When Kyle Kuzma joined the Washington Wizards, there was a bit of a mystery surrounding his potential performance and fit. As a Los Angeles Laker, Kuzma struggled at times among the superstar clad team led by Lebron James.
Ultimately, those past struggles never showed up when he stepped onto the court as a Wizard for the first time last season.
With injuries and an expanded role last season, his overall game vastly improved. Kuzma went from 13 points per game (ppg) in his final Lakers season to 17 ppg with the Wizards. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds per game, and 3.5 assists per game.
While Kuzma is excelling on the court, he is also embracing his emergence as a leader on the Wizards team which is a role he was thrust into last season. But it’s a situation he doesn’t take for granted.
As Coach Wes Unseld, Jr. admits, he was propelled into a leadership position partly out of necessity. He also noted that coming from the Lakers, Kuzma wasn’t known for his leadership but he is impressed with how he has stepped up to the plate.
With Bradley Beal back in the lineup, the pressure isn’t on him as much to be one of the few veteran leaders on the team. However, you can still find him naturally providing his younger teammates with unsolicited advice to help improve their game.
As the regular season gets underway, Kuzma has kept the same energy from the 2021-22 season. He finished the season opener against Indiana with 22 points on 8-of-19 shooting, including 3-10 from beyond the arc, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocks for a season-opening double-double.
Against the Bulls, Kuzma finished the night scoring a team-high 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting (4-8 3PT), including a 4-of-8 effort from beyond the arc, and adding six rebounds and two assists to his stat line.
“Kuz is going to be Kuz,” Beal said. “Kuz is super aggressive from start to finish. We need him like that. I always tell him that he’s at his best version when he’s getting downhill attacking the basket. And obviously, when he’s locked in, his three-point shot is cash.”
Kuzma has now scored 20+ points in back-to-back games to open up a season for the first time in his career.