Why the Lakers shouldn’t trust Kyle Kuzma’s rookie season

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Kyle Kuzma has proven he’s more than just Summer Leauge hype — but how realistic are his numbers from year one in the NBA?

One of the biggest things that the Lakers need to have moving forward is production from Kyle Kuzma beyond his rookie season. It’s been wonderful to know that their trading of D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn has turned into the kind of first year in the pros that it has been for Kuzma, but there’s still some question marks with his game when thinking of long-term.

The former Utah Ute averages 30 minutes per game with 15 points per game on average to go with six boards a night as well. While he had forced himself into the conversation earlier in the season as a potential rookie of the year candidate, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a two way race between Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons with Lonzo Ball as a good pick to be a dark horse to win that award.

That doesn’t discount anything that Kuzma brings to the table, though.

There are two things that should give fans something to worry about moving forward, though — how much his greatness depends on Lonzo Ball and how much his playing time or spot in the starting lineup or second unit really matters.

Hannah Kulik of Lakers Nation explored the situation with Kuzma, showing how he’s given us good and the bad, but leaves us hoping we won’t have to deal with the ugly.

Per Kulik:

"Kuzma has not been bad, he has just looked like what he is — the 27th pick in the draft — not the top three rookie he resembled before. Whether it is coincidence or not, the decline began in early January when Kuzma was inexplicably relegated to the second unit."

Perhaps it’s merely a matter of him still trying to find out how he can most effective on the Lakers’ roster. By next season, it’s going to be an interesting development as to what the Lakers have to do regarding their starting spot at power forward.

It doesn’t seem any more cleared up now than it did last summer, or even to begin the season, and it’s having an effect on the team there, even if the issues seem minor for the moment.

The bottom line with Kyle Kuzma is that it’s going to take more time than we want it to in order to truly determine if he’s living up to what we expect of him.

If you were to take apart the two biggest things that will determine how the rest of his career out, it’d go something like this. Let’s take the first point of needing Lonzo Ball to be in the lineup with him and to be playing well in order for his game to flourish — what happens if Ball has a sophomore season with low numbers or, even worse, suffers a major injury?

Does that mean that there’s just no chance to really know what the Lakers are going to get from Kuzma in the long term? Possibly, but they knew that when they drafted him.


Second, the Lakers can’t afford to have an excuse for their starting lineup next season. The expectation is that there will be a superstar or two somewhere in the mix, but if they want the best out of Kuzma and really think he’s all that, they’ll find a way to keep him in the starting five.

The source of the problem with this point really lies in how he handles being part of the second unit. For the same reason, Julius Randle really wasn’t all of the player that he knew he could be for Los Angeles.

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Let’s hope they don’t want that same kind of weird situation with Kyle Kuzma down the road, because how they choose to handle it now changes all of that.