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Frank Vogel wants to push Kyle Kuzma to be a better defender and ‘couldn’t be more impressed with’ him so far

Kyle Kuzma has made a good impression on his new Lakers head coach, but Frank Vogel wants to keep pushing him.

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2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 2 Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images

With Anthony Davis and LeBron James on the roster, the floor for the Los Angeles Lakers is as high as it’s been in years. However, their ceiling is dependent on the development of a few key members of their supporting cast, particularly Kyle Kuzma.

Kuzma is coming off of a successful sophomore season with the Lakers, where he averaged a career-high 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. On most nights, he was their second-best option on offense.

On defense, he once again left a lot to be desired, though, despite making a conscious effort to improve on that end during the offseason. In fact, the numbers suggest he digressed on the defensive end last season.

From his rookie season to his sophomore season, Kuzma went from posting a defensive rating of 107.5 to 109.7. His defensive box plus-minus (DBPM) also fell from -1 to -1.3.

Suffice to say, Kuzma could use a bounce-back season on the defensive end and during Anthony Davis’ introductory press conference on Sunday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said he’s going to push Kuzma to be a better defender this season.

“Kuz I couldn’t be more impressed with, in all aspects. Everything he’s able to do on the basketball court, I’m going to push him to really reach his potential on the defensive end. We know he can fill it up and score in every way imaginable, and he’s shown to me very early on that he’s very, very coachable,” Vogel said.

“His attitude is a ten out of ten, he’s a team-first guy, and he’s going to be a major factor for us and going to play a major role for us.”

That might just sound like the right thing for Vogel to say about Kuzma, and it very well could be, but there’s reason to believe Vogel can actually make Kuzma a serviceable defender.

Vogel is just a few years removed from coaching an elite defensive team in the Indiana Pacers, and during his time as their head coach, he got the most out of every player on the roster defensively. For example, Lance Stephenson posted a positive DBPM in three out of the four years he was Indiana. Since then, he’s been unable to make a positive impact on that end.

Kuzma might not have the physical gifts that allowed Stephenson to be a pest on the defensive end, but he has the work ethic to make his coach and fans hopeful that he can at least get better.

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