Prior to the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets made the first shocking trade of the summer.
The Lakers sent D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in the draft. With that pick, they went on to take Kyle Kuzma from the University of Utah, and if his Summer League performance was a sign of things to come, he might end up being a major asset for the rebuilding team.
In the Las Vegas Summer League, he averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game and shot 51.4 percent from the field, including 48.0 percent from three-point range. Without No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball in the championship game, he dropped 30 points and 10 boards and was named the MVP of the contest.
As a result, he not only caught the eye of his teammates, but also of new Lakers director of basketball operations Magic Johnson. “I’ll tell you, the steal of the draft is going to be Kyle Kuzma. The young man can shoot the basketball, he also can put it down on the floor and create for himself or for his teammates,” Magic recently said on ESPN’s First Take.
At 6’9” and 222 pounds, Kuzma has the size and athleticism to presumably play any position on the court. Based on that versatility and his long-range shooting ability, he should receive ample opportunities to prove that he should be considered a major part of Los Angeles’ young core moving forward.
Being able to interact with Johnson has been a dream come true for Kuzma.
“It’s great. Magic is a legend, so anytime you get an opportunity to talk to a legend like Magic it’s great. He has so much knowledge about the game, and it’s really fun to learn from him,” the rookie told Ryan Ward of Clutch Points on Monday.
It seems like Johnson and Kuzma connected immediately in part due to their backgrounds. Both grew up in Michigan and shortly after Kuzma was drafted, Magic called Kuzma his “homeboy from Flint, Michigan”.
"It's a great feeling both being from Michigan," Kuzma said at the time, per Eric Woodyard of MLive.com. "Growing up, if you love basketball the first thing you're going to hear about is Magic Johnson. With him being from Lansing and me being from Flint that's a connection on its own. It's really surreal.”
While Kuzma’s future is unknown, having a Lakers legend on his side definitely won’t hurt.