Kyle Kuzma is in a perfect position to campaign for the Sixth Man of the Year
Since 2000, 15 of the past 18 Sixth Man of the Year winners had gone to guard positions, with Lamar Odom being the last frontcourt player to win since 2010-2011 when he brought the award back to the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the Sixth Man of the Year award was born to the NBA in 1982-1983, Odom is the only Laker player to bring the prize home.
Coming into the 2017 NBA draft, Kyle Kuzma was considered to be worth a second round pick, so the Lakers drafting him at 27th was maybe a little higher than advertised, but right around where scouts expected Kyle to get selected. The surprise came with how quickly he came out the gate and put on a show for the restless Laker fans wanting to be a fun team again.
After putting up 8 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes in an opening night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last season, Kuzma went on a tear after that averaging 17 points, 6 rebounds on roughly 53% shooting from the field. The Lakers ended up going 8-11 during the span, which does not seem like much, but it was enough for fans to start to see the potential that this young core has, and for Kuzma to earn his right for the Lakers to include him in their future plans.
Barring any injuries, Lebron James at power forward is the position he will be playing a lot of this season. Giving Lebron power forward minutes instead of Small Forward does not change how many touches he gets on the offensive end, but it does change one thing, where is Kuzma going to get his minutes?
Luke Walton has publicly said that he plans on giving Kuzma minutes at center for some of their small-ball lineups, which does compensate for some the minutes Lebron will inevitably soak up from Kuzma.
With all the playmakers the Lakers added in Lebron, Rajon Rondo, and Lance Stephenson, combined with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, Kuzma will be able to get significantly more open looks this season compared to last season. With roughly 49% of Kuzma’s shots last season coming off an assist, looks will continue to show up with all the creativity Lakers have on offense.
To qualify for the Sixth Man of the Year, all they need to do is play more games coming off the bench than as a starter, which would give Kuzma a 40 game maximum to be eligible for the award. Unless the injury bug bites the Lakers this season, Kyle will see most of his minutes coming off the bench.
With last year’s sixth man of the year winner Louis Williams averaging 22 PPG and 5 AST per game, Kuzma could very well be in the discussion this year if he can improve on his 2017-2018 averages of 16 PPG and 5 TRG. Kuzma’s touches might drop some with the new additions, but as our deadliest offensive weapon off the bench now, the pieces are in place for Kyle to make a run at the 2018-2019 Kia Sixth Man of the Year Award.