Kyle Kuzma made his return for the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday after sitting out the last two games with a back contusion, and while he had a hard time getting his shots to fall, scoring just 13 points on 20 attempts, he was still an impactful player.
In 37 minutes against the Dallas Mavericks, Kuzma posted an offensive rating of 103.8, which was notably higher than Lonzo Ball, who finished the game with 21 points on an efficient 53.3 percent shooting from the field. Overall, Kuzma had a net rating of +10.
“Everybody knows that I’m a threat offensively,” Kuzma said.
“Whether I’m missing or making shots, you have to respect me being out on the floor, and Brandon [Ingram] had a great game, Zo [Lonzo Ball] and Josh too.”
Luckily, there have been very few nights Kuzma hasn’t been effective on the offensive end this season.
Through 39 games this year, Kuzma has the highest offensive rating (108.2) of anyone on the team that has appeared in more 10 games. Remove that qualifier and rookie Johnathan Williams has the highest offensive rating on the team, if you can believe that.
He’s also emerged as the Lakers’ best bet outside of LeBron James in the fourth quarter. Not only is he averaging 3.6 points per game in the fourth quarter, which is only second to James, he’s also posting the highest net rating (-0.4) of any Laker in fourth quarters this season.
His confidence in himself to make the right plays with the game on the line, whether it’s shooting the ball or kicking it out, is what has separated him from the rest of the young core all season. Kuzma is a lot of things, but timid and afraid isn’t one of them.
Whether the Lakers are with or without some of their key players, Kuzma can always be counted on to breathe a little life into the Lakers’ offense. And to shock of no one who has watched his confidently meteoric rise over the last year, he knows it.