I keep in mind Kyle Kuzma’s rookie season. The Nets’ twenty seventh choose of the 2017 NBA Draft (he was then dealt to the Lakers within the D’Angelo Russel commerce) burst onto the scene averaging over 16 factors per sport with 45/37/71 splits. Whereas he wasn’t being put in the identical class as different rookies that 12 months like Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, or the ‘sort-of-rookie’ Ben Simmons, Kuzma was being considered as an enormous piece within the Lakers’ future.
Kuzma backed up his stable rookie season with one other respectable efficiency in 2018-19. Whereas Kuzma’s 3-point capturing took a step again, he nonetheless improved in factors per sport, field-goal proportion, and free-throw proportion all whereas taking part in simply two extra minutes per sport. Since then although, Kuzma has seen a little bit of a decline in each degree of play and recognition amongst Lakers followers.
Kuzma has fallen to date out of the town’s good graces that followers are actually calling for him to be shipped out of city whereas he nonetheless has some commerce worth. Effectively, these followers may be getting their want sooner somewhat than later.
However how did it get up to now? How did Kuzma go from “He’ll be a pivotal a part of the workforce transferring ahead” to “Ship him away ASAP?” How may somebody fall to date so rapidly? Effectively, except for having poor third and fourth years within the league, Kuzma’s efficiency within the postseason hasn’t been what Lakers’ followers had been hoping for.
Undoubtedly, the time of 12 months that determines the narratives surrounding gamers is the playoffs. As nice as James Harden and Russell Westbrook are, their legacies have been outlined by a slew of normal season accomplishments solely to disappoint come the postseason. As poorly acquired as Kevin Durant’s transfer to Golden State was 5 years in the past, two Finals MVPs later and abruptly the narrative surrounding KD modified from somebody who chokes within the vibrant lights of the postseason to one of many biggest pure scorers of all-time.
Kuzma’s legacy underwent an identical transformation throughout his first postseason with the Lakers in 2020. Although the Lakers would go on to win the title, Kuzma performed so inconsistently that a number of Lakers followers didn’t wish to see Kuzma get a hoop in any respect.
That petition has over 18,000 Lakers followers who had been so upset with Kuzma’s play that they couldn’t even get pleasure from how nicely their workforce was doing. Kuzma began off these playoffs with a foul miss towards the Blazers. With 11 seconds left within the sport and the Lakers needing a bucket to maintain the sport shut, the inbound cross got here in and Kuzma missed the basket fully, hitting the left facet of the backboard. It’s moments like that that make legacies. Kuzma hasn’t had many different moments like that, however inconsistent play coupled with an notorious miss results in poor headlines.
To not point out, due to the hype Kuzma acquired after his rookie season, the narrative round him has fallen even additional as he’s didn’t repeat his early-career success. Can Kuzma return to his 2017-2018 kind? In all probability. He must develop his mid-range sport, his finest ability presently, and by doing so he’ll possible assist his three-point capturing as nicely. He additionally must develop his physique. Kuzma got here into the league with underwhelming athleticism and energy, and in contrast to his opponents, Kuzma has but to realize the dimensions essential to proceed taking part in at a excessive degree. Go search for footage of Kuzma now and examine them to his rookie 12 months. The man has modified his hair greater than his physique. That has led many Lakers followers to query his work ethic as nicely.
Kuzma went from a hype machine with a promising future, to a burden on the franchise — a participant that the workforce gained despite. The Lakers have already prolonged Kuzma with a three-year, $39 million contract beginning subsequent season. That extension coupled with the truth that Kuzma simply put up the worst season of his profession statistically goes to make him all of the tougher to commerce.
An earlier model of this piece referenced a commerce rumor that’s unfounded.