The Los Angeles Lakers may not be maximizing forward Kyle Kuzma. We’ll take a look at how they can help him be the best version of himself.
Have you been asked to perform a task outside of your comfort zone by your boss? If so, you can sympathize with Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, who has played the role of a floor spacer this season due to the presence of Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
The strengths of Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma
Kuzma’s statistical success over the past couple of seasons has been contingent upon how much his coaches allowed him to touch the basketball. For example, one of the best stretches of Kuzma’s career came when James and Rajon Rondo were sidelined with a groin strain and broken finger respectively from late December to mid-January last season.
Former head coach Luke Walton allowed him to touch the basketball 61.1 times a game during their absence. The 61.1 touches helped Kuzma attack the basket nine times per game. He created 6.6 points and 0.8 assists per game on these drives. The drives accounted for 29.5 percent of his points and 24.1 percent of the assists as he averaged 22.4 points with 2.9 assists.
Kuzma hasn’t been able to replicate that production this season because of who is on the floor. He comes in midway through the first quarter for James, meaning that his first few minutes of action are shared with Davis.
How the Los Angeles Lakers are using Kuzma
Head coach Frank Vogel is using Davis as a low post player this season as he is third among all players in post-up possessions averaging 9.3 per game. 3-5 minutes later, James checks in for Davis and becomes the focal point of the offense.
Consequently, Kuzma spends most of his minutes in the spot-up shooter role. A prime example of this can be found late in the first quarter of a home game against the Denver Nuggets; Kuzma stood on the right-wing as LeBron attempted to back down his defender in the post.
The floor spacer role caused a significant decrease in his touches as he is averaging 35.3 per game. The 35.3 touches helped him attack the basket 4.1 times per game. The 4.1 drives created 2.9 points and 0.2 assists per game.
More importantly, Kuzma can’t count on shooting to make up for the lost production because it is his biggest weakness. He is currently shooting 33.2 percent from behind the arc on 4.4 attempts per game. The combination of these factors has been the catalyst behind Kuzma, averaging 12.6 points and 1.3 assists per game.
Kuzma’s subpar shooting doesn’t only impact his statistics; it affects the team as well because defenders are leaving him open. Consequently, floor spacing is diminished because his defender is in a position to help out on other players if needed.
A prime example of this can be found early in the second quarter of a home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kuzma stood in the right corner as LeBron was in the middle of isolating Gorgui Dieng.
As a consequence, Kuzma’s defender, Jarrett Culver, stood near the paint for the whole possession in position to provide help defense. Unfortunately, Culver decided not to provide help defense on James, which allowed him to dunk on Dieng.
How the Los Angeles Lakers can help Kuzma be more effective
Therefore, head coach Vogel should make a concerted effort to get Kuzma more touches as it will increase his productivity. For example, his best performance of the season came when James and Davis weren’t on the court as Kuzma touched the ball 53 times in a road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 11th.
The 53 touches helped Kuzma attack the basket ten times that game. He created 12 points on these drives. The drives accounted for 33 percent of his points as he scored 36.