While the Los Angeles Lakers have held top picks in each of the last four drafts, their selections in the late-first round and second round have netted positive results. Kyle Kuzma, selected 27th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, is the latest example.
He shined in Las Vegas Summer League, earning MVP honors in the championship game, and he carried that success into preseason play and now the regular season. Kuzma, more so than fellow rookie Lonzo Ball, has been the Lakers’ standout player thus far.
Following in the footsteps of Brandon Ingram and other young Lakers in recent years, Kuzma took advantage of a rich franchise history by meeting with Kobe Bryant. The five-time champion treated Kuzma to dinner, ordering the ‘big dog steak,’ the wide-eyed 22-year-old later explained.
In a preview of an interview that will air in its entirety on Thursday, Bryant touched on what characteristics set Kuzma apart, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“A lot of GMs are kicking themselves over that one. He’s extremely articulate and very inquisitive. I think that’s always the best trait to have, is curiosity. Because you want to know why things work. You want to know why things happen and how things happen. When you have that kind of curiosity, you’re constantly seeking for ways to improve mentally, physically. That’s the thing that jumped out at me the most.”
Bryant joins L.A. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, Lakers head coach Luke Walton and teammates as those to rave about Kuzma. He leads the team with 16.8 points per game and is third with 6.5 rebounds.
Kuzma became the first rookie in NBA history with at least 330 points, 120 rebounds and 30 made 3-pointers in the first 20 games of his career. His 334 points through 20 games trailed only Elgin Baylor (505 points), Magic Johnson (379) James Edwards (351) for most by a Lakers rookie.
Great as Kuzma has been on offense, Walton recently challenged his rookie to bring the same effort and mentality on defense, to which Kuzma responded positively to.
As the Lakers continue to work on restoring the franchise to the lore Bryant once had it at, it’s evident Kuzma projects to play a significant part in accomplishing that.
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