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Kyle Kuzma showed Phoenix firsthand why he’s the right 5th starter

Kuz averaged 25.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in two games against the Suns over the last week in a showcase of his talents

Phoenix Suns v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The noise around the Jae Crowder trade packages have been just that to this point: noise. Opposing teams have even speculated that as the noise arises, it’s just Phoenix Suns GM James Jones trying to drum up interest.

For all the noise, one particular name that would be coming back for Crowder seems to keep coming up more than any others, and that’s Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma.

There’s been near-consensus approval by Suns fans on the idea of bringing Kuzma into the fold, and that’s because he checks a lot of boxes, including his role flexibility that can allow him to fit in the Suns’ starting lineups or as a bench leader. He was a big reason behind Washington sweeping their season series against Phoenix over the past few games, and he demonstrated clearly just how he checks those boxes.

Three-point shooting

Kuzma’s overall three-point shooting numbers might not be all that glamorous at first glance, sitting at 34.1%, but the context tells a different story.

His volume is a weapon, and at 7.5 attempts per game, only Jayson Tatum (9.3) attempts more at the same height or taller. Overall, the 7.5 mark is top 30 in the league, forcing defenses to honor it, even though the percentages are somewhat middling.

That percentage improves to 35.7% off the catch, and he has a knack for finding open spaces; per, Kuzma has at least four feet of space on 240 of his 261 attempts (92.0% of the time) from deep, which would surely continue in an offense with even more offensive weapons, like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

Punishing mismatches

Neither Jae Crowder nor Cam Johnson have ever consistently flashed the ability to be physical as part of their scoring package. Even Torrey Craig, who’s more physical than the other two, never really is seen backing down smaller defenders; that’s just not part of his package, either.

Kuzma can take his offense inside the arc, driving at smaller defenders or backing them down, which leads to points whether from him or his teammates. His addition would give Phoenix a dimension they’re not used to at the power forward spot.

Secondary playmaking

Part of the 0.5-offense includes being able to find teammates in advantageous situations, and Kuzma is particularly adept at doing so for someone his size. Ranking in the top 70 overall (3.6 per game), only 13 players average more assists at the same or taller height.

The 3.6 mark dwarfs any mark from Johnson’s career (was averaging a career-best 1.8 assists before going down with the knee injury) as well as Crowder’s, whose career-best mark is 2.8 during 45 games with Memphis in 2019-20.

Kuzma fits like a glove from all perspectives — personnel, schematic, and as well as just the culture. He’s been outspoken about loving the purple throwback unis as well as being a fan of Booker’s game, like all of us.

Be sure to read Dave King on what a trade package for Kuzma might look like:

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