Kyle Kuzma on defensive attitude: “I get pissed when I get scored on”

Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma played great defense throughout the Lakers first round series. (Ashley Landis/AP)

The Los Angeles Lakers’ first round series against the Portland Trail Blazers gave them an opportunity to get their rhythm back offensively after some very poor shooting nights in the bubble. One of the few players to never get that shooting rhythm in the five postseason games was Kyle Kuzma but unlike previous years, his poor shooting did not automatically mean he was putting in poor performances.

Kuzma shot just 36 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three in his five postseason appearances off the bench. While the offense mostly did not come together for the third-year player, he did put together some great showings defensively, a development that we have slowly seen come together to the point where the Lakers feel comfortable using Kuzma as a defensive stopper of sorts against opppnents’ hot perimeter players.

On Monday, Kuzma spoke to the media about priding himself on the defensive end and how his mentality has changed to reach this level:

Kuzma is right. A major presumptive weakness of the Lakers heading into the season was their wing defense, leading to talk of the team potentially signing Andre Iguodala if he were to be bought out. Kuzma’s development has, at the very least, turned that into much less of a liability.

Kuz isn’t a perfect defender yet by any means but his approach on that end of the floor has changed drastically. Case in point, the Lakers’ defensive rating in the playoffs when Kuzma was on the floor was an outstanding 94.2 points per 100 possessions conceded, second only to Alex Caruso’s 90.9. When Kuz was off the floor, the Lakers had a defensive rating of 110.6. Those numbers aren’t perfect (the sample size is obviously small and it doesn’t account for the lineups Kuzma and others play in) but that is a drastic difference and it’s truly made Kuzma one of the most valuable players on the team, even when his shooting is off.

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