After the Los Angeles Lakers missed out on adding Kawhi Leonard to form a terrifying trio in him, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis, many wondered who would emerge as the Lakers’ “third guy”. This may seem somewhat arbitrary of a question for a team with two players that are (at the very least) top 10 in the NBA, but in the age of “Big Threes” winning championships, it’s going to be a question that gets asked. After the Lakers’ young core was decimated, the sole remaining member was Kyle Kuzma. As a young, emerging player who specializes most in scoring, many were hoping that Kuzma would explode through his ceiling and form a credible Big Three.
That hasn’t necessarily happened, as Kuzma has had an up-and-down season all year. However, this is a bit of a fresh start for him, as he can come in after four months off and show that he has another level to reach. Jared Dudley was asked about the Lakers’ “third guy” today, and specifically mentioned Kuzma (reported by Mike Trudell of the Lakers and Spectrum SportsNet).
About whom LAL’s third guy is, @JaredDudley619 said “Kyle Kuzma,” and he pointed to how Kuz has stepped up when AD has missed games, with Kuz typically going for 20+ points. Dudley thinks the bubble is an opportunity for Kuzma to show that.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 16, 2020
The question may have arisen as Frank Vogel was asked nearly the same thing yesterday. As opposed to listing Kuzma or another player on the team, Vogel said that the “third guy” is the “open player”, caused by the attention of the defense on LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Davis has missed eight games this season, with the Lakers going 6-2 in those games. Dudley wasn’t lying when he was talking about 20+ point games for Kuzma when Davis missed time. In seven games without Davis (Kuzma missed a game that Davis also missed), Kuzma has averaged 20.2 points and shot 44.9% from the field. In the season as a whole, Kuzma has averaged only 12.5 points and a FG% of 43.2%, showing that he truly has had more success with Davis off the court. That precedent gives credibility to the argument that Kuzma’s progress as a player has been stunted by playing on the same team as LeBron and Davis.
Hopefully, Kuzma will be ready to produce for the Lakers in any way possible. Before the season ended, he was appearing to make some strides on the defensive end where he’s mostly been below average for his career, while he was also becoming a productive rebounder.