clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kyle Kuzma says LeBron James has helped him develop

New, comments

Kyle Kuzma is playing a lot better when he shares the floor with LeBron James, a positive development for the Lakers.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

For much of the offseason after LeBron James made his decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers, a great deal of the discussion about the team centered on how James’ presence would help and/or mesh with young players like Kyle Kuzma.

Kuzma told Drew Ruiz of Slam that things have been going “great” on that front so far, and that it’s been surreal to work and try to fit in on the court with James:

SLAM: You and LeBron have developed an on-court chemistry this season. What’s that been like?

KK: It’s been great. He’s a pass-first guy, a facilitator and I have a scoring mentality, so it kind of works hand-in-hand learning from him every single day. Being around him and him helping me has been great for my development.

SLAM: You were eight years old when LeBron made his NBA debut and now you’re on the same team. Did it ever hit you early on this year that you guys were actually teammates?

KK: Yeah, I think the first time we worked out in the facility. Just knowing that he was my teammate and being on the same court as him. After that day, I got used to it but it was unbelievable.

Kuzma is generally not the type to willingly admit he’s starstruck, so even acknowledging that being in James’ presence “was unbelievable” at any point would seem to be meaningful.

He’s also right about starting to hit his stride with James. Per-36 minutes, Kuzma is scoring more points, more efficiently while sharing the floor with James, according to NBA.com.

Courtesy of NBA.com

Kuzma with James on Kuzma with James off
Kuzma with James on Kuzma with James off
22.6 points 13.8 points
9 FGM 6 FGM
17.9 FGA 6.1 FGA
50.6 FG% 37.1 FG%
31.7 3-pt% 16.7 3-pt%

So as you can see, Kuzma’s numbers are significantly better when he’s sharing the floor with James than when he hasn’t, which is probably why Lakers head coach Luke Walton has played Kuzma for 334 minutes alongside James and only 78 minutes with James off. The Lakers are also 2.8 points per 100 possessions better when Kuzma plays with James than they are when he plays without James (-0.5 net rating vs. -3.3).

But while Kuzma’s net rating is in the negative with or without James, it’s still a positive sign for his future with the Lakers that he’s fit so much better with James than he has without. When he hits the floor with James, Kuzma often looks more free to focus on moving away from the ball, hitting shots off the catch and attacking as a secondary threat, versus when he plays without James, when he seems to feel more pressure to create his own shot (something he’s less well-suited for than playing as a complementary attacker).

So while Kuzma will have to continue to improve so that his pairing with James becomes a net positive for the Lakers, he’s on the right track so far, and it’s a good thing he feels that James is helping him grow as a player as well.

All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.