Lonzo Ball is the player getting all of the attention in Los Angeles these days, but he isn't the only rookie on the squad making noise in the NBA.
Kyle Kuzma is enjoying a breakout inaugural campaign, despite being selected 27th overall by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2017 NBA Draft. The power forward is averaging 15.2 points and nearly seven rebounds per contest, thrusting him into considering as an elite rookie.
"Definitely in the top five," the 22-year-old recently told Lakers.com writer Mike Trudel when asked to evaluate his own draft stock.
The Lakers, who took Ball with the second pick in the draft, acquired Kuzma as part of the summer deal involving D'Angelo Russell and Brook Lopez. The Utah product has solidified himself in a crowded Lakers frontcourt, rising above the likes of Larry Nance and Julius Randle for playing time. Although a hand injury to Nance has opened up the lane for Kuzma to showcase his skills.
Kuzma ranks second among all rookies in points (15.2), second in field-goal percentage (.516), seventh in free-throw percentage (.813), fourth in rebounds (6.8), and second in double-doubles (4). In fact, the hype surrounding Kuzma is rivaling the flashy play of Ball, who recorded his first triple-double of his career Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I was mostly being listed either in the late second round or undrafted, and I just knew I was better than that," Kuzma exclaimed. "So I put my head down and worked. It paid off."
Kuzma elected to forego his senior year of college to enter the draft, after putting up 16 points and nine rebounds per game in his junior campaign.
Los Angeles is still in a rebuilding phase, struggling to a 5-8 record heading into play Sunday, despite the hot play of its two rookies.