In their final tune-up game before trimming the roster down to 12 and heading to the FIBA World Cup, USA Basketball pulled out a 90-81 win over the talented Spanish squad. Making his case to be among the final 12 was Lakers’ third-year forward Kyle Kuzma. While not putting up eye-popping stats in any one area, Kuzma put together a very solid all-around game and was a crucial part of the Lakers’ late run to help seal the game.
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Kyle Kuzma Makes Case for USA Basketball Roster Spot In Game Against Spain
Finishing the game with 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in roughly 17 minutes, Kuzma got significantly more runtime compared to the Blue vs White scrimmage and made the most of it by putting up some quality minutes on both sides of the ball. Kuzma has shown himself to be more than a willing passer so far and with players dropping from the roster like flies, it seems likely that Kuzma has cemented himself a position on the team.
With the recent news that both De’Aaron Fox and PJ Tucker have stepped down from the team, there now are 13 players vying for 12 roster spots – helping to make coach Gregg Popovich’s job a bit easier. Given Kuzma’s strong production today as well as his versatility in playing both forward spots, he looks to be in a strong position to make the final 12 man roster that will be playing in the FIBA World Cup in China.
After a number of high profile All-Stars dropped before roster invites were sent out, a number of other high-level players who did come to camp have left in order to avoid injury. While lacking the overall star power that we’ve become accustomed to in recent years, USA Basketball still has what looks to be the strongest roster (by far) top to bottom in the FIBA World Cup.
Kyle Kuzma Willing to Help Fill Void Left by DeMarcus Cousins
While Kuzma played some minutes at center last season, the experiment didn’t go as planned and Kuzma quickly moved back to only seeing minutes at the forward spot. However, with another year of added muscle and an extensive focus on the defensive side of the basketball, Kuzma might prove to be a useful small-ball center in small doses. While he doesn’t have the body to play consistent minutes, he is an excellent shooter and passer who can create some major mismatches on the offensive side of the ball.
Kuzma told Lakers.com how he was more than willing to step in and help fill some of the minutes left behind by Cousins. The Lakers seem adamant on finding a back up big man to help keep Davis (and to a lesser extent Kuzma) at the forward position so while it is unlikely we see Kuzma play heavy minutes at the center this year, at least the Lakers know they can fall back on it in the absolute worst-case scenario.