Kuzma made it to the All-NBA Summer League second team, then in the championship game Monday night took over and dropped 30 points and 10 rebounds to lift the Lakers past the Portland Trail Blazers 110-98.
Summer League titles don’t mean much of anything (Chicago won last season), but for a Lakers organization under new management and looking to bring hope to a fan base that has seen the worst four-year run in franchise history, this win comes at a great time. As did the fact the Ball looked like a guy who might become a cornerstone for the Lakers going forward.
Kuzma was the Lakers’ first round pick at No. 27 this past draft, a power forward out of Utah. Kuzma has a game built for glorified pickup games of Summer League — he is athletic with a versatile offensive game, and he thrives in transition, and his jumper was falling in Vegas. Whether he can bring that to the regular season, and defend well enough to stay on the court against NBA players, remains to be seen. But Kuzma made his case for consideration in Las Vegas — his style of play is what Luke Walton wants in a power forward.
The Lakers also had Matt Thomas shoot 5-of-5 from three on his way to 23 points.
Portland got 25 points from big man Caleb Swanigan, the first-round pick out of Purdue whose energetic and athletic game translated well to Summer League (much like Kuzma’s game did). He was an All-NBA Summer League First Team player, and looked it in the title game. Jake Layman added 21 points for Portland.
The Blazers had a strong Summer League, not just because of the finish but because of the play of Swanigan, who looks like he could get minutes in the fall (and ease the pain of Collins needing at least one season to develop).