It isn’t common for a late first-round pick to become a key contributor to his NBA team as a rookie, but that’s exactly what Kyle Kuzma did for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017-18. While it remains to be seen whether Kuzma could improve on his strong rookie numbers even with LeBron James joining the Lakers for the coming season, his former teammate, Denver Nuggets point guard Isaiah Thomas, believes great things could be in store for the incoming second-year forward as his career progresses.
In a recent appearance on CBS Sports‘ Tiki and Tierney radio show, Thomas looked back on his brief stint with the Lakers, where he played 17 games for the team after he and Channing Frye were sent to Los Angeles from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. He was then asked by hosts Tiki Barber and Brandon Tierney about what he thinks about Kuzma, who surprised a lot of observers when he emerged as one of the Lakers’ top scorers in his rookie season.
“[Kuzma] is a very underrated guy,” said Thomas, as quoted by Silver Screen and Roll.
“The doubt that everybody has for his game is motivation. As someone who works very hard, he’s going to be another special young talent in this league.”
The 27th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Kyle Kuzma averaged 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists despite starting only 37 out of the 77 games he played in. With Kuzma posting nearly identical scoring numbers to Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, he was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. However, many question marks remain regarding Kuzma’s role heading into the 2018-19 season, as heralded new arrival LeBron James similarly plays both forward positions and is expected to be the main focus on offense for the retooled Lakers.
Furthermore, Kuzma’s productive rookie year has made him a potential trade acquisition for many teams, as the Inquisitr recently reported that he was one of the rumored players other NBA teams are seeking if the Lakers decide to trade veteran small forward Luol Deng.
Commenting on Isaiah Thomas’ praise for Kyle Kuzma, Silver Screen and Roll described the former Lakers point guard’s remarks as “interesting” due to the well-documented concerns regarding James and his ability to mesh with his new team’s young, up-and-coming stars. The publication also noted that Thomas wasn’t the only recent ex-Laker to speak positively about the team’s youngsters, as Channing Frye, who will be returning to the Cavaliers for the 2018-19 season, recently said that all of the Lakers’ youngsters are “good,” and that Kuzma, in particular, is noteworthy for his “internal fire” as a player.