Kyle Kuzma could have hardly had a worse end to the season than he did.
In six games with the Los Angeles Lakers in the postseason, Kuzma averaged just 6.3 points per game on 29.2% shooting from the field and 17.4% shooting from behind the arc. Obviously that was never going to be enough from him, but it especially wasn’t enough with Anthony Davis sidelined.
Kuzma wishes he could have given the Lakers more when it mattered the most, and that things would have ended differently for hi and his teammates, but he’s looking forward to taking the things he learned this past season and applying them to his offseason plans.
“Obviously I can’t speak for everyone but, you know, it was a tough series particularly for me, shooting the ball, after having probably a career year shooting the three this year for me,” Kuzma said during his exit interview earlier this month. “You know, it’s just tough, ending the season that way after putting in a lot of work and being confident in that but, you know, it’s always beauty in the struggle and ugliness in success.
“So, I am just really excited to attack this summer and continue to get better. It’s just unfortunate, maybe if we hit a few shots and we don’t have injuries, we’re not having this conversation right. But that’s the name of the game and that’s what life dictated for us.”
Kuzma has already said he plans on putting an emphasis on adding a handle to his game in the offseason to expand his once-heralded offensive arsenal, but above all else, he wants to find ways to better in his role, which he finally feels he has a grasp on after playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis for two years.
“I’ve been here the longest,” Kuzma said. “I’ve been through a bunch of different eras here: a rebuilding stage, LeBron’s first years here and figuring out how to win championships, and then this year. So, I’ve seen a lot, been through a lot, wore a lot of different hats during my tenure here, and I’m excited to see what the future brings for us this offseason.
“Only speaking for myself, I think this year I made incredible strides becoming a winning player, making the right play, being a real, valuable asset on the defensive end and I’ve got a lot of growth in me. I can’t wait to get there.”
Kuzma’s production in the playoffs undoubtedly left a bad taste in the mouths of Lakers fans, but we’d be remiss to let those six games discount what he showed over the course of the regular season. He consistently played decent defense, especially when it came to work on the glass, and shot a respectable 36.1% from 3-point range on 5.6 attempts per game, the latter of which equals the amount of 3-pointers per game he took during his rookie season.
If he can use the offseason to add an elite skill to his growing list of complementary skills, then he’ll be even more valuable than he was this past season, which, again, was pretty valuable in spite of what he showed in the final few games of the season.
If he comes back from the summer looking like the same player he was this past season, that would be fine, but it would make it easier to include him in a trade for a starting-caliber player, which they reportedly contemplated doing at the trade deadline this year.
It should go without saying, but this summer is going to be big for Kuzma.