Los Angeles Lakers Enigmatic Rookie, Kyle Kuzma— October 19th 2017
While the spotlight in L.A. has clearly been on Lonzo Ball there is another Lakers rookie creating his own buzz.
By: Eric Brown
The year is 2017.
Lonzo Ball, the hometown hero, the messiah, the bringer of the next championship ring for the Los Angeles Lakers has just been drafted 2nd overall. Before the draft, the Lakers made a move to get rid of Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in the draft.
Lopez, is the clear prize of the draft for the Lakers. The team is looking to get past the darkest times the organization has ever seen, Brook Lopez is supposed to do that.
The Dark Horse:
What if I were to tell you that, the player who was drafted 25 spots behind Lonzo Ball would be a dark horse candidate for rookie of the year, would you believe me? After all, Lonzo has been groomed to play for the Los Angeles Lakers since he has been able to walk and throw a basketball. His father, Lavar stated many times during his time at UCLA, and even before that, that his son would someday play for the hometown NBA team.
After drafting Lonzo with the 2nd pick, the team had to be happy. They got the player they wanted, the player got the team he wanted. Everybody was happy. Cue the Lonzo Ball Rookie of the Year preseason award. Only, so far, things have not turned out to be that way.
In drafting Kyle Kuzma, who many teams now say they regret letting fall to the Lakers, the team had drafted the best available player on their board. Little did they know, their late pick would be better than their top pick.
In the summer league contests, Lonzo Ball won the Summer League MVP, but he did not play in the championship game. In that game, Kuzma dropped 30 points and 10 rebounds, winning the Finals MVP.
After the Summer League, Kyle Kuzma made it clear that he was on a mission to prove everybody wrong who passed him on during the 2017 NBA Draft. He was now the darling of the draft, ahead of stars such as teammate Lonzo Ball, the speed freak De’Aaron Fox, and foreign wonder Frank Ntilikina. Everybody’s eyes were on what he would do next. As the summer went along, Kuzma worked on his game. His footwork, his shot, his defensive ability.
The Future of Kuz Control:
After working all summer long on these skills, it was time to show the rest of the NBA just how good he was. The NBA preseason was just around the corner, he would finally get his chance against legitimate NBA talent. Out of the 6 preseason games the Los Angeles Lakers played, Kyle Kuzma was the leading scorer for the Lakers in 4 of them, consistently showing opposing forwards the footwork the Lakers had long coveted. He also showed of a 3 point shot, that, up until his final season with the Utah Utes, he did not have.
Nobody is calling Kuzma a sharpshooter, as his college 3 point percentage was just above 32%. During the preseason, he would shoot only 25% from the three. Outside of the awful shooting from deep, the percentages jumped to over 50% from the field. Time and time again, he would shake the defenders with spin moves that havent been since the days of Hakeem Olajuwon.
For Kyle Kuzma to have a legit shot at winning the Rookie of the Year award, a few things must happen. Julius Randle is currently the starter at the Power Forward position for the Lakers, but his style of play is not what suits the Lakers best. To be able to succeed, Randle needs the ball in his hands, that will happen less with Lonzo Ball on the roster this season.
The Lakers are looking towards the future, part of that future must be to trade Luol Deng, in order to get rid of Deng, Julius Randle could be thrown in to any package deal. Trading both of these players would open up playing time for Kuz Control to take over. The majority of Rookie of the Year awards are given to players who exceed what is expected of them on a winning team. For Kyle Kuzma to win the award he will likely need to average 15 points a game, with 5 rebounds on a 35 win team.