Kyle Kuzma has spent the first four years of his career playing for one team, but his place on that team has varied wildly from year to year. When the Los Angeles Lakers picked him No. 27 overall in 2017, they were a lottery team that could give him all of the shots and minutes a young player could ask for. He averaged over 16 points per game in that season, but when LeBron James arrived in the offseason that followed, things began to change. He started the season on the bench before Brandon Ingram’s suspension thrust him back into the starting five. He held that position all season as teammates like James, Ingram and Lonzo Ball all succumbed to injuries. Kuzma was the team’s stabilizing force, the one contributor they could rely upon all season, and as a result, he averaged a career-high 18.9 points per game.
And then, Anthony Davis arrived and changed everything. The Lakers were suddenly contenders and Kuzma’s scoring was no longer a priority. He had to improve as a rebounder and defender off of the bench and start only when injuries to teammates allowed for it. His scoring dipped below 13 points per game in his two seasons alongside Davis, and now, after four years of uncertainty, he just wants a steadier role.
“My biggest thing is I just want to play within a consistent role,” Kuzma told Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report. “If I have that ability, I’ll be able to showcase what I can really do. There were parts of this year—and even anywhere else in my career—when I’m in a consistent space, I’m out there handling the ball, making teammates better, scoring, shooting, defending, rebounding. I think if I’m in that space, I’ll be good.”
Conway asked Kuzma if he believed he could average 25 points per game and become an All-Star level player in a more consistent role, and Kuzma argued that he could.
“I definitely can,” Kuzma said. “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.
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The concept, under the right circumstances, isn’t that farfetched. Kuzma averaged almost 19 points per game in his second NBA season. He did so in around 33 minutes per game, a load that most featured offensive players surpass. He’s spent the past two seasons developing other parts of his game, but with more shots and the right infrastructure, getting into the mid-20s isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
But it just isn’t going to happen on a Lakers team whose offense revolves around James and Davis. Kuzma has been involved in trade rumors this offseason as the Lakers attempt to regroup after a disappointing first-round exit against the Phoenix Suns, so perhaps a change of scenery could get him the role he seems to desire.