The 2017 Las Vegas Summer League is now complete, and the Los Angeles Lakers left with the championship trophy. While many players impressed many with their play, two stood out over the rest.
Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma came into summer league with only one thing on their mind, and that was going home as champions. What they might not have foreseen was just how dominant they would look and how great they would play together. These two players look like two of the best from the rookie class of 2017, and now we will take a look at what makes them special.
The second overall pick had a rough start to summer league play, shooting two-for-fifteen and struggling to get his shot to fall from the three-point line. After that game however, Lonzo Ball went on to put a show in each of his next five games. Ball tallied two triple-double games and had four games in which he tallied over ten points and ten assists. It was no surprise that Ball was named the MVP of the entire summer league, and also made the First Team of the All-Summer League team.
Lonzo Ball averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He led the entire summer league in assists, and led all point guards in rebounds as well. It is clear to see that Ball is able to do almost everything on the court.
What made Ball’s play during summer league play so impressive was how he played the game. Ball’s up-tempo style of play in transition and his ability to start the break have many fans around the world believing Showtime is back in Los Angeles. His unselfish style of play is contagious, and had the whole team spreading the ball around. Ball is so comfortable passing the ball as soon as he passes half court, resulting in a lot of transition 3’s for his teammates.
He also showed his ability to score the ball in his 36-point outburst against the 76ers. Ball was able to get to the rack when he wanted to, and was able to knock down the open three-point shot. What he was also able to show in this game is that he is able to lead and carry his team down the stretch.
A pleasant surprise from his skill set was his ability to play team defense. Ball will never be the lockdown perimeter defender on the wing, but his high basketball IQ allows him to get plenty of steals playing off-ball. He has a nose for where the ball should end up, so he is constantly anticipating where the ball will end up and intercepts it to start the fast break.
Lonzo Ball will look to carry this momentum going into the start of the 2017-18 season. Throughout summer league, not only did it look like Ball would be able to play at the NBA level, it looked at times that he is destined for greatness. The Summer League MVP will look to get the Lakers towards playoff contention, something that has been missing the past four years.
The 27th pick out of Utah turned some heads this summer league. Kyle Kuzma came into summer league as an afterthought on the Lakers roster, since it featured Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac. After Ingram was shut down, Kuzma used that opportunity to showcase his entire game.
While averaging 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 blocks per game, it was no surprise he was named to the Second Team of the All-Summer League team. Kuzma shot 51.4% from the floor, and showed that he is a very efficient stretch-four from behind the arc with his three-point shot.
Kuzma seemed to be in sync with Lonzo Ball during the whole tournament, with a lot of his makes coming off a Lonzo assist. He showed his speed and athleticism to leak out during an opponents miss, and Lonzo was able to find him for the easy fast break dunk. It will be very important for Kuzma to find these easy scoring opportunities during his rookie year to keep his confidence going.
What makes the idea of Kuzma playing the four in today’s NBA is his ability to shoot the deep ball. Kuzma was firing with no hesitation, and he was knocking them down with ease. The ability to spread the defense with a shooter at the power forward position is a major key for teams to win these days, and it is also important to have as a player if you want to see action.
Kuzma also showed the ability to drive to the basket once his defender closed out on him. His speed allowed him to get to the basket with ease and throw it down for the open dunk. If defenders collapsed on him while driving to the lane, he would kick it out to the open teammate.
He showed some ability to score in the post, with his main move being spinning off his defender. His quickness and ball-handling skills allow for this to happen, and he is great at controlling his body. Kuzma will likely always have that speed and quickness advantage over other stretch fours in the league, so look for this to be a pivotal part in his game going forward. He was also able to show that he’s an intelligent passer, getting the ball out of his hands when the opposing team would double him.
Being able to play perimeter defense at the power forward position is something that is rare, and Kuzma showed that he has that ability. His IQ and quick lateral movement allowed him to stay in front of his man, and also showed the ability to keep up with some guard when switched on to them in a pick-and-roll.
Kuzma had his best game when the pressure was on. In the Championship game with Lonzo Ball out, Kuzma lit up the Portland Trailblazers for 30 points and 10 rebounds. He showed that he could be the team’s primary option, and do so with tremendous success. He was named the Championship Game MVP, and will now look to compete for minutes at the four spot with Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.
These two together showed some serious potential for the Lakers future this summer. They were able to show a tremendous connection with each other while both leading the team in their own way. Do not be surprised when you see Kuzma and Ball having the Lakers in the playoffs in the upcoming years.