Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma was ranked No. 71 heading into the 2018-19 NBA season, according to ESPN’s NBArank top-100.
From unknown to the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft, the former No. 27 pick exceeded expectations at every level, beginning at the Las Vegas Summer League.
After earning Summer League championship game MVP, Kuzma garnered a spot in head coach Luke Walton’s rotation in what was originally a crowded frontcourt of Brook Lopez, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle.
Appearing in 77 games and making 37 starts, Kuzma averaged 16.1 points (45.0 percent shooting from the field and 36.6 percent shooting from the three-point line), 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists en route to 2018 NBA All-Rookie First Team honors.
Heading into Kuzma’s second season with the Lakers, he is looking to take the next step in his development. As all eyes will be on the team, and the sophomore forward has improved his guard skills and physique during the offseason. In addition, Kuzma worked out with Kobe Bryant and is already learning from LeBron James and Rajon Rondo.
While Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka signed numerous forwards, Kuzma is still expected to play major minutes. The likelihood is he will be a formidable threat off the bench.
With teams embracing small-ball more than ever, Kuzma will likely serve as the Lakers’ power forward or perhaps even center alongside James and Brandon Ingram.
Although Kuzma was snubbed from similar lists produced by Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated, it is another opportunity for him to prove doubters wrong.