A mystery absence from USA Basketball’s exhibition showdown against Australia, many fans were wondering if Kyle Kuzma was perhaps the final roster cut to trim USA Basketball’s roster down to the final 12 players.
While it turns out that Kuzma is still on the roster, it seems he’s battling a minor injury which held him out of the second showdown with Australia.
Kyle Kuzma Injury Update: Lakers’ Forward Held Out of USA vs Australia Exhibition
While it seems that Kuzma’s ankle injury isn’t anything too serious, the fact that the Lakers have already lost DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending injury gives fans a right to be scared. Kuzma dealt with ankle and foot injuries last season. While thankfully Kuzma’s ankle problems last year were on the other side of the body, Laker fans still might be more prone to potentially shutting down Kuzma’s USA Basketball experiment.
Despite the risk of injury, Kuzma has already seemed to pick up quite a bit playing alongside a number of elite players and under the tutelage of legendary coach Gregg Popovich. Most notably, Kuzma has tweaked his shot form – yielding some strong results so far – while looking to be an entirely different player on the defensive end. Against Australia, a team loaded with savvy NBA role players, Kuzma shined in shutting down the screen and role.
Kyle Kuzma’s Projected Role for the 2019-2020 Season
With LeBron James and Anthony Davis manning the two forward spots, it seems most likely that the Lakers intend to use Kuzma in a versatile sixth man role. Kuzma is an effective scorer at the rim and looks to be flashing an improved three-point shot while being capable of playing either forward spot – or even center in a pinch.
While not necessarily a starter, Kuzma should still be in line to see the same number of minutes (roughly 30ish) per game that he has seen in his first two seasons. He showed a strong chemistry with LeBron and it makes sense for head coach Frank Vogel to potentially try and keep one of James and Davis on the court at all times, allowing Kuzma to get plenty of run with James. While his fit with Davis may take a bit of time to work out, the fact remains that Kuzma is one of the Lakers most important weapons and should be relied on for heavy minutes and likely to help close out games.
If Kuzma is able to translate what looks to be some solid improvement so far in international play (and his sore ankle ends up being nothing more than a sore ankle), don’t be surprised to see Kuzma finally break the 20 point per game threshold while turning into at the very least a league-average defender. For what it might be worth, USA Basketball teammate Donovan Mitchell has said Kuzma is a “defensive player” now so it might be possible to see him take an even bigger step than expected on that side of the ball.