Simmons is a big part of that.
"Teams are trying to guard him different ways because he doesn't like to shoot from outside and he still finds a way every game to get near a triple-double," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "Defensively he anticipates very well getting in passing lanes, leading transitions. He's a heck of a player."
Walton believes his first season in the NBA gave him a head start on learning the NBA game.
"I mean he is considered a rookie, but I think if you're a basketball player and you're paying attention, you're around the league every day, you're ahead of the curve compared to other rookies in that class," Walton said.
Basically everything about Simmons path to this point is different from Kuzma's. Kuzma spent four years at Utah, playing three, where Simmons came out after his freshman year at Louisiana State. Kuzma was largely overlooked in the draft, being selected 27th by the Lakers. Kuzma didn't enter the season as a sure rookie-of-the-year candidate, and unlike Simmons he isn't a regular starter on his team.
In the macro view, too, their situations are different. While Philadelphia (13-10) is deemed close to its revival, the Lakers are not. At 8-15, the Lakers are working through the early stages of a rebuild.
What they have the most in common, though, is that they aren't looking toward the race for the award as a goal.
"I think I've played all right so far," Simmons said recently. "A lot of improvement I need to make -- turnovers, defensively I need to be better, and obviously rebounding, be consistent with that."
That quote came when Simmons was asked about being named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month, with Simmons eyeing much more.
(c)2017 Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.