Kuzma does it again for Wizards, Kobe-style


The sample size is growing for Kyle Kuzma. What began as a hot streak in late December has stretched into its third month of him playing the best basketball of his career. He came through once again on Wednesday night to lead the Wizards over the Sixers on the road with 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.

Kuzma made a series of timely plays down the stretch, none bigger than his block on MVP candidate Joel Embiid with 7.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Wizards were only up by two points and it came in a crucial moment as they secured the win.

Kuzma's 24 points came on a night star guard Bradley Beal was out with a ligament injury in his left wrist. He also scored 25 points the night before in Milwaukee, also with Beal missing from the lineup, and 30 points in Saturday's game in Memphis.

Kuzma has continued to get buckets even when promoted to the No. 1 scoring option with Beal out. While defenses are paying more attention to him, he is continuing to find ways to counter.

Over his last 17 games, Kuzma is averaging 22.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 51.4% from the field and 36.7% from three. That's an All-Star level for roughly one-fifth of the regular season.

"Obviously, I didn't have this type of role at the beginning of the year and it's picked up the last two months," Kuzma said. "For me, I'm ready for this moment, I've been ready for this moment, I've been asking for this moment for years. I'm just ready for it. I put a lot of work in, I love the game, I study the game, I care about the game. It's just coming easy to me right now."


Kuzma has been open about how he feels the Wizards are a great place for him at this point in his career. He played his first four NBA seasons with the Lakers where he made a name for himself, learned from some great players and won a championship.

Now in Washington, he has a larger role on offense and a chance to spread his wings as a locker room leader. And at only 26 years old, Kuzma may have plenty more potential to tap into. The Wizards have him under contract for two more seasons after this one at just $13 million per year, with 2023-24 as a player option. 

That deal will likely take Kuzma into the prime of his career and it is already looking like a bargain. He is the team's fifth highest-paid player, but is playing like one of their best.

Kuzma's current scoring surge has his confidence increasing seemingly by the game. He made a few plays on Wednesday that indicated as much. In the first half, he cut through the lane off a screen and hit a reverse floater from about four feet away from the basket. In the fourth quarter, he backed down Tyrese Maxey and turned with his left shoulder to sink a fadeaway down the baseline.

Not long after the game, Kuzma tweeted a nod to the late Kobe Bryant, suggesting he learned the move from the former Lakers great. It was indeed a Bryant-like shot.

"I mean, I work on that shot every single day. I don't shoot it too much, but when I'm in the gym working out and work on my game, I shoot those every single day. I'm confident in it," Kuzma explained.

"I know if I ever get post-ups and I can't get to the rim, I know I've got a fadeaway to fall back onto. I'm confident in that I've taken a thousand of those shots. A thousand thousand, so I'm confident in it."

Kuzma, by all indications, is a hard-worker in practice and a diligent student of game film. He has the size and talent to be a standout player in the NBA, possibly even a star, and appears to be doing everything he can to realize his full potential.

The trade the Wizards made with the Lakers over the summer was mostly about creating salary cap flexibility and adding depth to their roster. But in Kuzma, they found a player with enough upside to add intrigue in the years to come. Maybe what we've seen over the last six or so weeks is just the start of something.