As a senior at Rise Academy in Philadelphia, Kuzma averaged 22 points and 7 rebounds earning him offers from various Division I schools, but he decided to attend the University of Utah. As a freshman, Kuzma averaged 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. In his sophomore year, Kuz was playing more, averaging 24.1 minutes per game and 10.8 points per game.
As a junior at Utah, he averaged 16.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, earning him his first-team All-Pac 12 honors. It was after this season that Kuzma declared for the 2017 NBA draft.
With the 27th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Brooklyn Nets selected Kyle Kuzma. Shortly after, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers along with Brook Lopez. In return, the Nets received D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. Many Lakers fans were surprised to lose Russell in return for some rookie and Brook Lopez. Yet, they would not be stunned for too long once they saw Kuzma’s star potential in the 2017 Summer League tournament.
From the start, Kuzma was ready to win. His eagerness to play ball at the highest level was something refreshing and new for the Lakers. In the last four games of the tournament, he scored 20 points in each game, including his amazing championship performance. Kuzma was chosen as Summer League Championship MVP in the Lakers’ victory over Portland. If this was just Summer League, what Lakers fans could expect for the season was something worth imagining.
2017-2018 NBA Rookie Season
It didn’t take long for Kuzma to be a persistent threat for any team competing against the purple and gold. His first start of the season was also the same game he snagged his first double-double in the NBA. It was that November 3rd against the Brooklyn Nets where he scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while also earning a victory 124-112. He later went on to earn another double-double against the Phoenix Suns with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Kuzma’s consistency earned him to be named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November.
That was only the beginning. In March, against the Miami Heat, Kuzma broke the Lakers franchise record for most 3-pointers made by a rookie in a single season with 132 made 3-pointers. In his debut season, Kuzma continues to make his mark in the NBA and in Lakers history. The power forward from Utah finished his first NBA season averaging 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game.
Rising Star Potential
Statistics only say one part of the story. It was Kuzma’s game-to-game grind that has allowed him to have success in his first season and show so much potential.
As an individual player he was good, but as a teammate, he thrived. He’s the guy everyone wants on their team. Kuzma lends himself to be a team player and adapts to various roles. Offense is Kuzma’s major strength. The 6’9 power forward can get himself easy shots in the post and can create when things become stagnant on offense. If he isn’t having a great offensive night, which is rare, he still shines through with his defense, playing fundamental basketball and never shying away from a rebound.
By now we’ve all heard the same catch phrases: “He’s going to be the next…” and you can fill in the blank on who you think is the G.O.A.T. Or you can compare him to any great player who is similar in size and position, but in Kuzma’s case he can’t be compared. He is in a league of his own, only working to be better every season. Who knows, one day we might just use his name to compare future NBA players for generations to come. Not bad for the 27th pick, huh?
Be sure to stay with Sports Al Dente all season as we will be covering Kyle Kuzma on and off the court!