The Washington Wizards find themselves wallowing among the worst teams in the league, sputtering out to a 3-15 record. While the win column is sparse, the team itself has a handful of bright spots. Ranging from their impressive rookie Bilal Coulibaly to a handful of solid role players, this team, while frustrating at times, is not solely doom and gloom. Another bright spot has been the team’s star forward, Kyle Kuzma. Many expected Kuzma to form part of a dynamic duo with Jordan Poole, but amid the latter’s slow start to the season, Kuzma looks to be shouldering the load alone. For this reason, it merits breaking down his season so far.
Analyzing Kyle Kuzma’s Season So Far
Consistency as a Scorer
Over the summer, NBA fans debated who would be the lead option on the Wizards this season. Kuzma has firmly seized the position for himself, leading the team in usage rate so far at 30.9%. That mark also places him at 17th in the NBA. Kuzma finds himself the primary name on the scouting report each night, yet his scoring has not dipped. Kuzma is currently setting a career-high mark at 23.4 points per game. More impressive is the consistency with which he puts the ball in the basket.
Kuzma has only scored less than 20 points four times this season, one of which was a blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks, where he sat much of the second half. He has offset these with three 30+ point outings across the year. More importantly, two of those nights coincide with Wizards wins, proving that Kuzma’s scoring is more than empty statistics. Kuzma’s shooting splits also profile a burgeoning scorer, who has responded to his increased usage by posting a career-high FG% and FT%, as well as an uptick in his three-point percentage from last season. While the Wizards will likely plod along this season, having an exciting scorer in his prime gives the fanbase something to appreciate each night.
Developing as a Playmaker
Kuzma has always been known as a score-first forward since he entered the league. This season, however, has seen the development of a new dimension to his game as he finds himself playmaking for his teammates far more. His season mark of 4.8 assists per game is a career-high, while he has cut down on his turnovers compared to the last couple of seasons. Another interesting note is that Kuzma has averaged an astounding 8.2 assists in the last six games. Among those six games are two double-double outings against the Bucks and Hornets. If these numbers are sustainable for a longer stretch, Kuzma will have justified Wes Unseld Jr.’s decision to make him the team’s focal point.
Will the Defense Ever Develop?
The Wizards are one of the worst defenses in the league. They allow the second-most points each night and are also the worst rebounding team in the league. While both of these issues partly stem from the lack of depth in the frontcourt, Kuzma matches a career-low in defensive statistics. He is a capable athlete, standing six-foot-nine with a long wing span. Despite this, he rarely affects the game on the defensive end. It has been three games since he registered a steal or block. High-usage offensive stars taking it easy on the defensive end is nothing new.
However, the Wizards find themselves in the middle of a rebuilding season. In these moments, teams develop “culture” and habits to build upon. Kuzma is one of the veterans of this squad and their star player to boot. While no one expects Kuzma to become a two-way stalwart, seeing him sell out on defensive possessions each night would no doubt inspire other members of the roster.
What Comes Next for Kuzma
While breaking down Kuzma’s season, it builds a clear profile of a stellar offensive player. With positional size and effective scoring from three levels, Kuzma fits nicely in the modern NBA scheme. Over the summer, Kuzma signed a four-year, $102 million deal with the Wizards, keeping him under contract through 2027. The current season already feels like one that has gotten away, but the most important questions come next.
If the Wizards envision themselves building around Kuzma within the next three years, it makes sense to keep him. His contract is affordable, especially given his production. He will also no doubt like to stay in a place where he can be the main star and perhaps challenge for All-Star accolades. However, Kuzma’s contract is frontloaded, with the forward owed less money each season. This sort of contract is highly movable, especially after the initial year. The current trend has NBA teams swinging at least a handful of large trades each season. Should the right suitor come knocking for Kuzma, the Wizards will no doubt have to reassess just how deep they want their rebuild to go.