In a season full of disappointment and surprises for the Washington Wizards, the biggest surprise of them all has come from first-year Wizard Kyle Kuzma. Unlike other surprises, the sudden emergence of Kuzma as a team leader is actually a very positive development.
Kuz was acquired in the Russell Westbrook centered blockbuster trade this past offseason. The Wizards got him from the Los Angeles Lakers along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell. The deal also included the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers, which returned Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday to the Wizards as well.
Only Kyle Kuzma and KCP remain on the Wizards following the trade deadline. Those two are the ones that stuck for good reason. KCP is a valuable veteran that does things that are extremely important off the ball. He is a high-end role player that has proven what he can do next to great players.
Kuzma stuck for a few reasons, the same reasons that suddenly have him as a key piece for the organization in the coming seasons. First and foremost his production has been better than even the most optimistic of fans could have hoped for.
Kuzma is averaging career-high rebounding, assist and blocked shots numbers. His scoring is better than it had been in years and he is doing it at a fairly efficient level considering the circumstances. In many ways, Kuz has been the team’s best player this season.
He has also been available. An important fact for a team that has had availability issues all season long. While his production has been beyond expectations, even more surprising has been his role within the locker room.
Kyle Kuzma Emerging as a Leader
Countless times throughout his first season on the Wizards, Kyle Kuzma has displayed leadership in his comments and handling of situations. His teammates are backing that up with some of the comments they have shared about the veteran forward.
As you can see, youngster Deni Avdija had high praise for Kuzma in a recent postgame interview. It’s clear the forward values his veteran teammates’ presence and playing alongside him is impacting him in a positive way.
Not only are players speaking highly of his presence, but he is also returning the praise on some of the team’s younger players. As someone they clearly look up to and value, positive feedback is likely huge in building their confidence and helping them understand the NBA game.
Corey Kispert is someone Kuz has praised for his growth throughout the season. It’s no surprise that Kispert seems to be getting more confident on the court in recent games.
With the unknown future of Bradley Beal and the youth of the roster around him, it’s incredibly important to have a player such as Kuz stepping up and taking on a leadership role with this team. He is earning a long-term career on this team with both his production and his value in the locker room.