Right up there with the Bulls, the Wizards are one of the biggest surprises in the NBA. Sharing the no.1 spot in the East with an 8-3 record, the Wiz have been a revelation and the clear winners of the Westbrook trade. One of the guys flourishing in a new environment is Kyle Kuzma, averaging 14.8/9.1/2 with an eFG% of 53.1. Last night, Kuz had an interesting clash with a fan in Cleveland in which he walked out as a winner and did it with style.
"It's your fault."
If the Bulls and Wizards are surprises, then the Cavs are a complete shock. Everyone saw a scenario in which Chicago and Washington started the season well, but no one saw the Cavs as a 7-5 team and playing outstanding basketball. That unexpected development encouraged Cavs fans who've been feeling themselves lately. Last night, a few guys paid the price for that cockiness.
With Cleveland up two points and 15.4 seconds left on the clock, the Wizards were in a tight spot. They had to get a bucket, but do they try to even up the score or go for the win? The ball found its way to Kyle Kuzma, who drained a corner three without hesitation. After the match, Kuz explained Cavs fans have one of their own to thank for his dagger.
Out of all the fanbases in the world, for Cavs fans to tell someone they wouldn't have a ring without LeBron is brilliant. They lined up Kuzma for this epic response and the dagger three. But unlike most players who would use this as motivation, Kuz was friendly about it after the match. He remembered the fans and made sure to put his stamp on the sign on his way to the locker room.
In two years, the Wizards GM Tommy Shepard turned John Wall into Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Add to that the promising development of Deni Avdija and the addition of Spencer Dinwiddie, and you have yourself a legit NBA team. The best part about the Wizards' performance so far is the fact Bradley Beal's been playing poorly for his standard.
Beal's averaging 23.1/5.5/5.6, but he's doing it shooting 40.7% from the field, and even worse, 25% from behind the arc. His numbers are bound to improve, making the Wizards a convincing playoffs team in the East. When that happens, and Rui Hachimura returns (out for personal reasons), they should be even better.
The fact Kuzma and Harrell are playing much better than they did with the Lakers proves playing next to LeBron is a two-edged sword. James will get you a few open shots every game and draw most of the attention from the other team. But he will also define a very specific role for you to succeed or fail in. it's LeBron's way or the highway.
Seems like, for Kuz and Montrezl, the highway wasn't bad at all.