Lakers news: Larry Nance Jr’s injury is a blessing in disguise

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The latest Lakers news was the news nobody wants to hear — Lakers starting power forward Larry Nance Jr. will miss time with a hand injury. However, this injury may be a blessing in disguise for the Lakers.

Larry Nance Jr. missing 4-6 weeks with a fractured left hand was the biggest headline of the Lakers news following the team’s 113-110 loss against the Trailblazers. Nance was having the best year of his three-year career, and his first in the starting five. In 23.1 minutes played per game Nance was averaging 10.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.

This all was for a guy that seemingly did not belong in the Lakers’ starting five. Julius Randle had held down the spot for two years prior and looked to be the more talented of the duo.

However — as head coach Luke Walton kept putting it — this was not about who was more talented. It was about who played better with what unit. While the argument can be made that Randle is more talented, he meshed better with the second unit while Nance played better alongside Brook Lopez.

Thus, when Nance went down with the hand injury many could have assumed that Julius Randle would assume the starting duties. Randle was averaging just 18.8 minutes per game but was scoring 10.9 points and grabbing 5.4 rebounds per game. In fact, Randle is shooting a career-best 62.5% from the field.

But it wasn’t. Instead, the starting job was given to rookie sensation Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma has been the steal of the 2017 NBA Draft, selected 27th overall. The power forward had transitioned to small forward to keep a role on the bench playing behind Brandon Ingram. Los Angeles bought into the hype and finally started Kyle Kuzma.

It was the best decision they could have made.

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After Nance suffered the injury late in the third quarter Kuzma went off against the Trailblazers. Kuzma scored a career-high 22 points on 58.8% shooting while adding three rebounds and a block. Eleven of the 22 points came after Nance’s injury.

Then, in his first career start against the Brooklyn Nets, Kuzma continued to catch fire. The rookie forward shot 72.7% from the field in route to scoring 21 points with 13 rebounds. On the season, Kuzma is averaging 15.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. Ben Simmons and Lauri Markkanen are the only rookies that have scored more per game than Kuzma.

This is all coming out of a 27th overall pick, who finally gets his chance to start over a seventh overall pick after a second-round pick fractured his hand.

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This may be the biggest blessing in disguise the Lakers could have asked for this season. It is going to be near impossible to take that starting gig from Kuzma now.