Kyle Kuzma often finds his name on the Twitter timeline for her outfits on the runway before the gameBut when was the last time you saw him play on the court?
For most, it has probably been since you were in the Lakers uniform last season, so if it’s been a while you might want to tune in.
The 26-year-old is enjoying the best streak of his career, looking like the player who ever anticipated after averaging 16 points and six rebounds per game as a rookie, earning First Team All-Rookie honors with Los Angeles. in 2018.
But before we get to its recent revival, let’s think about how it ended up here.
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Kuzma showed so much potential during his rookie season that he was seen as a building block for Los Angeles’ upcoming title hunt. Once LeBron James arrived in town, along with the business rumors that inevitably follow him, Kuzma somehow managed to be the only young player to survive the mass exodus.
They didn’t re-sign Julius Randle to make room for James, and after one season, the Lakers traded the rest of their young core in a package for Anthony Davis. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart were sent to New Orleans, but Kuzma was the only young player from that core left. (To be clear: Alex Caruso stayed too, but he wasn’t considered as valuable as he is now.)
It even got to the point that Kobe Bryant was talking about why the Lakers saw Kuzma as “untouchable.”
Kuzma won the 2020 NBA championship with the Lakers, but after they came up short in 2021, Los Angeles tried to act fast to maximize LeBron’s championship window. He traded Kuzma, along with Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a first-round pick to the Wizards for Russell Westbrook, which brings us up to speed.
That deal has allowed Kuzma to prove himself as a player in his first season under James’s wing since his rookie year, and he has made the most of that opportunity, maximizing his skill set in ways he never would have been able to. in Los Angeles. .
Take this recent stretch, for example.
I can write that Kuzma is averaging 23.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while shooting 52.4 percent from the field in his last 11 games, but it doesn’t do him the same justice as when you see those games listed:
- vs. Knicks: 18 PTS, 10 REB
- vs. 76ers: 12 PTS, 10 REB
- vs Heat: 22 PTS, 7 REB
- vs. Cavaliers: 25 PTS, 10 REB
- vs. Bulls: 29 PTS, 12 REB
- vs. Hornets: 36 PTS, 14 REB, 6 AST
- vs. Rockets: 24 PTS, 9 REB
- vs. Bulls: 21 PTS, 11 REB
- vs. Magic: 27 PTS, 22 REB (!)
- vs. Thunder: 29 PTS, 5 REB
- vs. Magic: 19 PTS, 10 REB, 9 AST
During this stretch, Kuzma had eight double-doubles, a nine-game streak of 20 points in a row and an unfathomable game of 27 points and 22 rebounds. Following a near-triple-double effort on Wednesday, the Wizards have now won three games in a row, seeming to return to normal after a red-hot start was derailed by a regression to the mean.
Kuzma has been the most impactful player in this rapid change, growing as a shot-maker, playmaker, and rebounder in every game.
His nine assists against the Magic were a season record, handing out back passes on the counterattack like we’ve never seen before. He had a subsequent move that caused the NBA’s official Twitter account to compare his footwork to Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake.”
And he has evolved into a reliable second scoring option behind Bradley Beal with his hard shot on display throughout this recent hot streak.
But what’s most impressive is that Kuzma has been there for the Wizards whenever they needed a decisive shot, knocking down a handful of daggers, whether to put the game out of reach, tie the game, or win the game.
According to NBA statistics, Kuzma’s 65 points in the clutch rank him seventh in the league, behind only Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Ja Morant and Zach LaVine.
Talk about decent company.
Kuzma has shot 51.3 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3 in critical situations, shooting percentages that are better than all the players mentioned above apart from DeRozan.
He has two winners on the season: one against the Pistons and one against the Cavaliers. He would have a third against the Bulls, but DeRozan’s miraculous second bell hit in as many days ruined it.
All of this to say that this season, Kuzma has been much more than just the fit photos you see on Twitter or whatever perception you still have of him from his Laker days.
He has been a legitimate difference maker for the Wizards and is beginning to become the player he was expected to be after his great rookie season in Los Angeles.