The play of rookie forward Kyle Kuzma has easily been the most positive development to come from the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1-4 preseason stint so far.
Kuzma has scored 96 total points, the most of any player to play five preseason games so far. His 19.2 points per game average ranks him seventh in the entire NBA in preseason scoring, with only Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Paul George and James Harden ahead of him.
That’s MVP-candidate-type company, and the rest of the NBA is less than pleased that Kuzma fell all the way to the end of the first round, and presumably even less happy he ended up in Los Angeles via Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer:
“We’re kicking ourselves,” a front-office executive told me. “We hoped he’d fall farther to us. He’s a complete player.”
Kuzma has been more than just “a complete player” so far, he’s been a complete offense unto himself. Not surprisingly given the company mentioned above, Kuzma also ranks first in the NBA in points off the bench.
Perhaps most impressively Kuzma has done all this not by volume-gunning, but instead by remaining efficient, as Kuzma’s 65.1 percent true-shooting percentage ranks first on the team among players to play more than 10 minutes in all of the Lakers’ preseason games.
Rookies just don’t do things so early in the preseason, especially not ones that fall almost all the way out of the first round. Instead of fighting for minutes in a crowded frontcourt, Kuzma looks like he could start soon. The Lakers appear to have stolen another late gem after finding diamonds amongst the coal several times over the last few seasons, and Kuzma might be the shiniest yet.
Rival general managers kicking themselves for not finding Kuzma in that context isn’t surprising. What would be surprising would be if they weren’t and if they weren’t starting to question how the Lakers’ scouting staff keeps so thoroughly trouncing their own.