Nothing about the journey Kyle Kuzma has taken to the Los Angeles Lakers is normal. Players taken with one of the final selections in the first round of the NBA Draft just don’t come in and score as smoothly as Kuzma did, or make success look so effortless.
Kuzma did all that and more as he wowed to the tune of 16.1 points per game on 45 percent shooting and an effective field goal percentage of 52.7 percent, averages that earned him a spot on the 2018 NBA All-Rookie first team.
That’s already the type of success not sniffed by most players taken with the No. 27 overall pick in the draft, but Kuzma isn’t content. He told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that he’s not just focused on being a solid contributor to the Lakers’ success. He wants to show he’s the type of player that can drive it:
“The goal should be the team, because if the team wins everyone wins and looks good. But you don’t want to be playing (10 minutes a game). I want to be a great player. I want to be a Mount Rushmore player. You can’t do that just by totally buying in; you have to buy in, but it’s just a grey area. You have to still do your thing. You can’t just stand in the corner.
Kuzma did a lot more than just stand in the corner last season, often being asked to create offense as a spark off the bench for the Lakers, and later as a fulcrum of their attack when the team was beset by injuries. He was even elite at doing so, scoring 1.123 points per play in isolation, which ranks in the 92nd Percentile of the entire league, according to Synergy.
That type of scoring allowed Kuzma to do a passable impersonation of a star at times while very transparently doing his best to play up his inner mamba, but Kuzma wants to do a lot more than show flashes of stardom. He wants the real thing, with Trudell reporting that Kuzma wants to be the Most Valuable player in the league at some point.
Ultimately, he wants to be the MVP of the league. That’s his stated goal.
It remains to be seen if Kuzma can go from a great rookie season to getting on track to be an all-time great, but he’s at least putting in the work necessary to get there.
Shortly after Trudell’s article with Kuzma’s comments dropped, Lakers assistant coach Miles Simon — who worked with Kuzma a ton last season — praised the work Kuzma has put in over the summer to transform his body and improve his game.
Great article. @kylekuzma works as hard as anyone I’ve been around. His dedication this offseason has been tremendous to see https://t.co/LDELtXCvjN— Miles Simon (@milessimon) September 13, 2018
Kuzma hasn’t been given a reason to doubt himself yet, and that lack of doubt seems to have fueled his rise, but he still has a long way to go to reach the heights he’s hoping to hit. However, as long as Kuzma continues trying to pursue wins and his own individual greatness simultaneously, there is no reason for him to stop, or for the Lakers to try and stop him.
Plus, given just how promising of a start Kuzma is off to, and when he’s shattered through every single ceiling people have tried to put on his basketball career so far, why shouldn’t he believe he can ascend to higher heights than most think possible? He hasn’t been given any reason to doubt himself yet, so why not shoot for the stars? Or more accurately in this case, attempt to shoot his way to stardom?
There are worse goals for a young Laker to have, and even if Kuzma can’t quite reach MVP heights, just in trying he might squeeze every drop of potential out of himself. Isn’t that always the goal anyway?
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.