Lakers need to be smart about how they handle the Kyle Kuzma situation

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Kyle Kuzma is giving the Lakers the problem that they weren’t expecting. How they handle it heading into the regular season matters more than you might think.

Bear with me on this, but the fact that Kyle Kuzma hasn’t been named a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers yet puzzles me. If we’re being realistic, the former Utah standout is the forward that Los Angeles could insert into the starting lineup to give them an extra spark.

Not only has Kuzma shown flashes of what he’s capable of in summer league, but he’s also made it known that regardless of what people say about him, that won’t change how he performs. If nothing else, Kuzma has shown that the patience with Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram is misplaced.

LA got the steal of the draft in Kuzma, as he was selected 27th overall, but that’s not the weirdest part. What is weird about it all is that none of this would have happened if the Lakers didn’t move on from D’Angelo Russell.

Obviously, Russell’s contributions and expectations varied from that of Randle, Ingram, or even Kuzma — but the underlying factors remain the same. Questions of whether or not this is the right time to doubt a player in the middle of growing their game are what the organization hasn’t exactly set a clear example of.

Russell was traded, in part, because he was not viewed or respected as a leader. While that may be true to an extent, to think that he wasn’t showing promise would be a foolish thing to believe.

However, the Lakers weren’t ready to wait for promise at the point guard position, so they let Russell go and instead got more of what they believed was a sure thing in Lonzo Ball.

So why have they been so hesitant to make those same bold decisions with Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle?

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Let’s look at some head-to-head comparisons and use numbers to justify what I am talking about. Starting with the comparison to Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma is already a more versatile scorer. While it is just the preseason, the fact that Kuzma is averaging seven more points that Ingram per game is a starting number.

Add to that the fact that Ingram doesn’t look like the kind of scorer we all thought he could be. And Magic Johnson now has a serious problem on his hands if Kuzma shows up Ingram when it comes to being the team’s scoring leader.

Kuzma wins the scoring per game battle based on 17.3 and 10.4 point averages, respectively.

From there we can take this a step further and say that the categories Ingram leads Kuzma over are by an insignificant amount. The second year forward out of Duke has the advantage in blocks, steals, assists, and rebounds.

However, the margins in points rebounds (0.4 difference), assists (0.2 difference), steals (0.1 difference), and blocks (0.2 difference) aren’t nearly enough to say that Ingram is definitively better than the rookie.

Now that those things are settled, let’s take on the comparison to Julius Randle. By the numbers, Randle is the better scorer so far when compared to Ingram, with an average output of 13.3 points per game. This still falls short of where Kyle Kuzma has exploded to, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a good forward tandem.

In fact, the argument I’m making here is that the issue is really with the Lakers’ inaction on Brandon Ingram, not so much that Julius Randle isn’t good at what he does. There’s going to be some room to compare and complain for any player on the Lakers roster, but what Randle has that others don’t is time.

He’s got a changed physique, had a crucial injury in his rookie season he had to recover from and get back up to speed, and now he’s got that chance this season. Ingram’s had no major injuries that have hindered his game, and the former Duke star was selected as one of the cornerstones of the franchise.

High expectations, sure, but once those are in place it’s hard to get those out of thought. The fact of the matter is that Ingram hasn’t delivered, and because they do have a valid option to replace him in the starting lineup, that may be what’s best moving forward.

In closing, the last argument that can be made about Kyle Kuzma is what we are able to see without words, numbers, or anything like that. Instead, we can already see that the chemistry between Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma is real.

Next: 5 Things To Expect In Lakers' Season Opener

If the Lakers have the best interests of Lonzo Ball in mind, on top of everything else when it comes to statistical analysis, it’s an easy decision. But knowing the Lakers, this will be turned into something long-winded and not all that it really needs to be.