LeBron James has pointed to Kyle Kuzma’s form as a defining factor if the Los Angeles Lakers are to win the NBA Championship this year.
The 25-year-old displayed some steely composure on Monday night as he drained a clutch three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining over the seven-foot-eight wingspan of Bol Bol to hand the Lakers a 124-121 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Kuzma finished the game with 25 points, six rebounds and three assists having shot 11 of 16 from the field and three of five from outside the arc in what was his best game since the restart.
“In order for us to win a championship, he has to be our third-best player,” said James.
“If I’m struggling or if A.D. (Anthony Davis) is struggling he has to be our second-best player on any given night. We can’t win a championship if Kuz doesn’t play well.”
James led the Lakers on the night with 29 points and 12 assists, while Anthony Davis also chipped in with 27 points following a quiet game in the defeat to the Indiana Pacers.
Kuzma was given a place in the starting five on Monday after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was ruled out of the contest with an ankle injury.
“I mean, I’m starting on most teams in this league, and everyone knows it,” Kuzma
“But it just so happens that I play behind the best two players in the NBA. You know, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just trying to fill in my role. Trying to find a niche. Trying to win. That’s kind of all that matters. Because if we don’t win, it’s bad news.”
Prior to Monday’s game, Kuzma has only been landing 42.9 percent of his efforts from the field and 31.1 percent from three-point range. When teams plot to contain James and David in the playoffs, his scoring could become key.