We’re now 23 games into the NBA season and no one player on the Los Angeles Lakers has emerged as the clear-cut No. 2 option to LeBron James. However, there have been a handful of occasions this season that Kyle Kuzma, in spite of all of his flaws, has looked like the closest thing to it.
The two-man lineup of Kuzma and James has played 600 minutes together, more than any two-man lineup on the team. In those 600 minutes, they’ve posted an offensive rating of 105.9 and an overall net rating of +1.7.
That’s not the most successful two-man lineup on the team. It’s not even the most successful two-man lineup of the young core, but their chemistry on the court has been undeniable, and that might be because their relationship started before this season even began.
“During last season, probably midseason, after we played Cleveland, I just tried to figure out what he does with his body,” Kuzma said. “How he takes care of it. Everybody knows me, I’m just really inquisitive. I ask questions and he just really helped me out.”
James said that Kuzma was one of the first people to reach out to him when he agreed to sign with the Lakers this summer, Since then, their relationship has only grown stronger and it’s translated to success on the court.
“Our relationship on the floor is getting better and better, and if he moves, I’m gonna find him. I’m always looking for him and he knows that,” James said.
Just how often is James looking for Kuzma on the court? Here’s this from Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation:
Found this interesting- Here's how many passes per game LeBron James throws to various teammates and how many assists he collects from those passes:— Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane) December 4, 2018
Kuzma has had success scoring next to James, and has gotten better looks playing alongside him, but James believes Kuzma can be much more that just a scorer.
“I think he’s not allowing anybody to put a cap on him and just say he’s a scorer,” James said. “I think he wants to be more than that, and he’s been continuing to get better and better. Not only offensively but defensively as well.”
“He’s just playing all-around solid basketball. His ability to make plays, his ability to rebound as of late,” James continued. “We know how well he can score, but he wants to make more of an impact for not only him individually but for this team. He’s playing great ball.”
Kuzma might not have the highest ceiling of the Lakers’ young core, nor is it likely he will emerge as the Robin to James’ Batman, but he’s adjusted to playing next to James well and has a starting job because of it.
If he can continue to play basketball at a high level, he’ll be one James’ favorite teammates for a while.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.