Although the idea of securing a trio of star players was popular among NBA teams for much of the last decade, 2019 was the offseason of dynamic duos. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up for the Clippers; Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving became Nets; and James Harden and Russell Westbrook joined forces for the Rockets.
The Lakers, of course, lined up their own star duo by pairing LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, Kyle Kuzma believes he’s capable of evolving into the sort of star that could give the Lakers a “Big Three,” as he tells Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.
“I don’t feel no pressure, but I believe that I am capable of being that superstar,” Kuzma said. “I put a lot of work in. My progress through my journey shows that I can be there. I developed every single year, dating back to college, and I don’t see that development stunting at all.
“Last year I didn’t shoot the ball well, and I still averaged almost 20 [points per game],” Kuzma added. “If I can shoot the ball well and keep developing the facets of my game defensively, I don’t see why I can’t [be that third star].”
Kuzma, 24, averaged 16.1 PPG with a .450 FG% and .366 3PT% as a rookie in 2017/18. While he increased his scoring rate to 18.7 PPG last season, he’s right that he struggled from beyond the arc — his 3PT% dipped to just .303.
Currently, Kuzma is competing for a spot on Team USA’s World Cup roster. If he makes the 12-man roster, he’d be in position to benefit from the play-makers on the roster and get plenty of open three-point looks. Even if he doesn’t make Team USA’s final roster – or doesn’t play much in China – he’s looking forward to a similar experience in Los Angeles this season.
“I’ve never been a ball-dominant guy,” Kuzma told Youngmisuk. “I’ve always played off the ball. It is going to be a little bit easier, going to have a lot of open shots. It is my job to trust my summer workouts and what I’ve done. Just breathe, focus and knock those shots down, because I’m going to be open.”
The 2019/20 season will be a crucial one for Kuzma, who will become eligible to sign a rookie scale extension during the summer of 2020. If he doesn’t ink a new deal a year from now, he’ll be on track for restricted free agency in 2021.