While the entire world focused on Lonzo Ball's shoes, another Lakers rookie nearly stole the show. Kyle Kuzma, the 21-year-old University of Utah forward, was taken by Los Angeles with the 27th pick in the draft, which they acquired from the Nets in ...and more »
While the entire world focused on Lonzo Ball’s shoes, another Lakers rookie nearly stole the show.
Kyle Kuzma, the 21-year-old University of Utah forward, was taken by Los Angeles with the 27th pick in the draft, which they acquired from the Nets in the Brook Lopez trade. In the summer league final on Monday night — with Ball, the league MVP, watching from the seats due to a calf injury — Kuzma scored 30 points with 10 rebounds, shooting 6-of-10 from 3 and leading the Lakers to a Las Vegas crown.
Kuzma made a living in summer league getting out ahead in transition and guarding multiple positions (in addition to shooting surprisingly well from 3). He’s been on the receiving end of Ball’s dazzling outlet passes while spending time at both power forward and center, guarding players of both positions successfully.
And though he shot only 32.1 percent from 3 at Utah last season, that number has rocketed up to 48.0 percent this summer. It may be unsustainable, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.
“I wouldn’t say prove that I belong on this team but that I belong on this level,” Kuzma told SB Nation. “I’ve been doubted my entire life. So for me to come out here, I wanted to prove that I was worth that 27th pick. I think I’ve showed that.”
He wouldn’t be the first Lakers success story to go late in the first round. Larry Nance Jr. has emerged as a possible starting power forward this season after being picked in the same draft slot as Kuzma, 27, in 2015. Though the front office is entirely different after February’s overhaul brought in Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka as decision-makers, it doesn’t look as if the team’s ability to find players late in the draft has changed. The previous brass also found Jordan Clarkson in the 2014 second round.
As for Kuzma, the front office has nothing but praise.
“He is a positionless basketball player who plays with great energy and great confidence, and you can see that here during the summer league,” Pelinka told SB Nation. “He’s just a tremendous talent. We’re so proud of our scouting department for doing a great job of evaluating him.”
The Lakers sound excited, as they should be for someone who can manage to very briefly overshadow Lonzo Ball.
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