LeBron James: Kyle Kuzma 'Has to Be Our 3rd-Best Player' for Lakers to Win Title

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' Kyle Kuzma (0) follows through on his game-winning 3-pointer over Denver Nuggets' Bol Bol (10) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 124-121. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Kyle Kuzma hit one of the biggest shots of his career Monday, knocking down a game-winning three in the Los Angeles Lakers' 124-121 win over the Denver Nuggets.

LeBron James says the Lakers will need more of Clutch Kuz if they're going to hoist a championship this season.

"In order for us to win a championship, he [Kuzma] has to be our third-best player," James told reporters. "If I'm struggling or AD 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."

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KUZ FOR THE WIN 🔥 https://t.co/iPGnvc8zmH

LeBron has a point. The Lakers have no obvious third banana behind himself and Anthony Davis. After chasing Kawhi Leonard in free agency, the Lakers had to scramble to fill a roster that was depleted following the Davis trade.

Danny Green, their highest-salaried offseason signing, hasn't shown himself capable of that role and appears to be an overpay. The likes of Dwight Howard, Alex Caruso and Markieff Morris can step in on any given night to give the Lakers a boost, but they lack high-end potential needed to push a team over in the postseason.

That Kuzma will be needed to perform only highlights just how spectacular James and Davis will have to be in the postseason. Kuzma is likely the worst third-best player of any championship contender, depending on whether the Houston Rockets fit your definition of "contender." He's shown few marked improvements since his rookie season; his per-minute averages and advanced numbers are either mirror images or slightly worse than they were in his rookie campaign.

There are also fit questions, with Kuzma and James' best position being the 4, and Davis insisting on being a 4 despite being best suited for the 5 spot.

Not that any of this has eroded Kuzma's confidence.

"I think Jesus could be in front of me and I'll probably still shoot," Kuzma told reporters. "Don't really matter to me. Got an open look. Play we kind of ran in practice a few times prior to the restart. Coach had faith, called my number and it paid off."

The Lakers will have to hope that shot is a launching point for the postseason. Otherwise, they may not have the depth to beat the Clippers or Bucks over a seven-game series.