In his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kyle Kuzma was a pleasant surprise. However, the former No. 27 overall pick has put in the work this offseason to make sure he’s not just one a hit wonder.
Offensively, Kuzma was about as good as any rookie can be, but defensively, he left a lot to be desired, even with the growth he showed in the last few games of the regular season. This summer, Kuzma has taken steps toward becoming more reliable on that end, which includes getting stronger.
In an interview with Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet, the 23-year-old explained how his work in the weight room will make him a better player this year.
“I think the biggest thing I worked on is my body. I just tried to really be in the weight room and take that contact that I didn’t last year. A lot of times I would go to the rim or play post D and kind of get shoved and pushed around and I’d fall in the ground, so for me it was a lot about getting that strength, that lower body core.”
Apparently, the results are already showing, as general manager Rob Pelinka praised Kuzma, along with Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, for the way they committed to transforming their bodies this summer. In their first two seasons with the organization, Pelinka and team president Magic Johnson have put an emphasis on wanting the Lakers to be in perfect shape.
Last season, Julius Randle took that to hear transformed his body in the offseason. As a result, he had a career year with the Lakers, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
Could the same thing happen with Kuzma this year? It’s possible but strength alone isn’t enough to become an elite defender and Kuzma realizes that.
Kuzma told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that he’s been watching film to improve on both ends, sometimes with Rajon Rondo, who Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton have praised for his ability to study the game.
“When you look at guys like Rajon Rondo, he’s a basketball savant. All the players in the league know that. He was on our court a day ago and I was watching from my office. He was working on one play for two hours. That’s that Kobe-level of detail at breaking down plays,” Pelinka said.
“Rondo is a natural leader, the way he communicates. He pulled Kuzma up to the film room and just the two of them, with our film guy, were watching defensive clips on Kuz already in the offseason,” Walton added.
Will we being seeing Kuzma’s name on All-Defensive team this year? Probably not, but if he can play respectable defense and improve on his already impressive offensive skillset, it’s going to be really difficult for Walton to take a newer, stronger Kuzma off the floor.