Kyle Kuzma showed that he had the potential to be a three-level scorer in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He had little trouble with knocking down his 3-point attempts at an efficient rate, he had an array of moves he could go to when creating his own shot off-the-dribble and he knew how to move well off of the ball.
Now in his third season, Kuzma isn’t the focal point on offense that he used to be. Some of that has to do with the fact that he isn’t hitting shots, but it mostly has to do with the fact that he’s teammates with two of the best forwards in the NBA, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Kuzma struggled to figure out his role alongside James and Davis in the regular season, particularly on offense. And while there are definitely still times where he looks lost on that end, he’s looked more comfortable as of late, and his offensive resurgence can be largely attributed to his willingness to play almost exclusively off of the ball.
Playing off of the ball is something Kuzma’s always been capable of doing, but it’s a skillset that’s been of particular importance to the Lakers against the Rockets, who have had a hard time slowing down the Lakers’ forwards when they’ve caught a head of steam going to the basket.
Kuzma was able to exploit the Rockets’ weakness on defense in Game 3 on Tuesday, when he scored 71.4% of his points off of assists. Kuzma ended the game with 14 points, including 12 in the restricted area.
“That’s just my game,” Kuzma said after the game. “Ever since I came in the league I’ve been really good at moving without the ball. I’m kinda like the Energizer Bunny. I just try to play as hard as I can, move around and get guys open. By me moving, it allows other guys to get open threes, open shots and I’m just trying to do that at the right time.”
Kuzma took a minor step back in Game 4, scoring just 4 points on 2-6 shooting from the field, but the habits he’s forming are more important than the numbers he’s putting up. Plus, the Lakers got the win.
If Kuzma continues to make himself available for baskets by cutting and diving to the basket, the points will come naturally. And if there’s a night where Kuzma feels like he can help the team by beating his defender off-the-dribble, he’s shown that he’s capable of doing that too.
Kuzma’s goal going into the season was to become a more well-rounded player, and to his credit, he’s put in the work to do that. Now, all the Lakers can do is hope that he can put it together when when they need him to.
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