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With LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the floor, Kuzma doesn’t receive the same amount of touches every game as he did in his first two seasons when he averaged 16.1 points and 18.7 points, respectively.
His field-goal attempts and free-throw attempts have both declined the last two seasons, leading him to find different ways to be effective.
This year, Kuzma discovered several ways to do that without always having the ball in his hand as an initiator.
He knocked down 36 percent of his threes on 5.6 attempts, and 4.7 of those were catch-and-shoot looks.
He also pulled down 6.1 rebounds a game for a defensive rebound percentage of 17.7, which is a career-high mark.
Kuzma’s overall defense also improved, as he finally grasped how to use his size to his advantage, especially against smaller opponents.
Despite the solid showing in a regular season mired in injuries, Kuzma’s game completely unraveled in the playoffs when it mattered most. He went ice cold from 3-point range and with L.A. needing Kuzma to help James when Davis was injured, Kuzma failed to deliver.
But the disappointing end isn’t stopping Kuzma from being confident he can bounce back next season.
In an interview with Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report, Kuzma still believes he can be a regular 25-points-per-game player and earn All-Star appearances:
“I definitely can. I definitely believe that, too. I don’t really care what nobody thinks or says. I know myself, and I know my ability. It’s hard to be consistent in an inconsistent role. I’m excited for a more consistent space next year,” Kuzma said.
“I’ve done a great job every offseason of trying to build something and add something to my game. I’ve turned myself into a great defender. My rookie year, I was a stop sign on defense. I didn’t really stop anybody. Now, whether it’s elite wings, 4 men, even point guards and shooting guards, I have the ability to guard four positions now and really affect the game on that end of the court.”
Kuzma makes a strong point with his inconsistent role. When James and Davis were out with respective lower-leg injuries, the Lakers turned to Kuzma to be a high-usage offensive player and lead the rest of the team to wins.
With one of either James or Davis on the floor, Kuzma was the second or third option alongside Dennis Schroder. With both healthy, Kuzma’s primary focus lied on the defensive end where he needed to grab rebounds and hold his own.
The offensive struggles go beyond Kuzma. Los Angeles ranked 24th in offensive rating during the regular season, a strong contrast to its No. 1 ranking in defensive rating.
Los Angeles has to change up its mundane offensive schemes for next season and extract the most out of players like Kuzma.
Whether Kuzma can achieve what he says is one thing, but if L.A. can refine Kuzma’s role — staying healthy is a major component — then he could improve on his performances.