Pace and space.
That’s the name of the game in today’s NBA. Every team should be looking for options that help them improve shooting while also being able to run the floor.
This is where the idea of Kyle Kuzma joining the New York Knicks is incredibly appealing.
I want to preface this by saying, I’m not entirely sure how the financials would work, but this is more of a fun exercise (let me fantasize)
Kyle Kuzma has a $13 million player option going into next season that he will most certainly decline. The Washington Wizards can offer him up to five years, $194 million if they give Kuzma a max contract.
If they don’t retain Kuzma, I know of an organization that’s about an hour’s plane ride from Washington that would greatly benefit from his services.
The 27th pick in the 2017 NBA draft is coming off a career year in Washington. He put up a career-best 21.2 points per game while also contributing with 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 35 minutes per game.
He saw a slight drop-off in field goal and three-point percentage which is normal given he had a career-high in usage percentage. Kuzma had the second-highest usage on the Wizards next to Bradley Beal. If he came to the Knicks, his usage would have to go down but that’s where I think he can thrive. A perfect third or fourth option that is typically reliable and can have plenty of big games.
His three-point shooting wasn’t great this season, only hitting 33.3 percent. He still hit 160 three-pointers. The 160 makes would’ve been third-best on the Knicks this season. The corner three stats stood out to be when evaluating Kuzma. He shot 31/76 (40.8%) from the left corner and 19/47 (40.4%) from the right corner. It was significantly better than RJ Barrett who shot 10/41 (24.4%) from the left and 27/74 (36.5%) from the right. The hope would be for him to improve his three-point game all around the arc but just knowing he’s a reliable threat from the corners help.
Another area Kuz can help with is points near the basket. He averaged a career-high 9.8 points in the paint and would boost a Knicks team that sat 15th this season in inside scoring. The forward also shot 68.5 percent from less than five feet. Kuzma hit 18/20 cutting layups and similar to RJ Barrett, their respective teams should be looking for them to cut more and get easy baskets.
The jump shooting numbers all around were not impressive but he can definitely improve on that and become a 17-22 point efficient scorer.
Better on defense than advertised
Kuzma has gotten a bad rep in his career on defense. Though he isn’t some lockdown defender, he is very capable and could improve a lot under Tom Thibodeau’s guidance.
He’s been positive in defensive win shares every year in his career and hasn’t been below +1.9 in any season. The 7.2 rebounds he averaged this season would’ve been third on the Knicks and he averaged 8.5 in 2021-22, a number I can see him getting back to.
Potential five-man unit
I’m assuming someone from this Knicks team would have to be moved to make space for Kuzma. If they can find a way to bring him aboard while keeping the team intact, the closing lineup looks really tough.
A closing five of Jalen Brunson-Josh Hart-RJ Barrett-Kyle Kuzma-Julius Randle would be among the best in the NBA. You have a little of everything and with Brunsons’ improved outside shooting, defenses will have to be on their heels stopping all five players.
I know this isn’t likely to happen but Kyle Kuzma in a Knicks uniform would be electric and could help close a lot of the gaps the team had this season.
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