At this point, it isn’t even up for debate. The Los Angeles Lakers got the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft when they selected Kyle Kuzma with the 27th pick. Kuzma has lit up the league with his all-around game and creative, slithery scoring.
On Friday night against the Golden State Warriors, Kuzma once again impressed, putting up 27 points, 14 rebounds, two steals and one block in a whopping 43 minutes of playing time. It was the latest in a string of impressive performances against the best the NBA has to offer.
While it’s Brandon Ingram who has often been compared to Kevin Durant, and gone toe-to-toe with the reigning Finals MVP in two games, it was Kuzma’s turn to step into the spotlight.
During his postgame interview with ESPN, Durant said he viewed Kuzma and teammate Jordan Bell as talents that would be a lottery picks in a re-draft:
“I like both of those young guys. Kuzma should’ve been a lottery pick. J.B., I think should’ve been a lottery pick. Those guys are playing great basketball. Kuz is a problem. I like him.”
Durant is certainly correct in his thinking, based on his play so far Kuzma should have easily been a lottery pick. He has left many general managers kicking themselves for passing on him.
Even with impressive talents in this draft like Jayson Tatum, Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, and more, a case could be made for Kuzma even deserving to be selected in the top five. For the Lakers, striking gold with Kuzma is a massive shot in the arm for their rebuilding efforts.
Not only is he locked up long-term with the team, but because they were able to get him with the 27th pick, his salary, and more importantly, cap hit, is ridiculously low.
Kuzma is such a bargain that he helps to somewhat make up for the massive contract given out to Luol Deng, who has played in just one game this season for a total of 13 minutes despite being one of the highest-paid players on the team.
For a Lakers team in desperate need of talent in order to turn their fortunes around, Kuzma has been everything they could have hoped for and more.
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