New Lakers head coach Frank Vogel seems to be a big fan of Kyle Kuzma. Heading into his third year with the Lakers, Kuzma quickly emerged as the steal of the 2017 draft before upping his scoring numbers to nearly 20 points per game in just his second season. As the only remaining member of the Lakers once promising young core that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, Kuzma now faces the challenge of learning an entirely new system with a number of new faces.
Despite the challenges that Kuzma faces, Vogel clearly values him highly as an important young piece for the Lakers.
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Lakers’ Coach Frank Vogel Showers Kyle Kuzma With Praise
Vogel took to the booth during the Lakers’ Summer League game against the Knicks and praised Kuzma’s offensive ability and desire to improve. Arguably the biggest knock on Kuzma has been his struggles on the defensive end – something that Vogel seems to think isn’t all that much of an issue. Given Kuzma’s desire to improve – specifically on defense – and the fact he is entering his third year in the league, he could be in line for a major step forward.
Often times players improve dramatically in their third season and despite coming into the league slightly older than most other breakout prospects, hasn’t shown any signs of plateauing yet. On a team featuring LeBron James and strong passing big men like DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, Kuzma should find his three-point percentage trend back up and could find himself cracking 20 points per game as a versatile scoring weapon the Lakers can utilize in either forward spot.
Kyle Kuzma’s Role Within the New Lakers Lineup
While Vogel said that lineups haven’t been decided upon at this time, given their roster makeup a move to sixth man might make the most sense for Kuzma moving forward. With Anthony Davis set to hold down the power forward alongside LeBron James at small forward, Kuzma could be used to help fill in to keep one of the two on the court at all times. Kuzma showed he can play extremely well alongside LeBron James last season and at least on paper seems to be a strong fit next to Davis.
If the Lakers do wind up actually moving LeBron James to the true point guard position, they could run out a lineup featuring Kuzma, James, and Davis. Assuming the Lakers keep a true center (Cousins/McGee) out alongside Davis, either Kuzma or James would be stuck chasing around speedy guards on the perimeter – which could cause a problem for this potential lineup. LeBron carries too heavy of an offensive workload to be running through and around screens all night and Kuzma simply isn’t fast enough to routinely cover backcourt players. While the lineup makes sense from an offensive perspective, it could cause some issues defensively.