Wizards may have found something in Kyle Kuzma

Kyle Kuzma

Though the Wizards-Lakers trade centered around Russell Westbrook over the summer technically became a complicated spiderweb of NBA transactions, it really amounted to three players coming to Washington: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell. All three were established NBA veterans, but still young enough to present some upside.

The Wizards gave them larger roles than they were offered in L.A. and each of them a fresh start. Caldwell-Pope and Harrell were exactly as advertised, the latter before he was traded away earlier this month. Kuzma, though, has thrived to a much greater degree.

On Saturday night in a loss to the Cavs, Kuzma scored 34 points including a career-high eight 3-pointers. He also had 13 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He shot 59.1% overall and went 8-for-11 from three.

The night before, in a loss to the Spurs, Kuzma had 36 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, a block and a steal. They were both narrow losses for the Wizards, but Kuzma had monster numbers, marking the fifth time in six games he's scored at least 20 points.

"My shot has been feeling good over the past couple weeks leading up to the [All-Star] break," Kuzma said. "Not just threes, but being comfortable shooting in the midrange... Finding that rhythm has been great for me."

Kuzma, 26, is putting together arguably his best NBA season. He is averaging 17.0 points, second-best in his career, with career-highs in rebounds (8.8/g), assists (3.1/g), blocks (0.8/g) and steals (0.7/g). 


Kuzma's numbers have been even better than that over the last two months. Since Dec. 22, a stretch of 28 games, he's averaging 21.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.0 block while shooting 48.5% from the field and 37.3% from three.

Those are All-Star numbers and across about a third of an NBA season. What may further signal it's sustainable is the fact Kuzma continues to score despite being the team's No. 1 scoring option. Bradley Beal is out for the season and Kristaps Porzingis remains sidelined with a right knee injury. That has left Kuzma as the primary focus of opposing defenses every night, yet he's continuing to find counters.

"He's shown a steady progression where it seems like every month he's getting better. He's playing with more confidence," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.

Perhaps the best part for the Wizards is they have Kuzma under contract at least through next season at $13 million annually. The 2023-24 season is a player option which seems certain to be declined, especially at this rate. But the Wizards know they can at least see where this goes for another year.

Maybe Kuzma will find stardom in a Wizards uniform. Many players reach their prime in their late 20s and he's not there yet. It wouldn't be the first time the Wizards traded for a player in his mid-20s and then developed him into an All-Star. They did that with both Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler in the mid-2000s.

Like Kuzma, Butler also came from the Lakers. The Wizards got him in a trade that soon proved to be one-sided in Washington's favor. In that regard, Kuzma may lead to history repeating itself.