Kuzzzzzzmania has taken over the Nation’s Capital! Over his last 13 games, Kyle Kuzma is averaging 22.5pts, 11.4rebs, and 3.2asts on 51%/30%/71% shooting splits.
His recent play has been so good, we thought it was worth further discussing. We wanted to ask our group of contributors a few questions about Kuz in our latest installment of the Bullets Forever 3-Point Play!
1) Is it possible this is more than a hot streak?
2) How many games do you have to see to believe this?
3) Who are some other comparable late bloomers we can point to as potential examples?
4) Kuzma is in Year-One of a three year deal at $13MM/year with a Player-Option after next season - What should they do with him under the assumption they’re committed to building around Beal?
Osman Baig: Kyle Kuzma is 26 and in his 5th season as a pro so while I’d like to hope this is a breakout, I’m also proceeding with caution. I think it’s encouraging his recent hot streak isn’t because he’s shooting an unsustainable percentage from 3 and he seems to finally be using his size to force the issue downhill, which is great. That said, can he continue that and break some bad basketball habits? For years I hoped John Wall would improve off the ball but his habits were ingrained. If Kuzma can consistently use his size to play downhill, I think he can make a leap, maybe not a 24/11 type leap but a leap nonetheless. .
I wonder how Kuzma going from years one and two on a mediocre team to a contender has changed the outlook on him a bit. Is being bucketed by age and experience entirely fair when he took on a completely different role next to Lebron/AD in his 3rd and 4th season? Maybe, but I’d also argue that was probably invaluable to him.
In terms of what I’d do with him, anyone should be tradeable but assuming Beal is here, I wouldn’t trade him for picks. If he can be used to get an all-star, absolutely, but not for a Jerami Grant type lateral move. All in all, his attitude seems great and he’s probably been their most fun player to watch and listen to this season. I bet LA wishes they could have him back!
Yanir Rubinstein: I feel like Kuzma is a winning player. For Kyle, I was surprised by the low 3FG%. I mean, engraved in my memory are his multiple clutch 3s and in general in the clutch (i.e., when people are watching) his percentages jump much higher from deep. His value is high for this Wizards team, but I am not sure how high is value would be on any other team. I guess what I want to say is that in his role in DC, Kuzma is outplaying his $13M contract. That probably makes his trade value quite high for some teams. But at the same time, I wouldn’t trade him at the deadline. The Wizards have plenty of time to still trade his contract in the off-season or even next deadline. After all, who are people going to pay to see except Brad?
Marcus Atkinson: I think this is sustainable for reasons that may seem odd. I actually think he could actually play better. I believe his dribble drives are impressive, but he is often out of control and takes difficult shots when he’s in short range. The advanced stats seem to bear that out a bit. In the past 5 games, when he is 5-9 feet away from the basket, he is shooting only 35.7 percent. For comparison, during the season, Deni Avdija is shooting 50 percent from the same area. I think Kuzma learning to balance himself more on those short jumpers and floaters could actually make him an even more effective and efficient scorer.
I think I have seen enough, it’s just a matter of him continuing to be aggressive going downhill. We have seen the potential at this point, it’s up to him to continue to play that way and the results will show themselves.
Is he a late bloomer though? I think a lot of this has to do with the role he has played. His best years thus far were his first two years in the league, which were both before Lebron James (he joined Kuzma’s 2nd year) and Anthony Davis (he joined Kuzma’s 3rd year) were his teammates. Once Anthony Davis came aboard, his role changed and the numbers dipped. I think he can still get back to where he was his first two years, but right now he’s pretty close to those numbers this year (although his 3 point shooting has dipped slightly).
I can’t think of a really good comp for Kuzma nor a late bloomer-type similar to him. He’s a fairly unique player. Not too many players possess the combination of his skill at his position and that’s what makes him such an intriguing player.
Ben Becker: Here’s some context on Kuzma’s hot streak over the past 12 games. His offensive rating of 109 over that span would rank as slightly above average league-wide if that was his ORtg for the year. The Wizards’ defense has been crummy when he’s been on the floor — not to say that it’s his sole fault, but he’s not moving the needle defensively. His individual board work has been great, but individual rebound numbers are a little noisy.
When you zoom out (always zoom out!), you see that Kuz’s numbers are roughly in line with where they’ve been the rest of his career — which is exactly what you’d expect of a 26 year-old player in his fifth season. He’s a decent player for sure, but his game has the same holes it always has — namely, subpar shooting from three and the line. I don’t see any reason to believe that Kuzma tops out anywhere far beyond an average-ish player. He’s had some great highlights and he’s fun to root for, but if the Wizards are depending on him to be anything more than a role player (preferably off the bench), they are destined for continued mediocrity.
Albert Lee: It’s possible that Kuzma’s hot streak could be sustainable, but the last month also coincided with the Wizards’ and the NBA’s coronavirus surge. I want to see another 10 games or so now that we are back to seeing the regular roster again. I can see some folks saying that once a player like Kuz is hot, he’s hot. But again, it’s a little easier to put up big stats when other frontcourt players aren’t available.
Kuz isn’t a late bloomer at all. The only other notable players I can think of as NBA late bloomers are Hedo Turkoglu and Anthony Parker. Parker was a guard while Turkoglu played the same position as Kuz who has consistently produced more at this point in both of their careers, five years in.
Assuming they keep Beal, the Wizards should keep Kuzma and anticipate that he opts out after the 2022-23 season. At that time, they should negotiate a new contract, but I would hope that it is less than $20 million per season for sure.
Osman Baig: According to NBA.com his ORtg over this 13-game stretch 115.3 and he has a Net Rating of +2.0. I’m encouraged his production isn’t tied to 3pt shooting while at the same time being confused that he isn’t shooting better.
He’s taking 17 FGAs per game over this stretch with 26% usage. Now that the team is healthy, I have a hard time seeing that load staying where it is but he’ll play a big role, especially if they tighten the rotation like they did versus the 76ers.
I want to see 10-15 more games to see if downhill Kuz can overcome the 3-point shooting. If he sticks with this identity, maybe there’s something there. I’d also like to see him avoid the really low lows, like the Portland game. Kevin Broom ran his doppelganger machine and came up with the following list of comps:
-Quentin Richardson (age 26)
-Tobias Harris (26)
-Chandler parsons (26)
-Aaron Gordon (23)
-Terry Mills (27)
- Tim Thomas (26)
Interestingly enough, another player having a mid-career breakout season - Andrew Wiggins - also shows up on the comp list.
To wrap this up, what do you think? Can Kuz keep this up? I think at minimum I can say he’s been a fun addition to the roster has been a value-add on the court and off with his personality. Would you like to see Kuz around for the long-haul? Let us know, and we’ll let you know what the results of our SB Nation NBA Reacts poll are later this week!