As is the case with most teams who have an All-Star duo, it is oftentimes the third player who is the difference in them potentially winning a championship.
Though Kuzma missed the first few games of the 2019-20 NBA season, he is beginning to get in a rhythm for the Lakers in his sixth man role. Before a quick exit against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he scored in double-figures in each of his five games averaging 18.0 points and 4.8 rebounds while knocking down 46.8 percent of his three-pointers.
The Lakers as a whole are figuring things out and Love has taken notice. He recently spoke with Arash Markazi of Los Angeles Times about the importance of Kuzma and how good James and the Lakers have looked so far:
“They’re meshing in a real good way, and Kyle Kuzma is figuring out his role now too,” Love said. “Once he gets up to speed and other guys get up to speed, they’re really going to be rolling and they’re already clicking as it is with LeBron and [Anthony Davis]. Dwight [Howard] has really played well too. They’re a fun team to watch. Any team with LeBron is going to be a fun team to watch, but he’s leading them and he has been super efficient. There are nights where he’s going to have 30, 15 and 15 and then there’s nights where he’s going to play at his own pace and not put up those numbers, but he’s just so efficient. It doesn’t look like he’s lost a step as he gets older in this league. He continues to get smarter and find ways to make everything work.”
James has been outstanding so far and looks to be right in the heart of the early-season MVP discussion, but the team’s success could very well hinge on Kuzma playing at a high level. Love has experience in that third role with James and spoke on the most important aspect of thriving in that spot:
“The key with being that third guy is taking advantage of the opportunity,” Love said. “When you’re the third guy, you know you’re going to sacrifice. When I got to Cleveland I joined two ball-dominant guys, so I had to find where I fit. I had to master my role on the team and know that I had to do other things that didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
Knowing one’s role and thriving in it is very important and each of those third options had different roles in their championship runs alongside James. Bosh and Love were very different players who brought different things to the table and the same goes for Kuzma.
Head coach Frank Vogel has done a great job with putting all of the role players in great positions to succeed and doing the same for Kuzma. The third-year forward taking advantage of these situations could lead to the ultimate success for the Lakers.