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The Lakers think Kyle Kuzma can play small forward

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The front office sees a lot of versatility in their young forward.

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Kuzma was almost unquestionably the breakout star for the Los Angeles Lakers at NBA Summer League. Tournament MVP Lonzo Ball was phenomenal in Las Vegas as well, but big things were expected from him. No one really knew what to make of Kuzma as the team headed out to the desert.

That uncertainty made what the Lakers got even more impressive. Kuzma was an unstoppable beast in summer league, beating bigs down the floor tirelessly in transition or using the threat of his shooting to take them off the dribble. The reason that shot was enough of a threat for the fakes to work was Kuzma shooting an insanely lethal 48 percent from behind the arc.

Between his hot shooting and quick feet on the perimeter allowing him to defend laterally, some noise was starting to build about Kuzma getting minutes at small forward during the upcoming season despite most assuming he was just a power forward when he was taken 27th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.

During an interview with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Lakers Director of Scouting and Assistant General Manager Jesse Buss revealed he’s among those that think Kuzma can play both positions:

We’ve had our eye on him because he’s multi-positional at the four and the three at that size (6’9’’). He has an ability to pass, shoot the ball, run the floor … good athlete, good understanding of the game. He was always intriguing to us. He just started to shoot the three this past year at Utah, and he didn’t shoot it that well at the beginning of the season. But as the season went on and in conference play he started to get more confidence with (the three).

He told us as much during his interview with us in Chicago. Throughout the whole process of the combine, he was on fire. He almost hit every shot in the one day he scrimmaged at the 5-on-5 portion.

Kuzma continued to spew flames in Las Vegas, and while nearly 50 percent shooting probably isn’t sustainable unless the whole league basically missed on a 6’9 Klay Thompson, it still stands to reason Kuzma will probably continue to be a decent shooter at the NBA level. If that holds true, then he might not cramp the Lakers’ spacing to an unsustainable level while playing on the wing, and might even eventually learn to bully smaller players.

The potential issues lie on the other end, where despite Kuzma’s success guarding smaller players on switches a few times during summer league, he’ll have to prove he won’t be a total liability against NBA wings.

Could he do it? It’s possible, but those assets are all arguably better served at the four anyway, so unless the Lakers absolutely need Kuzma to play the three to deal with their current frontcourt logjam, it’s still probably not his most effective position moving forward. He might be able to play the three, but to best take advantage of his size and skillset it’s probably best he doesn’t do so too much.

Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to us talk about our expectations for Kuzma and the rest of the team’s fantasy value below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.