One Dimension: Kyle Kuzma’s Just a Scorer for Now, but That’s Just Fine

What we want from players in today’s NBA, more than anything else, is versatility. Big men matter more if they can make defenses nervous from 25 feet away. Point guards matter more if they can defend their own position. Wings matter more if they can switch screens. Lockdown artists matter more—and, increasingly, only—if they develop a corner 3. The game is too fast and is evolving too quickly for role definitions to remain sedentary; the positional revolution has made polymathy a must, and woe betide the specialists, those who have found a way in this short life to get good at one thing.

And yet, we must always return to the words of the philosopher:

But there’s always a drive to do more. During his interview with ESPN entering the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ matchup with Detroit, L.A. coach Luke Walton said he’d like to see his 23-year-old forward contribute in other areas to help close out a big home win over the Pistons: to grab some rebounds, to dig in on defense, and to facilitate for his teammates, rather than just looking for his own offense. That sounds about right: a young coach trying to encourage a talented young player to expand his game for the good of the team—especially with Kuzma having tallied no assists, blocks, or steals, and just two boards to that point.

It did sound a little odd, though, coming on the heels of Kuzma busting up the Detroit defense to the tune of 22 third-quarter points, part of a career-high 41 in 29 minutes of work. Kuzma’s evening ended after that explosion, as Walton gave four of his five starters the fourth quarter off and let his reserves finish a 113-100 win. (Kuzma’s replacement, Michael Beasley, scored 15 points in the fourth, which makes you think maybe the sophomore might’ve had a chance at being the league’s first 50-point scorer in nearly a month had Walton let him cook; instead, he got an arcane sliver of Laker history all to himself.)

Ingram’s and Ball’s top-of-the-draft pedigree frequently brings their names to the forefront of trade speculation for a team that’s clearly aiming for the biggest target on the market. But nights like Wednesday make you think that it’s the player taken 27th overall in 2017—the one whose game might not check every box, but sure checks a d**n big one—who could be L.A.’s most sought-after piece … and maybe the one Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and Co. would be most loath to sell off.