The Los Angeles Lakers’ inability to sign Kawhi Leonard after teaming up Anthony Davis and LeBron James left an open spot for another player to become the third offensive weapon behind the superstar duo. So far, most of the talk has been about third-year veteran Kyle Kuzma embracing that role.
But with Davis’ insistence on primarily playing the power forward position, it seems likely that Kuzma will be playing off the bench more often than not with James, Davis and one of JaVale McGee or DeMarcus Cousins taking the frontcourt positions.
Kuzma, however, is not concerned as he told The Athletic’s Shams Charania that whether he starts or not is a non-issue for the 24-year-old:
“Bench, whatever, I’m still going to get my game off regardless,” Kuzma told The Athletic. “My past two years, I’ve come off the bench every single year. I just proved myself and made it known that I’m a player. A coach’s job is always to put the best players on the court, and that’s what I’ve showed the past two years.
“I’ve started the year coming off the bench, and just prove myself. I’m always going to find my way no matter who’s on the court. I think every time I step on the court, I’m one of the better players on the floor. For me that’s always been my mentality. I’m never worried about things that I can’t control.”
Kuzma, who has been busy this offseason with Team USA basketball duties, started 68 of the 70 games he appeared in last season but split his time playing off the bench or starting in his rookie season so he has plenty of experience doing both.
In essence, Kuzma is correct. His role will be putting up shots, spacing the floor and occasionally being a playmaker with his above-average ball-handling skills from the power forward position. Off the bench, he could be a more featured scorer as the Lakers have a lack for a third go-to player if Cousins’ continued efforts to recover from his Achilles injury do not go well.
At the end of the day, the question of who starts is not much of an issue. Kuzma will get plenty of chances to play with James, Davis or both on the court and he will have some opportunities as the primary playmaker on the court as well. The more pressing issue will be how coach Frank Vogel closes games with the bulk of his talent placed in the frontcourt.