After another brilliant preseason performance from Lakers Rookie Kyle Kuzma, many are speculating the play of former 2nd overall pick and Duke star, Brandon Ingram, including Seattle Seahawks All-Pro defensive back, Richard Sherman. Sherman tweeted “Looks to me that Kyle Kuzma is what they were hoping Brandon Ingram was…..” Others such as Chris Palmer, have been raving about the maturity of Kuzma’s overall game, Palmer tweeting after Kuzma’s Olajuwon “Dream Shake” versus the Denver Nuggets, “This is 7-year veteran footwork. Kyle Kuzma has some arsenal.”
Let’s face it, Ingram has been in a slump going into the 2017-18 season. Brandon nearly missed the entire Summer League after Magic Johnson shut him down after a minor injury, and now he is truly under-performing this preseason. With Ingram not living up to expectations (so far), is it time for the Lakers to make the switch and start Kyle Kuzma at the small forward spot? Or does Coach Luke Walton weather the storm with the wiry Brandon Ingram?
Kuzma is looking like the real-deal and the absolute steal from the 2017 NBA Draft. “Kuz” is putting up numbers this preseason, averaging 19.6 ppg while shooting an eye-popping 62% from the field and 47.4% from three-point land. Although those numbers might not be sustainable throughout an entire 82 game regular season, they do reflect the versatility of Kuzma. At 6’9” and 225 lbs, Kuzma is built like the prototypical stretch-four in today’s NBA. Yet, Kuz also displays the quickness, footwork, and ball-handling of a starting small forward. He is the hybrid that teams are looking for, especially for the Lake Show.
Kuzma is never scared of the big moment or the big play. The 27th overall pick has shown the ability to close games late, whether it was his 30-point, 10-rebound MVP performance in the Summer League championship game, or making plays down the stretch as he did last night, versus Sacramento. Kuzma was involved in the last 5 scoring plays for L.A. to secure the bag against fellow Rookie De’Aaron Fox and the Kings.
To Brandon Ingram’s defense he still is growing into his own, literally. Rumors swirled about Brandon’s height and weight, and at age 20 his game needs a bit more polishing than expected. Ingram has shown flashes of taking over games, as he did in his lone Summer League performance against the Clippers. Yet, with countless comparisons drawing to Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ingram has not lived up to neither the scoring or play-making of either All-Star. If Ingram wants to be an Opening Night starter for L.A., he needs to prove his worth and show the work he put into the off-season by playing more confidently on offense. The talent and potential is there with Ingram, but the Lakers are driven on the “what have you done for me lately” mentality.
It is on Coach Luke Walton to make the necessary moves to see success in not only the Lakers future, but his future as well. With Opening Night approaching, Kyle Kuzma is appearing to be the Lakers go-to-guy at the three over Ingram.
Written By: Daniel Malakismail