An NBA veteran believes Kyle Kuzma could become an eventual franchise player if he can perform at a high level for the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
As the NBA nears its upcoming restart, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves with many looming questions. One predicament that seemingly stands above the rest is their need for production after Avery Bradley elected to opt-out of the restart, and Rajon Rondo suffered a thumb injury that will keep him out for six to eight weeks. With two glaring holes in their roster, Kyle Kuzma seems to be the man to help fill the void.
In his third NBA season, Kuzma’s production has taken a significant step back this year with the team’s addition of Anthony Davis. The move sent Kuzma to the bench for most of the season and saw his playing time drop by nearly nine minutes per game. The forward went from a career-best 18.7 points last year to a career-low 12.5 points per game this season.
Despite his decline, one veteran believes he can turn it around for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA’s restart. Speaking on the Court Vision podcast back in June, Jamal Crawford, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner, firmly shared his belief in Kuzma with some bold proclamations.
“Kuz is the guy who can generate offense other than LeBron or AD… He’s definitely the X-Factor. If he proves he’s a consistent third-guy, under that kind of pressure and those type of likes, different teams will come saying, ‘will you come be our first guy? You’re proving to be a championship level third-piece. You can definitely be a first piece for us if you’re trying to build towards that.'”
After Kuzma’s production drop off this season, Crawford’s comments might come as a headscratcher for many. However, look at what happened to former Los Angeles Laker Brandon Ingram, who got traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Anthony Davis deal last offseason.
Ingram had a stellar year for the Lakers last season, as he averaged 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. The forward already looked like a star in the making, but the trade to New Orleans took his game to another level.
In 56 games with the Pelicans this season, Ingram averaged career-highs across the board with 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game, which earned the 22-year-old his first All-Star nod. Had it not been for the addition of rookie phenom Zion Williamson, Ingram was undoubtedly the Pelican’s franchise player given his fantastic play all season.
Perhaps Kuzma could go through a similar scenario down the road, but as Crawford said, the forward has to prove himself in a heightened atmosphere this season before any of that. This is a team with significant championship aspirations, and with so many vital pieces out, the Lakers undoubtedly need Kuzma to step up and be that X-factor for them.
There will be plenty of pressure mounted on the 24-year-old’s shoulders once the NBA restarts in the coming days, making it a very telling stretch for Kuzma. If he can come out and solidify himself as the third option behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he could have a bright future ahead as an ascending star, potentially leading his own team.
Jamal Crawford, a near 20-year NBA veteran, sees the potential with Kuzma, but he will have to prove it on the biggest, and most irregular stage in Orlando before everyone else buys into the hype.
Despite no Avery Bradley or Rajon Rondo at the moment, the Los Angeles Lakers currently sit with the best championship odds at +250. This title will not come easily by any means, but Kyle Kuzma has an opportunity to make some noise for this shorthanded Los Angeles team in their quest for a championship.