It’s mostly been overshadowed by the miraculous rise of Talen Horton-Tucker and the integration process of the team’s new additions, but Kyle Kuzma has had an exemplary preseason for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Don’t believe me? Kuzma has averaged 22 points through three games for the team, shooting 46.7% from the field and 47.6% from 3-point range while flashing better playmaking instincts and awareness of where he’s supposed to be on offense than just about any point in the last year and a half. Perhaps most promisingly for how the team sees him, he was chosen to start — seemingly in the place of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was resting — when the team went with the group that might be their normal starters on Wednesday night. The Lakers won, and Kuzma led the team down the stretch to finish with 23 points.
All of that information might suggest that Kuzma feels more solidified than he ever has since the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis and became a real title contender (and winner) last season. But that is evidently not the case, as when Kuzma was asked if he had “a sense” for what his role could be on the Lakers this year, his answer was simple.
“I have no idea. We’ll see,” Kuzma said.
For full context, here is video of the exchange:
Kuzma does not exactly appear hyped about the uncertainty in that clip, but to be fair, he may just be tired of questions like that, which he’s faced to various degrees ever since LeBron James joined the Lakers two seasons ago. His role has always been in flux, and he’s had varying amounts of success amidst such nebulousness.
Kuzma has certainly developed into a better player over that time. His scoring may have dropped to career lows during the regular season last year, but he became a player more helpful to the Lakers actually winning games with his improvement on defense and complete buy-in on that end of the floor. He’s not a First-Team All-Defense candidate by any means, but he has shifted from an actively bad defender to one who can be a plus on certain nights and against specific matchups, and in conjunction with his willingness as a cutter, it’s made him a better player for a winning team.
It’s also worth noting that when Kuzma says he has “no idea” about his role, he may be restricting that comment to starting on coming off the bench, or how many minutes he’ll get, because it certainly sounds like Frank Vogel gave him some instructions for the offseason, and how he sees Kuzma’s role developing this year when he is on the court.
Kyle Kuzma said Frank Vogel told him in his exit meeting that he wants him to shoot off-the-move more often, so Kuzma said he spent the short offseason just shooting a lot of 3-pointers.— Christian Rivas (@RadRivas) December 17, 2020
Will those adjustments and the progress he’s made be enough to get Kuzma the “sizable” extension he’s reportedly seeking, or help him have the breakout season everyone around the Lakers has been hoping for from him? We’ll find out about the former on Dec. 21 — the extension deadline — and won’t know about the latter until the season progresses. For Kuzma’s sake, at least the season is set to start next week on Dec. 22 either way. At the bare minimum, even if he isn’t in a new tax bracket, he’ll have a better sense of his role by then.