The Los Angeles Lakers just may have gotten the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft when they selected Kyle Kuzma with the 27th overall pick. He was overlooked coming out of Utah, and has done nothing but exceed expectations from the moment he first put on a Lakers jersey last summer.
Kuzma laeds the Lakers in scoring while providing invaluable floor spacing thanks to his ability to shoot the ball from behind the arc. Perhaps more importantly, he has ignited a fan base that thought they would certainly be going bonkers over Lonzo Ball at this point instead of raining down cheers of ‘Kuuuuuuuuzzzzz’ from the Staples Center rafters.
Kuzma’s play has earned him attention and praise from those outside the Lakers organization, with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers the latest to join the chorus.
Rivers mentioned Kuzma as a potential front-runner in the Rookie of the Year race this season, via Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times:
“He’s been terrific,” Rivers said. “Right now he may the leader for rookie of the year, or one of them. At least he should be in the running.”
Kuzma’s primary competition for the award figured to come from Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, though Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz also shouldn’t be overlooked.
Simmons was removed from a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night due to a sprained right ankle. Meanwhile, Kuzma contributed 15 points against the Clippers, on an efficient 5-for-7 shooting, including 3-of-5 from behind the line.
In Kuzma the Lakers have found the kind of versatile forward that the entire league is pining for right now. He can step out and shoot from the perimeter, battle in the paint, create for others, and switch seamlessly on defense.
Furthermore, Kuzma putting the team first and accepting whatever role the Lakers outline for him, which appears to be again coming off the bench now that Larry Nance Jr. has returned from a broken hand.
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