Almost immediately after being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the No. 27 overall pick in 2017, Kyle Kuzma began his rapid ascent to NBA stardom.
The Lakers have had luck finding productive players late in the draft over the past few years, but none that came in and made an immediate impact the way Kuzma did. His strong play earned him a spot in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend and a spot on the All-Rookie First Team.
For most people, Kuzma’s breakout rookie season came as a surprise, but Tyson Chandler told Kevin Ding of Lakers.com that, in hindsight, he should have seen it coming from miles away:
“I should’ve known, because when we worked out, he did nothing but ask questions the whole time,” Chandler said. “And not even just about my workouts, but about the vitamins I take, my regimen, everything. He wanted to know everything.”
“I should’ve known that he would end up being a good player. I don’t know if I could’ve predicted what he’s becoming, but I love it, because he’s an incredible dude. He’s what you would want on your team.”
Now 36 games into his rookie season, Kuzma has shown that his rookie season wasn’t just a fluke.
This season with the Lakers, Kuzma is averaging 18.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. December has been an especially fruitful month for the 23-year-old, as he’s averaging 22.5 points — second to only LeBron James — 6.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists while posting a box plus-minus of +3.1.
It might be too soon to declare Kuzma a star, but his work ethic and his polished game certainly resembles that of a star. With LeBron James expected to be sidelined for a few more games, they’re going to need him to keep playing like one.