This week, on February 2, 2022, the Philadelphia 76ers came down with a kase of Kuzmania in a loss against the Washington Wizards. The Sixers’ MVP candidate, Joel Embiid, put up an impressive statline of 27 points and 14 rebounds, and burgeoning star, Tyrese Maxey had an equally impressive performance with 22 point, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Despite the superb scoring from the dynamic duo, the Sixers fell to the Washington Wizards, 103-106, after Wizard player Kyle Kuzma served up 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks, one of which was the game-sealing block on Embiid. After Kuzma’s shining performance, several Sixers fans have wondered “Is Kyle Kuzma the Sixers’ missing piece?”

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 26: Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards shoots the ball in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ersat Capital One Arena on December 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Kuzma ReKap

Before this season, Kyle Kuzma was an LA Laker and, for lack of better word, a meme player. Not for his play, but rather his constant presence in both NBA and mainstream media. He trended on social media for his emoji tattoos, his rap beef with then-teammate Lonzo Ball, his constantly-changing hairstyles, his girlfriends (confirmed and alleged), his wacky fashion sense, his apparent similarity to Ariana Grande, and occasionally, his on-court antics.

 

As a rookie and a sophomore, Kuzma was viewed as a promising young player and even compared to now-perennial All-Star Jayson Tatum in his draft class. He had a nose for scoring and was dubbed “the steal of the draft”. However, after the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis and catapulted themselves to contender status, Kyle’s play took a step back. He was relegated to the bench to make way for the All-NBA power forward and struggled to find his rhythm. In an attempt to adapt to a 3-and-D role, he rebuilt his shot and declared himself the Lakers’ “third star”. When his production did not meet the expectations he put on himself, Lakers fans, and NBA fans, soured on him. His disappointing performance in the postseason following the Lakers championship run made his trade away from Los Angeles a welcome one for Lakers fans.

ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 11: Kyle Kuzma #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a photo with the Larry O'Brien Trophy after winning Game Six of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat on October 11, 2020 in Orlando, Florida at AdventHealth Arena. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

This season, Kyle has had the chance to take the helm in Washington DC and he’s making the most of his opportunity. His defense has improved from rookie days, when he was nicknamed “a traffic cone”. The 5th year-player now shuffles his feet instead of hopping himself out of position and is a switchable defensive threat. His handle and footwork have improved, so he can get to the lane with ease. Playing as a role player taught him to keep his eyes open for passing lanes. Kyle involves his teammates but is not timid. There is no sign of the indecisiveness that plagued his final year with the Lakers. His awkward and unique playstyle, which involves flailing his arms after shots, bare minimum handles, and what Spencer Dinwiddie has dubbed “look-look” passes, makes him hard to predict and even harder to guard.

If Kuzma Komes Here…

This season, Tobias Harris has been a source of controversy amongst Sixers fans. He caught COVID early in the season and seemed to have lost a step when he came back. In recent weeks, he seems to have regained his mojo. But he re-drew the ire of Sixers fans when he missed an open Tyrese Maxey and nearly turned over the ball in the final seconds of the Wizards game.

 

The fanbase’s has lodged a long list of Tobias complaints, and it’s no wonder Sixers fans are intrigued by a possible Kyle Kuzma trade. Kuzma has averaged 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists against the 76ers as a starter. His second highest scoring game, where he scored 39 points, was against the Sixers. For those who only watch the Sixers, he might seem like the perfect offensive generator to replace Tobias.

 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 03: Tobias Harris #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on March 03, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

 

But the numbers don’t say that. Tobias and Kyle’s stats in their last 10 games are nearly identical. Sixers fans lambaste Harris’ turnaround jumpers in the paint, well Kyle does that too. Aficionados hate watching Harris launch threes early in the shot clock, but Kyle does that as well. Sixers followers would love for Tobias to be demoted in order to allow Tyrese Maxey to take his place as the second option. Unfortunately, Kyle works best as a first or second option and struggles when he’s relegated to a supporting role. At the moment, the Sixers are third in the East, while the Wizards are eleventh. Kuzma and Harris are playing with different stakes and expectations. Those who have issue with Tobias’ consistency  should also remember Kyle’s hot-and-cold performances earlier in the season.

Konklusion

A Kyle Kuzma:Tobias Harris swap would likely be a lateral move in terms of production, but an upgrade when it comes to freeing cap space.  Tobias earns approximately $36 million a year and Kyle makes around 13 million. In the past, Kyle struggled when placed on a contending team. But with his improved defense, he may provide better switchability than Tobias. Regardless, there is no indication that the Wizards are willing to deal the 5th-year player. Sixers Nation may be better off supporting the guy that’s actually on the team right now.

 

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