The Washington Wizards’ season is not going as expected. The team is 3-14 and has the worst defense in the NBA by a mile. They can only beat teams that are similarly at the bottom of the league. The Jordan Poole experiment is not going well, the questions surrounding coach Wes Unseld Jr. persist, and Johnny Davis has shown no signs of improvement. Yet, there is one Wizard who is exceeding expectations and having a career season: Kyle Kuzma.
Through 17 games, Kuzma has left no doubt about the answer to the question, “Who is the best player on the Wizards?” The 28-year-old forward has not only consistently been the best player on the court for Washington, but he has also been the clear team leader, showing an impressive level of maturity.
Usually, when players’ roles grow in a team offense, one can expect a reduction in their efficiency and an increase in turnovers. That has not happened to Kuzma.
Despite taking the reins as the primary option on the team, Kuzma is having the most efficient offensive season of his career. He currently has a career-high usage rate of 31.5%. Even though that is significantly higher than any of his previous seasons, he is averaging a career-high assist rate and career-low turnover rate. His averages of 4.8 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game are excellent for a score-first forward. He has taken clear strides as a playmaker and passer since arriving in Washington a few seasons ago.
His improved efficiency is equally impressive. He is in the midst of his most efficient season with 56.2% True Shooting. He is almost taking 20 shots per game but has the best accuracy of his career from all over the court. 36.3% from three and 82.5% from the free-throw line suggest that he has been working on his shot, on top of better and smarter shot selection.
His top-line numbers of 23.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game are eye-popping. Doing it on a team with minimal offensive talent and spacing is even more impressive. Doing it while only playing 30.7 minutes per game is even more notable.
If the Wizards manage to stay competitive in more games, Kuzma will play more in the fourth quarter and his minutes per game will increase. If he gets closer to 35 minutes per game like last season, we could be looking into All-Star territory numbers with averages of over 25-5-5.
Whether Kyle Kuzma can sustain this level of performance remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that he is a much better basketball player now than he was last season. The fact that he is adding to his game every year and becoming a better player each season, is noteworthy. Regardless of how long he stays in Washington, Kuzma has been a very good leader for this young team during his time. That should be appreciated.