This season should be interesting for Kyle Kuzma. After an underwhelming 2019-20 campaign, most people have tempered their expectations for the 25-year-old forward. In fact, expectations haven’t been this low for Kuzma since the Lakers drafted him with the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
But Kuzma also has an opportunity to carve out a bigger role with the Lakers’ revamped roster or, at the very least, a role that’s more meaningful than the one he had last season. If Kuzma wasn’t sure how to do that before, he’s in luck.
After practice on Saturday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, outlined the areas he’d like to see Kuzma improve in this season, essentially giving him a guide to more court time.
“We want him to continue to improve his perimeter shooting, to be that type of quick catch and shoot guy at his size really provides a great offensive dynamic for us,” Vogel said. “Obviously the decision making as he attacks the paint is something he’ll continue to grow with, and then defensively I loved the effort that he played with last year, and how he got better with understanding coverages and angles and all those types of things, so we want him to continue to grow there as well.”
Kuzma looked rusty in the Lakers’ preseason opener on Friday, but he looked more like the player Vogel has in mind on Sunday. In 39:41 against the Clippers on Sunday, Kuzma scored 25 points on 8-14 shooting from the field and 4-7 shooting from behind the arc. His 25 points were only second to Talen Horton-Tucker, who stole the show by scoring 33 points.
Kuzma doesn’t need to average 25 points per game to be effective, especially with two Sixth Man of the Year candidates on this year’s roster, but it would benefit him greatly if he rediscovered his 3-point stroke from his rookie season. During his rookie season, Kuzma shot 36.6% from 3-point range. Since then, he’s only converted 30.8% of his 3-point attempts.
If Kuzma can knock down his 3-pointers at a respectable rate and build on the growth he showed on the defensive end of the floor last season, he’ll set himself up for more playing time under Vogel this season, and a nice pay day in 2021, when he’ll have the opportunity to enter restricted free agency. If he won’t take my word for it, maybe he’ll take his head coach’s.