With their perceived weakness at center pointed out by many observers, pundits have generally pointed to the possibility of the Los Angeles Lakers playing LeBron James out of position in the middle. As the Lakers’ center rotation is likely to include JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac, and 2018 first-round draft pick Moritz Wagner, the team isn’t as stacked at that position as it is in others, hence the possibility of James playing a few minutes per game at center. However, there’s a chance that the Lakers might consider someone else to anchor their version of the Golden State Warriors’ small ball-oriented “Death Lineup” — incoming second-year forward Kyle Kuzma.
Speaking on ESPNLA Mornings with Keyshawn, Jorge, & LZ, ESPN Lakers beat writer Ramona Shelburne said that the team’s coaching staff is thinking of using the 23-year-old Kuzma as a small ball center. While it’s still possible that the role will fall upon James, Shelburne stressed that there are many possibilities going forward, including the chance of the 6-foot-9 Kuzma playing as an undersized center.
“The assumption was that would be LeBron [playing small ball center], and maybe it still will be, but I think there’s been some talk of maybe Kuzma doing that,” said Shelburne, as quoted by Silver Screen and Roll.
“Coming off the bench and playing that kind of a role in a small ball lineup. Obviously that’ll evolve throughout the preseason and we’ll see if that works at all.”
If Kyle Kuzma plays some minutes at center, he won’t be the shortest player to ever do so. He also happens to be an inch taller than LeBron James, who has some experience playing in the middle despite being a natural small forward. However, Silver Screen and Roll pointed out a few potential concerns if Kuzma is used at center — he didn’t play a single minute at the position in his 2017-18 rookie campaign and isn’t a “sound” defender or skilled shot blocker either. Still, the publication offered some hope that the experiment might work out for the center-starved Lakers.
“Kuzma is tall, can shoot, and even did a decent job switching onto smaller players at the end of the year, all things the Lakers will ask their non-plodding centers to do in lineups with James.”
As the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Kyle Kuzma averaged 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists and started 37 out of 77 games for the Los Angeles Lakers. As further noted in his Basketball-Reference player page, Kuzma was named a first-team All-Rookie selection in the 2017-18 season, outdoing the far more heralded Lonzo Ball, who earned second-team All-Rookie honors after the Lakers drafted him second overall last year.