Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has become one of the most underrated players in the NBA.
After LeBron James came to town he’s understandably soaked up much of the media attention surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers. Brandon Ingram, with the All-Star hype he was getting over the summer, and Josh Hart, by winning the Summer League MVP award, have also gotten their own praise.
Even JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler have gotten deserved credit for the Lakers top-10 defense. What about Kyle Kuzma? He’s been talked about so little he’s becoming incredibly underrated, so let’s change that.
Here are Kyle Kuzma’s stats, via www.nba.com, from the 1st quarter of the season:
17 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, 1.6 +/-
Which traditional forwards (I’m going to leave off Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, and Luka Doncic, because they spend most of their time at Center or Point Guard, but have played just enough minutes at the forward spot to squeeze onto this list at www.nba.com) have averaged at least
17 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 APG, with a positive +/-?
1. Kevin Durant
2. LeBron James
5. Paul George
10. Kyle Kuzma
There are a total of nine forwards who can match Kyle Kuzma’s traditional stats, five of which are All-Stars. Tobias Harris will be named an All-Star this year and was named Western Conference Player of the Month. Khris Middleton is also in contention for his first All-Star appearance, and Julius Randle is the front-runner for the 6th Man of the Year Award.
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Kyle Kuzma is easily the youngest player on this list. He’s clearly, right now, one of the best forwards in the game, but nobody seems to care. Cynics might say that yes, Kuzma’s a solid offensive player, but his defense is awful. In the past that was true, but not anymore.
The Lakers have the 10th best defensive rating in the NBA and the 3rd best defensive rating since Tyson Chandler came over. Simply put, the Lakers are an elite defensive team. Kyle Kuzma ranks 4th on the Lakers in Defensive Win Shares and it seems like every week he gets better and better on the less glamorous side of the court.
Kyle Kuzma is having such a remarkable season, while he’s still so young, that I’m going to commit basketball blasphemy and compare his 2nd season to two sure-fire Hall-Of-Famer’s 2nd seasons (these stats come via www.basketball-reference.com):
Kyle Kuzma’s per 36 minutes 2nd season stats: 19.7 PPG, 6.4 TRB, 2.2 APG, .531 eFG%, .304 3P%
Kevin Durant’s per 36 minutes 2nd season stats: 23.3 PPG, 6.0 TRB, 2.6 APG, .510 eFG%, .422 3P%
Dirk Nowitzki’s per 36 minutes 2nd season stats: 17.6 PPG, 6.5 TRB, 2.5 APG, .513 eFG%, .379 3P%
Kyle Kuzma’s stats are similar to Durant’s and Nowitzki’s. There is one big difference though, his 3-point percentage is much lower than theirs.
Kuzma is scoring a similar amount of points per 36 minutes on a higher eFG% to these two former MVP’s, despite the fact that he’s bricking 70 percent of his shots from downtown. Kuzma won’t stay at 30 percent on his 3-point attempts for long. His form is solid, he has a quick and high release, and he jumps into his shot just like most good 3-point shooters.
During the first quarter of the season, Kuz has been just like a good poker player who’s been on a bad run. The poker player just needs to keep playing his cards the right way, and eventually, he’ll stop getting busted on the river and he’ll make money.
If Kuzma keeps shooting the ball with the right mechanics they will start to fall and his 3P% will go up, and once his shots from beyond the arc start to go in, his numbers will look even better.
Kuzma is 23 right now, during his 2nd season, while Durant and Nowitzki were 21 years’ old throughout their 2nd seasons. That makes a difference.
I’m not saying that Kuzma is going to be better than them, or that he will be a Hall-Of-Famer. I’m just trying to stress that Kuzma is having a great season for such a young player, and he could easily become an All-Star in two or three years, so let’s give him some much-deserved credit!
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Early in the third quarter against the Houston Rockets, Lon…