Going into next season, third-year forward Kyle Kuzma is projected to have a big role with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, at this point it’s unclear whether or not that role will be with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the starting five or as a sixth man off the bench. Whatever the case may be, Kuzma sounds like he’s ready to contribute.
During a recent interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, the 24-year-old said that he wouldn’t mind coming off the bench next season because his mindset will stay the same:
“Bench, whatever, I’m still going to get my game off regardless,” Kuzma told The Athletic. “My past two years, I’ve come off the bench every single year. I just proved myself and made it known that I’m a player. A coach’s job is always to put the best players on the court, and that’s what I’ve showed the past two years.
“I’ve started the year coming off the bench, and just prove myself. I’m always going to find my way no matter who’s on the court. I think every time I step on the court, I’m one of the better players on the floor. For me that’s always been my mentality. I’m never worried about things that I can’t control.
“My mindset develops every single day being around guys, having a relationship with LeBron. That gives me more confidence, the wisdom that he gives. Being around Magic Johnson and Kobe. Everybody. It grows and grows, matures and creates that mindset that defines you.”
Last season, Kuzma came off of the bench for the first two games but after an 0-2 start for the Lakers, Kuzma was moved to the first unit. The next game, Los Angeles lost but Kuzma poured on 37 points on 15-25 shooting from the field. In the two previous games, he scored a combined 26 points.
So, while Kuzma might say he doesn’t care about whether or not he starts, it clearly means something for him to be part of that starting five and his comments about wanting to prove himself to start the season reflect that. The question is: Where does he help the Lakers the most?
It’s debatable, but given the shortage of players on the Lakers’ bench that can initiate their own offense on a consistent basis, Kuzma might be more helpful off the bench. That doesn’t mean he won’t play starters minutes and close games, but it does mean that he’ll have to get comfortable in his new role to start games.
It might not be the way Kuzma wants his third season in Los Angeles to play out, but it arguably puts the Lakers in the best position to win.