After a surprisingly productive rookie season, Kyle Kuzma is the starting power forward for the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers. However, the season didn’t start off that way for the 23-year-old.
Kuzma was slated to come off of the bench this season but a combination of player suspensions, underperforming players and his offensive output led to him earning the starting gig. In an appearance on Spectrum SportsNet’s “Connected With ...” Kuzma told Allie Clifton that he’s elated to be starting:
“It was pretty cool… This year to be elected as a starter, even after the suspensions, it was a testament to my hard work, and I was very happy about it.”
While some would argue that Kuzma’s best role is as a spark plug off of the bench, Kuzma feels he proved that he was surefire NBA starter in his rookie season with the Lakers:
“Yeah, for sure. 100 percent. I think I proved that last year, coming out of the woodwork and surprising people, and my production this year kind of speaks about it too."
Offensively, there’s little doubt that Kuzma is a starter. Even though his 3-point accuracy is down from last season, Kuzma’s still averaging a respectable 16.7 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the field. Defensively is where things get murky for Kuz.
According to ESPN, Kuzma has the second-worst Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) among power forwards. Overall, he’s ranked No. 390 out of 434 eligible players. DRPM isn’t the only way to measure defensive impact, but the eye test supports the conclusion that Kuz has been that bad on defense.
If Kuzma likes his starting job, he’s going to have to show considerable improvement as a defender sooner rather than later. Not only will that ensure that he keeps his spot as a Lakers starter, but it will improve his overall value as a player whether he’s in Los Angeles, Portland or New Orleans.
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