FV Preview: Could Kyle Kuzma become the steal of the draft?
When you take a look at Kyle Kuzma’s career before the NBA, none of the signs pointed towards stardom. In his final year and best statistical outing in college, he posted a 50-32-66 shooting split, not the kind of numbers you write home to mom about.
After an average junior season at Utah, he declared for the draft and was justifiably taken No.27 overall by the Brooklyn Nets. Within minutes of being drafted, Kuzma was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers with Brook Lopez in a deal that sent Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell packing.
Now, following a stellar Summer League showing that carried over to preseason basketball, front offices are wondering where they went wrong scouting the 6-foot 9-inch forward.
He didn’t run faster, jump higher, out reach or even out shoot his draft class by any significant measures. So why is he outright balling all over his NBA opposition night in and night out?
Some people would point out that Summer League and preseason competition isn’t as strong as the real deal the rook will face in the regular season. While they’re mostly right, you can’t discount what Kuzma has done with his court time.
Through 12 combined Summer League and preseason games, LA’s rookie forward has scored 20.7 points a night on 53.4 percent shooting in just 30.2 minutes a game. What’s more impressive is that he doesn’t pass with flying colors on his great numbers alone, he also passes the eye test with his advanced game and intangibles.
Saying Kuzma’s been on a role is an understatement. The point forward has thoroughly torn apart and outsmarted his competition with savvy handles, stunning shooting efficiency and veteran scoring moves like the one highlighted above.
Rookies picked this late in the first round aren’t supposed to play with this much poise. He’s committed few turnovers and shown he can drop buckets in a hurry with or without the ball in his hands.
Quite honestly, he’s looked like everything and more that the Lakers were promised when they drafted Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick in last year’s draft. In a disappointing turn of events, Ingram struggled mightily in his freshman campaign and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team despite playing in a weak draft class.
Kyle Kuzma isn’t just the breakout star of the preseason and steal of the 2017 draft, he’s a legitimate starter in this league and a realistic dark horse candidate to run away with Rookie of the Year. It may be premature, but we’ve yet to see the best from Kyle Kuzma.