The Los Angeles Lakers may have wound up with the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft in Kyle Kuzma, taking the three-year collegiate player with the 27th pick. Most questioned the move at time time, pointing to the Lakers’ logjam at power forward as reason for concern.
10 games into the regular season, and Kuzma is not only a starter on the Lakers, but is building a strong case for himself when it comes time to vote for the All-Rookie team. He’s averaging 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists while shooting 56.3 percent overall from the floor.
The Lakers have held a bit of a pattern over the years when it comes to draft night, not shying away from selecting more-seasoned collegiate players with their deeper picks. That’s led them to bringing in players like Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Hart.
“That definitely comes into play, because I think guys that go to good universities and stay for a couple years, are way more equipped to play the game of basketball. But that's just a small part of the decision making, and whether or not we draft that kid or not,” Walton said Monday after practice.
Kuzma agreed with the notion that staying in college for three years helped him grow as a basketball player, crediting his experience as a Ute for his understanding of defense at the next level.
“A lot of defensive things,” said of the most valuable thing he learned during his three-year college career. “I think I'm ahead of the curve defensively. A lot of things in college we did pretty similar to the NBA.
“The terminology, and I understand how to play defense, and I think that has helped me at this level so far. I'm always talking on the floor, and always trying to get guys in their spots, so being in college helped me build leadership skills along those lines.”
If it came down to it, though, Kuzma was honest that he’d have been a one-and-done talent if he had the chance. As a Freshman, however, he barely saw the court, averaging a paltry 8.1 minutes per game off the bench for Utah. Each year his role grew, as did his production on the court.
“I had to spend time in college because I wasn't really on draft boards and I didn't really have the attention of a lot of NBA teams until my Junior year. That was the main reason. If I had any type of attention my first year I would have been gone anyway,” Kuzma said.
Luckily for the Lakers, that wasn’t the case, and Kuzmania is running wild Los Angeles.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com