If you’ve tuned in to any of the Lakers’ first three preseason contests, you may have noticed a pattern starting to form. With many veterans taking it easy after the shortest offseason to date, it’s been the youth that has carried LA to a perfect 3-0 record in preparation for the new year.
Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker have taken on increased roles during these first few games, and they’ve taken advantage of the opportunity. Both players have shown out on the offensive end while their stars rest, and it may speak volumes for how the team may use them going forward.
What They’re Doing Right
One area in which Kyle Kuzma has shown great improvement in his three-point shooting. He’s a career 33.3% shooter from downtown, so he isn’t terrible, but you expect more out of a wing player in today’s NBA. After 3 preseason games thus far, Kuzma has taken a giant leap forward in this area. He is averaging a robust 47.6% from three-point range on 7 attempts per game, so it doesn’t appear to be a fluke. If he can improve marginally from his career percentage this season, the Lakers are in good shape. But if he becomes a 40%+ shooter from three, the league may as well hand the Lakers the trophy now.
Here are all of Kuzma's 1DOL (1 Dribble Or Less) shot attempts from last night.
He went 6/11 on these type of possessions after going 8/12 in the second preseason game and 5/9 in the first preseason game
— Vinay Kuzmawala (@vkillem) December 17, 2020
Talen Horton-Tucker has been the talk of the NBA after some impressive outings to begin his second year of professional ball, and for good reason. The kid can do it all, ranging from driving to the rim to protecting it on the other end. The greatest part of THT’s game to this point has been his confidence. With LeBron and Anthony Davis being held out for most of the action to this point, coach Frank Vogel has let his youngster run the offense on multiple occasions. Opportunities will be more scarce once the games begin to count, but a healthy dose of confidence built in the preseason may go a long way when he gets his chances later on.
Another highlight from Talen Horton-Tucker!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 17, 2020
Where They Need to Improve
Although their recent play may say otherwise, there is a long way to go before Kuzma and THT can be considered consistent starters for the Lakers. Kyle Kuzma is further along in his development as he enters his fourth NBA season, but both have specific areas where they can improve.
The biggest knock on Kyle Kuzma has been his defense, but that has slowly started to become a part of his game. Throughout last year’s playoffs, Kuz’s defensive rotations were key in keeping their opponents off the scoreboard. The next step in his development will be to show that he can keep that kind of intensity for a full season.
Horton-Tucker, on the other hand, seems to already be a monster on the defensive end with his incredible 7’2″ wingspan. For him, the next step will simply be to improve as his role with the team grows. The raw talent that he has is something that you rarely see in a late second-round pick, but the Lakers may have found a gem yet again in THT.
A lot can obviously change from one moment to the next, and it’s very possible that the team has quite different plans for their two young role players. But with what we’ve seen, both Kuzma and Horton-Tucker have the talent to be solid a number 2 and 3 behind Anthony Davis once LeBron calls it a career.
This season should provide plenty of opportunities for both of them to prove that they belong in the rotation for years to come, but the journey will be fun regardless. The Lakers front office has been largely successful with their draft picks in recent years, and it will be interesting to see if either Kuzma or Talen Horton-Tucker have what it takes to have an extended career in La La Land.