Kyle Kuzma didn’t have the most efficient night from the field against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. In the 22:23 he logged for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, Kuzma made just three of his 10 field goal attempts. He ended the game with 11 points, but his offensive rating (83.0) was the second-worst offensive rating on the team behind Wesley Matthews’ (73.3).
Despite Kuzma’s cold shooting night, he was still impactful for the Lakers, particularly on the defensive glass, where he grabbed 10 defensive rebounds. Kuzma also grabbed three offensive rebounds, which gave him a season-high 13 rebounds. His career-high is 15 rebounds.
The box score may show that Kuzma was a net negative for the Lakers on Friday, but Frank Vogel saw a lot of positives from his young forward.
“I would say Kyle Kuzma’s contributions tonight were just as critical,” Vogel said after the Lakers’ win. “His crashing the boards, his ability to make the extra pass. He’s drawing a lot of hot closeouts, and he’s using that to get in the lane and enhance our ball movement. He played a really strong basketball game tonight.”
It’s worth nothing that even after Friday’s game, Kuzma is posting the highest effective field goal percentage of his career (53.0%) because of how efficient he’s been from behind the arc. In fact, on Friday, all three of Kuzma’s field goals came from behind the 3-point line. For the season, he’s shooting 40% from 3-point territory while attempting 4.6 3-pointers per game.
As fun as Kuzma can be when he’s hitting shots from everywhere on the floor, the Lakers don’t need him to be that player on most nights. What they do need is someone that can knock down 3-pointers at an efficient clip and defend multiple positions.
While he still has room to grow in both areas, the growth he’s shown to date has done a lot to inspire confidence in his development as a 3-and-D player. He deserves credit for that, and it’s clear his head coach doesn’t mind being the one to give it to him.