(Erica Rodriguez/Los Angeles Lakers)
2019 Player Capsule: Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma sought to disprove those who said his rookie year was a fluke, and he did just that.
The 23-year-old averaged 18.7 points — second-best on the team, behind only LeBron James — which was up 2.6 from the previous season (and on a slightly better percentage).
While 3-point shooting was a struggle for Kuzma, he was excellent inside the arc, with significant improvement finishing at the rim and hitting from mid-range.
Third among sophomores in scoring — trailing Donovan Mitchell and John Collins — Kuzma thrived in the Lakers’ fast-paced style and took advantage of his mobility in half-court matchups against often-slower power forwards.
The 6-foot-9, 220-pounder began the season playing plenty of small-ball center, which yielded largely negative results as opponents feasted in the paint.
But after signing Tyson Chandler to protect the rim, the Lakers shifted Kuzma’s defensive responsibilities to covering wing players, and he was much more successful when tasked with chasing shooters around screens.
By the Numbers
3: Quarters needed for Kuzma to drop a career-high 41 points against Detroit on Jan. 9. He electrified his hometown team, shooting 16-of-24 from the field and 5-of-10 on triples.
35: Points scored en route to winning Rising Stars MVP. Kuzma had plenty of highlight moments, including a breakaway windmill that fired up the Charlotte crowd.
120: Baskets from Kuzma that were assisted by LeBron. They found particular chemistry, as the Lakers outscored their opponents by 109 points with the duo on the floor together — the best mark by any L.A. pair.
Break out the windmill!! pic.twitter.com/RkPjhWPfZU— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 16, 2019
Never one lacking for confidence, Kuzma has repeatedly stated that his goal for next season is an All-Star selection.
He already knows that the key to reaching such lofty status will be refining his approach from downtown, vowing that he will be a “totally different shooter” next year.
Kuzma made just 30.3 percent of his 3-pointers — down from 36.6 the previous season — and said that the key will be maintaining a consistent base and balance, plus simplifying his mental process.
“I know I’m a way better shooter than what I shot this year,” Kuzma said at his end of season interview. “It all goes back to trusting what you do every single day, [including] the form that you shoot. For me I kinda overanalyzed my jump shot this year. Thought about it way too much.
“[In] my rookie year I was able just to let it fly and not really think about nothing. I stayed with about the same form and consistency. … Shooting’s more about your mental.”
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