Evaluating Kyle Kuzma

May 5, 2017

By Alan Lu

Recently, Utah’s 6-9 junior forward Kyle Kuzma was invited to participate at the NBA Draft Combine that will be held soon this month in Chicago.  Kuzma is a 6-9 forward that had a very good season this year, as he put up solid numbers on a Pac-12 team ended up playing in NIT, although they ended up losing in the first round of that tournament.  With thanks to YouTube via ncaa sportsvids, I was able to watch him play in a January 14th game against UCLA this year.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared in that game, as well as how his skills may translate to the NBA.

Kyle Kuzma is a fairly energetic player that may tend to get the majority of his scores off of hustle plays.  He excels at scoring off of broken plays, put backs, and off cuts to the hoop, as he can finish plays with either hand, throw down a surprising tip dunk, and he also can make smart backdoor cuts to the basket.  On the downside, he does not always get up the floor quickly, as that may have prevented him from getting opportunities to score on fast breaks in this game.

He also has the potential to develop into a stretch big in the NBA.  Kuzma can make threes and mid-range jumpers, and he can knock down shots off of pick and pop plays, as he possesses the ability to excel as a shooter off the catch.  However, he can tend to be too streaky as a shooter, as he may not make enough of his shots consistently, and he tended to struggle more to shoot off the dribble.   In addition, he does not possess a great first step or burst off the dribble, as he really struggled to create his own shot on isolation plays.

Also, Kuzma possesses solid playmaking skills.  He is a smart player that sees the floor well, and he is a gifted passer that can throw a tremendous outlet pass, especially off the inbounds.  His best assist was on the final play of the game, as he threw a really long outlet pass to set up a mid-range score, though that was not enough to help his team beat UCLA.  But also, Kuzma is an unselfish player that will make crisp, accurate passes, as he can find teammates on the move.   Sometimes though, he may struggle to protect the basketball, but he did not commit many turnovers in this game.

Plus, Kuzma did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He is very active at crashing the glass, as he will aggressively chase down rebounds on both ends of the floor.  But sometimes, he may do so while sacrificing defensive positioning, as he would at times leave shooters open to grab rebounds.  Also, he occasionally struggled to collect a few rebounds in traffic, as he would not always jump well, which would cause his opponents to grab boards over him.

He also showed fairly average defensive skills.  Kuzma played in a matchup zone defense, but he did tend to make good rotations, as he would stay in front of his man to force some misses.  He has good strength to defend in the post, and he also can use his length to contest shots and also rip balls away from ball handlers to try to get steals.

However, there were also times where he would be out of position, especially early in this game.  Kuzma occasionally would be late to contest shots, and he even attempted to flop without success, causing him to allow the opposition to score numerous times on jumpers.  He also did not appear to have great speed or lateral quickness, as this would hurt his team on transition defense, and he also would get beat to allow scores inside the arc.

Right now, Kyle Kuzma is a combination forward that can pass and rebound the basketball, but he may only possess fairly average physical tools.  He will need to significantly improve his jump shot and defensive skills, but his strong passing and ability to rebound the basketball could make him a potential second round pick late in the 2017 NBA Draft.

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