Magic Johnson’s tenure as president of basketball operations was ... interesting. On one hand, he oversaw a franchise that signed LeBron James, drafted Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, failed to trade for Anthony Davis, and missed the playoffs.
Now, Ball and Hart (and Brandon Ingram) are in New Orleans and it isn’t by by Johnson’s bidding. The Lakers are 3-1 and could tie last season’s longest winning streak (four games) by winning in Dallas on Friday.
Because people simply cannot bare the idea of not putting microphones in front of Johnson despite him never really saying anything interesting (unless it’s to throw his entire former organization under the bus), he was asked about the return of one of the former young core he played a central role in putting together. Johnson says Kuzma will have a major impact (via Undisputed):
“I think that Kyle Kuzma is going to take a lot of pressure off of both of them (LeBron and AD). See, you need the other scorer in there, and a guy who can stretch the floor as well. Kyle Kuzma can do that. Listen, we saw him rookie season, the next season, Kyle has taken steps...
I’ve seen him working in the gym... I’m talking about a gym rat, a guy who gets there earlier than anybody. 6:00 in the morning, 7:00. Shooting, shooting, shooting. Anybody would love to play with Kyle Kuzma because he is a guy that loves the lights... He embraces that.”
What we could take from this is that Magic has probably bumped into Kuzma more as an analyst on Fox than he did at the practice facility while employed by the Lakers. Really makes you think.
Snide about Johnson aside, Kuzma will help. In theory anyway, Kuzma can space the floor from either wing spot, can operate as a secondary creator, is very good operating off the ball, and at least kind of cares on defense. That kind of player is exactly who you should have multiple iterations of in the NBA in 2019 and is sorely needed on the roster as currently constituted.
Kuzma returning might also mean fewer minutes for JaVale McGee, as Dwight Howard has been easily the better true center on the roster and Kuzma would be playing some power forward. Seeing as you don’t want to take minutes away from Anthony Davis, that likely means one of either McGee or Howard will see a minutes reduction — and the player more deserving of demotion is pretty easily McGee.
Kuzma might also take minutes from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has drawn the ire of fans basically since the season started for his struggles in not-garbage-time situations.
So you combine the skillset Kuzma offers and the minutes he’d be taking from players who have struggled this season and the path to which he helps the Lakers is pretty clear.