Kyle Kuzma has been one of the most disappointing players this past season, as the Lakers forward never managed to find his rhythm and contribute enough to help the Lakers defend their championship. That stirred up a lot of hate from Lakers fans who have been criticizing Kuzma for quite some time now, especially after their first-round playoff exit.
It wild to see how Kuzma went from being one of the fan-favorites, drafted late in the first round and exceeding all expectations, looking like a future star, to being probably the most hated Laker and primary trade piece. Any time a player gets available or rumored to be on the trading block, Kuzma is the first asset ready to be let go from the Lakers side. It sounds irrelevant, but that kind of pressure and doubt doesn't help you play better.
Also, a player often plays to the best of his abilities when he knows his role on the team, what everybody expects of him on a nightly basis. For Kuzma, his 4-year career has been a roller-coaster in which he played with numerous teammates and coaches in different positions and roles. Most lately, he was viewed as a core piece of the bench that will serve as that third gun after LeBron and AD, but with all the injuries and rotations, Kuzma's job and role got mixed up to doing whatever the team needed that night. Kuzma himself believes that is the sole reason for his disappointing season:
"My biggest thing is I just want to play within a consistent role. 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."
Kyle Kuzma, Bleacher Report
Kuzma also added how he is confident he can average 25 points per game in the proper role, alongside praising his improvement on the defensive side of the floor. You can sense that Kuzma is fed up with all the (uncalled) criticism coming his way, as he has tried his best to fit into the system and provide the Lakers with what is needed. But if they want Kuzma to go the next level and be that steady third wheel, they will need to define a role, wherever it is off the bench or starting, in which case he will feel comfortable enough to show off what he's got.
At 25 years old, Kuzma is entering his best years, and if the Lakers don't take advantage of it, another team could swoop in and make him a potential centerpiece of their team. The potential is there, but Kuzma must get it together and find the consistency to be an All-Star in this league, wherever it is in LA or elsewhere.
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