As many publications like to do before the start of a new NBA season, ESPN just released their annual NBArank where they rank players “based on their predicted contributions…for the 2023-24 season only.” Any list of this sort will cause disagreements as it is a rather difficult task, even if you have “nearly 150 reporters, editors, producers, and analysts” voting on it. Therefore, there is no point in bashing any player ranking list. However, where the Washington Wizards are ranked on this list does bring up a fascinating question.
The two Wizards players who were included in the Top 100 were Jordan Poole at 72 and Kyle Kuzma at 86.
This is not the first time Poole has been ranked above Kuzma on a similar list. Seth Partnow of the Athletic had included Poole but not Kuzma in his Top 125 players list for The Athletic earlier this summer.
But is Poole really better than Kuzma?
In a vacuum, maybe. He is a more dynamic on-ball creator and a better scorer. He is more skilled at getting by his defender, putting pressure on the rim, and getting to the free-throw line. He is harder to stop as an offensive player.
However, Poole’s advantages over Kuzma as a player probably end there.
The Kyle Kuzma prototype is a more valuable player in basketball. A 6’9 forward who has no real weaknesses is very hard to find. There is a real positional scarcity when it comes to combo forwards. Every team needs players like Kuzma who can defend reasonably well, rebound, and be a secondary or tertiary scorer and creator on the offensive end.
Kuzma is an all-around player with good size who can do a little bit of everything on the floor. That is a more valuable piece than a score-first combo guard who doesn’t play defense.
This certainly doesn’t mean that Poole can’t take a huge step forward and earn his ranking on the list with his play. He still has a lot of potential if he improves his ball-handling and off-the-dribble shooting. However, for a list that only includes the 2023-24 season, having Poole over Kuzma doesn’t seem right.
Yet, it is no surprise that Poole is ranked higher than Kuzma. One-way good scorers are generally overrated. Plus, Kuzma has been forgotten by the general basketball audience in the past two seasons as the Wizards missed the playoffs while Poole has the Golden State Warriors’ shine on him.
The hope is that the Washington Wizards play a fun and exciting brand of basketball this season that brings some attention to the team. That way, there could be a more accurate valuation of the Wizards players, and for the future of the franchise, let’s hope they rank higher on the list next season.