Kyle Kuzma: Critics 'Underestimating' Lakers' Capabilities This Season

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Wednesday, April 4, 2018. The Lakers won in overtime 122-112. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Reed Saxon/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are likely a few pieces away from threatening the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference even after the addition of LeBron James, but Kyle Kuzma had a message for the doubters.

"We are both definitely excited about the roster and the pieces that we have," Kuzma said after working out with James, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. "And we think that a lot of people are underestimating us. It is definitely going to be fun playing with all these new guys."

He went on to say the team has to work on its chemistry after adding JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley along with the four-time MVP, but he suggested that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"A lot of people say we got a lot of different people, a lot of new people," Kuzma continued. "But change can be a good thing. It is not necessarily always a bad thing. There's a lot of teams in the NBA that need to work on their chemistry; we are just one of them."

While Rondo is an NBA champion and a four-time All-Star, he and James won't be enough to solidify the Lakers as legitimate Western Conference contenders. They'll need their young core to take a major step forward, too.

Along with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, Kuzma is a part of that core. He'll be looking to build on the 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game he averaged last season as a rookie.

Playing with James will help the entire group because of the defensive attention he attracts and his ability to hit teammates in stride with pinpoint passes. In turn, that should result in the Lakers notching far more wins than the 35 they had in 2017-18.

Kuzma may feel like the Purple and Gold aren't getting the respect they deserve, but James' arrival has boosted expectations significantly. In July, Bovada (h/t OddsShark) listed Los Angeles at +500 (bet $100 to win $500) to win the Western Conference, behind only the Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Despite the love from Las Vegas, ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton had the Lakers outside his playoff picture when he listed his win projections in the loaded Western Conference.

Perhaps Kuzma had projections like Pelton's in mind when discussing those who are underestimating his team, but the Lakers will face an uphill battle in the West this season. Not only must they go against established forces such as the Warriors, Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, but they'll also face talented young playmakers on the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and others.