The early returns for Kyle Kuzma have been encouraging. The Los Angeles Lakers rookie posted strong numbers in summer league and has looked particularly sharp in the team's first two preseason games.

Against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, Kuzma scored 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go along with five rebounds and a steal. On Monday against the Denver Nuggets, he poured in 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, which included an impressive 4-9 from three-point range.

"My teammates are just finding me. I'm just doing a good job of just knocking shots down," Kuzma said after Monday's game.

The big numbers are nothing new for the former Utah star. In seven summer league games, Kuzma finished sixth in scoring, averaging 21.9 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting over 32 minutes. He also averaged a respectable 6.4 rebounds.

The 22-year-old was selected with the No. 27 overall pick in the NBA draft, with some scouts calling him a draft-day steal due to his high energy and impressive versatility. The lanky 6-foot-9 forward has looked comfortable shooting from beyond the arc, knocking down midrange jumpers and penetrating to the hoop. 

While Kuzma has openly expressed confidence in himself as a shooter, head coach Luke Walton has praised his competitive spirit. There is a growing feeling in the Lakers camp that Kuzma could be a key catalyst off the bench.

Kuzma is expected to compete for minutes with fellow reserve Larry Nance Jr. but can also cut into projected starter Julius Randle's time, as well. Nance is dealing with a sprained right finger, so Kuzma should get more opportunities to prove his value against the Nuggets on Wednesday night.

With coaches and general managers placing a premium on three-point shooting, Walton might be eager to have Kuzma share time in the frontcourt with center Brook Lopez. Walton has already stated that he feels Lopez is among the Lakers' best three-point shooters. The combination of Lopez and Kuzma on the perimeter could help spread the court for Laker guards to penetrate.

But Walton's interest in making the Lakers less reliant on low-post scoring doesn't begin and end with Kuzma at the stretch four. The second-year coach also has Randle, Nance, Brandon Ingram, Corey Brewer and Luol Deng all listed over 6-foot-8 and capable of knocking down shots from distance. Such depth could mean Kuzma sees sporadic playing time over the long 82-game season.

Kuzma is just one part of the Lakers renewed commitment to youth. Team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka added four rookies in the offseason and there could be as many as seven players under the age of 26 projected to average over 20 minutes per game in the 2017-18 season.

The brightest star continues to be point guard Lonzo Ball, who was voted by league general managers as the player most likely to win the Rookie of the Year award with 62 percent of the vote. Ball finished ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers' two No.1 overall picks Ben Simmons (24 percent) and Markelle Fultz, who didn't receive a single vote. Dallas Mavericks' point guard Dennis Smith Jr. had the third most votes at 7 percent.