Kyle Kuzma is becoming more than just a scorer for the Lakers

Dec 03, 2018 | by Alex Regla, SB Nation

Kyle Kuzma showcased a wide array of spin moves, hook shots and a surprisingly efficient 3-point stroke while winning the hearts of Lakers fans across the globe last season, and then went on to set multiple rookie records for the historic franchise en route to an All-Rookie First Team selection, fully establishing him as one the league’s most promising young scorers.

Kuzma’s second season has been tougher. 23 games into his sophomore campaign, Kuzma has been slapped with higher expectations while making fewer shots, and thus found himself back in the same place he was when he fell to the end of the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft — having to prove himself.

Although sporting a higher efficiency on all attempted 2-point field goals this season, Kuzma has seen drop offs nearly across the board compared to his rookie numbers, most notably in his sudden inability to can the 3-ball.

As worrisome as his 30.3 percent shooting on five 3-point attempts per game has been, it’s even more concerning when considering the types of quality looks he has gotten this year while playing alongside LeBron James.

According to the NBA’s tracking data, of Kuzma’s 122 attempts from three thus far, 113 of them have been classified as “open” or “wide open.” On his categorized “open” attempts (four-six feet from nearest defender) he is currently only 8-37 (21.6 percent) from the field.

But while Kuzma’s shooting taking a nosedive from the 36.6 percent of his threes he made during his rookie season obviously isn’t a good thing right now, his recent struggle to find the bottom of the net may turn out to be a pseudo blessing in disguise for the Lakers.

Like Ricky Bobby in “Talladega Nights,” Kuzma was in many regards not a basketball player (or thinker) during his rookie season, but simply a scorer (driver).

Now that he’s been faced with the inability to do what made him such a popular player among the team’s fanbase, Kuzma has needed to search out alternative methods to provide positive contributions on the floor, most notably through playmaking and defense.

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