With LeBron James, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram sidelined, the Lakers were missing three of their top-five playmakers. Rajon Rondo is ranked second on the team with an average of 7.7 assists per game and Kyle Kuzma is distant fifth, averaging just 2.6 assists per game.
Despite this, it was Kuzma that led the way for the Lakers in the assists column, dishing out a career-high 10 assists while turning the ball over just once.
This season, Kuzma has had 11 games with at least five assists compared to just three last season. His improvement as a playmaker has been evident and it earned him praise from head coach Luke Walton following the game (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“I’ve seen a growth since he’s been here. He goes in and out of it a bit, but I think tonight was his best playmaking game by far," Walton said. "When he plays like that to me, that’s when he’s at his best.
"He’s showed that he’s a skilled passer," Walton continued. "The more he can mix the two styles of play, the better he’ll be and the better we’ll be.”
Kuzma has already established himself as a go-to scorer in his young career — as evidenced by the 18.6 points per game he’s averaging this season — but in order for him to cement his “starter” status in the NBA, he needs to have more than one dimension to his game.
With the remaining games on the Lakers' schedule, he said he’s hoping to develop that secondary skill.
“I’m just trying to use these next 14, 15 games, whatever we have, to continue to develop. I know I can score, but the past two or three games I’ve just really been trying to find guys and be a complete player.”
Kuzma made a conscious effort to improve on the defensive end this summer and while his effort has improved, he’s no better than he was last year. In fact, he’s actually worse.
With that in mind, Kuzma’s best chance at maximizing his value is by becoming a reliable playmaker. If he can build on what he’s shown in the second half of the season, he’s going to be a nightmare to guard going forward.