Kyle Kuzma has been the the biggest bright spot in a season that's been filled with ups and downs for the Washington Wizards.
In Washington, Kuz has seemingly unlocked the potential he flashed during his early days with the Los Angeles Lakers. But he soon went from the last prospect standing to a convenient scapegoat when he wasn't able to transition into the third star they needed alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Going from a rebuilding situation to suddenly garnering expectations of stardom on a contending team, all while playing for the most watched franchise in the NBA isn't exactly what's best for a young player's development, even one as talented as Kyle Kuzma.
That's why it shouldn't be too surprising that he's flourished upon his arrival in Washington. With Bradley Beal out for the season, Kyle Kuzma had free rein as the Wizards' primary scorer and looked completely comfortable in the role. After a middling start to the season, Kuz has turned into a consistent 20-10 scorer while averaging a career high in assists this season.
In a recent feature from Josh Robbins of The Athletic, Kyle Kuzma was vocal on what held him back on those Lakers teams, playing behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, versus what he's now showing with the Wizards.
“It’s been a great change of pace for me, a change of scenery,” Kuzma said on his time in Washington. “I did as much as I (could) to maximize (myself) when I was with my former team, with changing my role every single year for the betterment of the team and trying to fit in with great players. But here, it’s been a lot different, because I don’t necessarily have to do that. My role has changed here. If you think about the first 25 games, I was in a different type of role than I am now: more scoring and just doing more things with the ball. It’s just great to be in a situation where I can just be myself and do what I do, and not dummy myself down.”
On the Wizards, Kyle Kuzma arguably has the most developed skill set on the roster not named Bradley Beal. There's no quick hook coming if he makes a mistake. It was the complete opposite during his time with the Lakers, where every little error could cost him some minutes and earn him the ire of a disgruntled fanbase.
“It’s great, because I’m not looking over my shoulder,” the Wizards forward continued. “Every time I’m making a mistake, I’m not looking at my head coach. I can focus on the game. Obviously, I don’t want to make mistakes. But that’s a part of it when you’re growing. I’m 26, but I’m really growing.”
The stakes are obviously lower in D.C., where the team is currently fighting to make the play-in tournament. (Or maybe not, since the Lakers appear to be doing the same) But Kyle Kuzma is making the most of his opportunity away from the LA spotlight.