He’s the chemistry piece they’ve needed
If leadership is Magic Johnson’s top priority when it comes to who he is going to entrust the future of the Lakers to, being able to build off of instant chemistry should be second on his priority list. While Ball has a little ways to go before he’s all there as a leader — talking of course about his demeanor as well — Kuzma is all there when it comes to making chemistry happen.
It’s what the Lakers didn’t seem to have with D’Angelo Russell running the show, and it might just be what saves Lonzo Ball’s career. The glimpse of what Kuzma and Ball can do when they’re on the same page was shown in small flashes over the summer, and the hope is that those kind of things can continue in the long-term.
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Without Kuzma, Ball wouldn’t have another rookie on his team capable of playing at his level, if not better than him. Kuzma is clearly the better scorer right now, but both rookies have found different ways to continue to help each other out.
Los Angeles just doesn’t feel like a complete team if Kuzma isn’t in the picture, and that’s not something that most, if any, fans would’ve been telling you on draft night. In order for Luke Walton’s coaching strategy to work out, Kuzma’s ability to maintain chemistry is a must.
That goes for when he spent time in the starting lineup when Larry Nance Jr. had to miss time due to injury just as much as when he’s playing off the bench. What’s impressive above all else is that he’s just fine with being the dark horse candidate in the rookie of the year discussion.
He doesn’t mind that nobody had been talking about him with all sorts of hype all summer — he just wants the respect he deserves in this moment.