Kyle Kuzma scored the most points he’s scored all season against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, dropping 26 to help the Lakers grab a resilient 129-114 win. Perhaps not coincidentally, he also played his most minutes of the season (34) in that game.
After the victory, Kuzma told Allie Clifton of Spectrum SportsNet during his walk-off interview that those two things aren’t necessarily a coincidence while discussing the key to his big performance:
“Every time I get big minutes, I produce the best I can. I’m a rhythm player and when I get a chance to keep that rhythm, my game shows,” Kuzma said.
That’s big talk from a player that the Lakers have been better with off the floor than on this year, but when looking at Kuzma’s box scores from this season, it’s clear he’s also (mostly) right. The majority of his highest-scoring games have correlated with him getting more minutes, with a few exceptions. And his declaration couldn’t come at a better time, because boy is Kuzma about to either get exactly what he wanted, or a reminder to be careful what you wish for.
As put well by friend of the site Daman Rangoola, the Lakers apparently traveled to Oklahoma City in the Oregon Trail Wagon, because LeBron James and Danny Green are set to miss the team’s game against the Thunder on Saturday night, while Anthony Davis and Avery Bradley also might sit out. If there was ever a night specifically designed for Kuzma to get as many minutes as he could handle, it would look a lot like this one.
If Davis does indeed sit, Kuzma will likely get heaps of playing time at both forward spots, and could even play a bit of center as he did in brief stints last night when JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard were dealing with foul trouble.
The opportunity to show out couldn’t come at a better time for Kuzma, who needs to overcome rampant trade rumors about whether the team will deal him and show he has earned a spot in the Lakers’ future. While a few big games might raise his value around the league, it would also presumably make the Lakers a bit more cautious about dealing their most notable young prospect.
Kuzma is about to get the minutes he says he’s craving. With an opportunity to be fully featured as the likely centerpiece of the Lakers’ attack tonight, the time is now to show out, or possibly find himself on his way out. Contenders don’t have time to wait, and a showcase that he’s ready to reach closer to what this team needs him to be long-term could go a long way towards ensuring Kuzma remains a Laker for years to come.