Who is Kyle Kuzma?
If you are a Lakers fan or active NBA fan who loves to stay up with the game, you are probably wondering who is Kyle Kuzma and where did he come from. Today, most people know that he is a talented forward for the Lakers with just as much hype as fellow rookie PG Lonzo Ball, but was this Lakers draft time magic or another fallen star player due to too much critique during scouting?
Kyle Kuzma was born July 24, 1995 in Flint, Michigan a place many people know today to have unfit living conditions and drinking water, as well as a town of poverty and unemployment. The need to escape these conditions pushed Kuzma to use basketball, as a way to get out and continue to get better at his craft. As a 6’6 175lb junior, Kuzma averaged 17.9pts, 14.4rebs, 3.8 assists, and 3.4 blocks at Bentley High School just outside of Flint, Michigan in Burton, Michigan. After sending out his highlight tapes, a coach in Philadelphia, Vin Sparacio, liked what he saw giving him a chance to play for Rise Academy; Kuzma was very talented, but still raw. His mother didn’t want him to go so far away, but both parent and son knew it was all part of the process. As a senior, he averaged 22pts and 7rebs for Rise Academy, as the 25th ranked PF and a four-star recruit nationally at 6’8; he decided to forgo his last year of eligibility which was granted when he decided to re-class by going to prep school at Rise Academy. Despite offers from bigger schools, Kuzma chose to go to the University of Utah, which was his 1st major offer and a school who always kept in contact with him through both the head coach and assistant coach; he just wanted to play in a big conference and the school showed genuine interest.
At the University of Utah, after redshirting his freshman season, Kuzma didn’t play on the floor much in his 2nd season either only averaging 3.3 pts and 1.8rebs in 31 games at about 8 minutes per game, while struggling with his shot. In his 3rd season, Kuzma started 35/36 games averaging 10.8 pts, 5.7rebs, and 1.4assists, with improvement all-around the board, but still a very inconsistent shot, while averaging 24.1 minutes. In his Junior (RS) season which turned out to be his last, Kuzma showed off his all-around play averaging 16.4 pts, 9.3rebs, and 2.4 assists while averaging almost 31 mpg. At this time, all his numbers were up again and he was a very good rebounder who could pass the ball well for a forward, but his outside shooting still needed to improve. He had already graduated with a degree in Sociology and decided to declare for the NBA Draft. The draft scouts liked the potential that they saw in him, but he was never considered a star playing at Utah, and teams felt that he was a player best fit for PF, but lacking the weight at 223 to continue to rebound inside and defend other big men. They felt that his outside shooting liability wouldn’t make him the best fit for SF, as well as, his shot selection and lapses on defense. Teams saw Kyle Kuzma as a 2nd round pick to undrafted, if he couldn’t continue to develop and cover these flaws. However, on NBA Draft Night June 22, 2017, Kyle Kuzma was selected #27th overall by the Nets to be acquired by the Lakers via a trade of PG D’Angelo Russell and C Timofey Mozgov for C Brook Lopez and the #27th overall pick. At this time, no one knew who Kuzma was or even cared that this pick was part of the trade, as the draft was thought to be more top heavy with talent. Lakers fans were just excited to finally ship off Russell and bring in Ball, while adding Lopez was icing on the cake and of course blindly the Nets give away another 1st round pick.
Once Kyle Kuzma joined the Lakers, the rest has been a blessing in disguise, as Kuzma may be more valuable to the team than Lonzo Ball at this point and may be even more well-liked by the fan base (Mostly due to LaVar Ball). The duo of Ball and Kuzma led the Lakers to a Summer League Championship, after an early injury to SF Brandon Ingram, who the Lakers kept out as a precaution. At this time, new GM Magic Johnson knew that he had went from a good draft to a great draft, as he found a new gem in Kyle Kuzma who could light up a stat sheet and play well with new PG of the future Lonzo Ball. With the logjam of minutes, at forward with Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance, Julius Randle, Luol Deng, and Corey Brewer already in place, there was no place for Kuzma, but with the team young and in transition Magic and Coach Luke Walton found minutes behind Ingram and Nance. Kuzma took advantage of the situation showing a knack for providing instant offense, hustle plays, great rebounding, and a knack for making good passes. The Lakers fans quickly had a love for Kuzma and now know the future looks bright with Ball, Kuzma, and Ingram, while the team plays with great chemistry; which is a big difference than the losing seasons.
Kyle Kuzma put the world on notice of who he was with a big game versus James Harden and the Rockets on 12/20/2017 in a big win 122-117, as he scored 38pts, 7rebs, and 4 assists while shooting 70% from the floor and free throw line. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 17.5ppg, 6.5rebs, 1,7assists in 32mpg, while shooting 47% from the floor and 39% from deep. He is only getting started and he should only get better, as he already ranked #1 or #2 as the NBA’s possible Rookie of the Year with SF Ben Simmons, from the 76ers. It will be interesting to see how Kuzma’s game evolves from this point and the Lakers new trifecta of Ball, Kuzma, and Ingram, as they try to bring Lakers’ basketball back to winning, but they have already brought back the excitement with this core; built around draft pick, Kyle Kuzma.