If there is one life lesson that we people should remember, always manage our expectations on anything. The Los Angeles Lakers’ experience with Kyle Kuzma is the perfect example of why managing expectations is vital.
Kuzma: A Roller Coaster Experiment
On the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Lakers acquired Kyle Kuzma from the Brooklyn Nets, who picked Kuzma as the 27th overall pick. The deal involved the Lakers sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn.
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Kuzma’s getting drafted in the first round surprised many. Previous projections saw him getting picked in the second round of the draft. During that year’s Summer League, it looked like the Lakers did the right thing in trading for Kuzma. He averaged 21 points, six rebounds, and two assists and had 30 points and ten rebounds in the championship match in which the Lakers won. He took home the Summer League Finals MVP award.
Everything changed once the regular season came in.
During his first regular-season, Kuzma averaged 16 points. He increased that to 18 points in the second season. And that’s was it.
In his final two seasons in Hollywood, Kuzma averaged 12 points while shooting 43% from the field and 33% from the three-point line. His inconsistent scoring is just one of the reasons why Lakers fans grew disappointed in Kuzma.
His numbers furthermore dropped to ten points and three rebounds during the 2020 playoffs in Orlando. In the 2021 playoffs, Kuzma put six points on the average while shooting a woeful 17% from the three-point line.
Even before the Lakers traded Kuzma to the Washington Wizards in a deal that sent Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, many pundits believed that the Lakers wouldn’t be able to find a trade partner for Kuzma. After all, who would gamble on an inconsistent player such as Kuzma?
Then, the Wizards magically agreed on the trade.
What to Expect from Kuzma?
The Wizards had a disappointing 2020-2021 season. They made it to the play-in tournament, beat the Indiana Pacers to earn a spot in the battle for the final playoff berth in the East, but lost to the Boston Celtics. That was despite having Westbrook and Bradley Beal in the backcourt.
Many thought that this trade is what Kyle Kuzma needs. This upcoming stint in Washington will serve as a fresh start for Kuzma after playing behind LeBron James and previously behind Brandon Ingram. But, there’s this nagging question: What kind of a Kyle Kuzma will Washington see?
Is it going to be a hungry Kyle Kuzma who would put his doubters to sleep? Or, is it going to be the same inconsistent Kyle Kuzma who would do a great play on one possession and then turn the ball over on the next possession?
The other question is this: Will he be a starter?
Possibly. Among the three small forwards that Washington currently has, Kuzma is the most veteran in terms of his age.
The bottom line here is this: the Wizards should manage their expectations on Kyle Kuzma. The Wizards shouldn’t pressure Kuzma to get things done right off the bat. It’s unfair.
On the other hand, being a highly-criticized player should motivate Kuzma to do better with the Wizards. Why?
If he fails in his stint with Washington, the Wizards would be a laughingstock for trading Russell Westbrook for the package that included Kyle Kuzma.