The 2019 NBA free agency has been one for the record books as the NBA landscape has shifted dramatically with many all-star players deciding to play elsewhere.
Out of all the top free agents, it appeared that Kawhi Leonard was the most prized of them all. One of the teams to try and sign him was none other than the Los Angeles Lakers. Signing him would have added the two-time champion to a team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
However, Leonard elected to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and team up with Paul George, who they had traded for in hopes of enticing Leonard.
Now with Leonard and George at the helm, the Clippers are the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Championship.
Even without Leonard, The Lakers still have a legitimate chance to win the championship, but they need the help from one player in particular-Kyle Kuzma.
Over the past two seasons, Kuzma has averaged 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. Kuzma has never shown a struggle to score and looks to become an even better scorer as he has been seen developing a more fluid jumper with NBA shooting coach Chris Matthews, better known as “Lethal Shooter” on social media.
The big question with Kuzma is his defense as he is not known to be a lockdown defender. Kuzma ranked 85th out of 100 in defensive real plus-minus and also posted the fourth-worst defensive rating per 100 possessions at 109.4 on the Lakers.
Good thing for fans though, it seems the Kuzma is actively trying to improve his defensive skill set. Former NBA Champion and Laker, Metta World Peace said that Kuzma had called him asking him to help him out with his defensive skills in the offseason.
World Peace stated, “Kyle Kuzma hit me up about some defense this summer. I was so proud of him because he’s not a lockdown defender, but when you call Metta World Peace, I’m like wow you want to be a good defender."
Working with World Peace will not magically transform Kuzma into an All NBA defender, but it is the first step to improving his game.
Another area of growth for Kuzma is his playmaking ability and being able to create for others. As of now, the Lakers do not have many above-average playmakers, with the exception of LeBron James.
If Kuzma is able to get others involved more and increase the offensive flow, he will not only take some of the load off James but also elevate his teammates' games as well. Playing and training alongside James will be great for him because there is no smarter player in the NBA than LeBron James.
With these improvements to his game, Kuzma can alleviate the burden on both James and Davis so that they can be as fresh as possible going into the playoffs. If Kuzma is able to become a solid and reliable defender, bump up his scoring, and become an efficient playmaker, the Lakers will have that third piece they need to put them over the top and reach their first NBA finals since 2010.
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