NBA

Kuzma’s best statistical lookalike was an All-Star and NBA champion

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With 43% of the vote, fans chose Kyle Kuzma as the next Wizards player to go through my Doppelgänger stat machine. To sum up what I wrote about Kuzma in May, his overall production last season was largely within his career standards with a few exceptions – he got more defensive rebounds, produced more assists, blocked a few shots from more and committed more turnovers.

In my PPP metric (where the average is 100 and more is better), Kuzma scored 108, which was the best mark of his career and a little better than average. Here are his PPP scores year by year:

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  • 2017-18 — 89
  • 2018-19 — 95
  • 2019-20 — 59
  • 2020-21 — 98
  • 2021-22 — 108
  • Career average — 91

He had a nearly half-season streak (37 games) where he produced a solidly above-average 127 PPAs. It’s the same brand that Andrew Wiggins has produced for Golden State this season, and Wiggins has played in the All-Star Game and been a big part of the Warriors’ championship run.

Here is an overview of some of the stats I use when rating players (box score stats are per 100 team possessions unless otherwise stated):

  • Offensive rating (RBIs per 100 individual possessions): 103
  • Usage: 23.8% (average is 20.0%)
  • Points: 25.5
  • Rebounds: 12.6
  • Aids: 5.3
  • Flights: 0.9
  • Blocks: 1.3
  • Turnover: 3.8
  • Fouls: 2.9
  • Free throw attempts: 8.5
  • rms: 52.0%
  • 2pt%: 52.6%
  • 3pt%: 34.1%
  • FT%: 71.2%

His offensive rating was 8.7 points per 100 possessions below the league average. Unfortunately, there’s not much reason to think that this inefficiency was the result of a big offensive load. His efficiency throughout his career has been significantly below league average, even with a lower usage rate, and even when he’s on the court with the likes of Lebron James and Anthony Davis.

Last season, Kuzma shot slightly worse than the league average all around – two, three and free throws. He made more play than he had shown before in his career, and although his turnovers increased, his assist-to-turnover ratio improved to a career high. of 1.4. The league average was 1.9 last season. It was still worse than average, however.

One more thing before we get to the Doppelgänger results: the on/off numbers. I would caution against reading too much into them given the roster shake-up, which included Bradley Beal missing half the season, and the trade that sent starting PG Spencer Dinwiddie to Dallas and brought back Kristaps Porzingis.

It should be noted, however, that the team was better both in attack and defense when Kuzma was not on the pitch. This is true when looking at full season numbers, when looking only at games Kuzma has played in, and when looking at Kuzma when paired with team “stars” Beal or Porzingis.

Towards the Doppelgänger machine.

For those unfamiliar, my Doppelgänger Statistical Machine works by comparing a player’s performance in 14 different categories that include age, playing time, neutral box score stats, and my PPA metric scores . All of this is rolled into one score which (in theory) provides a list of NBA players since 1977-78 with similar production at a similar age.

One note: the first three in the list below are reasonably similar to Kuzma, but the similarities stray a bit further beyond that.

  1. Andre Wiggins, Golden State Warriors, 2020-21, 25 — After five seasons of at times bordering on average, Wiggins has had a bit of a bang with Golden State. During this competitive season, Wiggins achieved his highest full-season PPP (114), which he then surpassed last season with a 127. On the one hand, YAY! Kuzma’s best lineup is an NBA All-Star hall who just won a championship. On the other hand, Kuzma’s best comp has done a lightspeed transmogrification from disappointment to overstatement, and he’s very expensive for what he does.
  2. Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic, 2017-18, 22 — Similar production pattern, though Gordan has been a bit better this competitive season (PPA 121 vs. Kuzma’s 108) and throughout his career. With the exception of his rookie year, Gordon has scored above average in every season of his career. Kuzma hit the average for the first time this season. Gordon has six seasons better rated than Kuzma’s performance this year.
  3. Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers, 2018-19, 26 — Like Gordon, Kuzma and Harris have similar production patterns, but Harris is just better. Harris had a 140 PPA in this competitive season and 10 seasons with a PPA higher than Kuzma’s 108. His best season was 168 in his 28-year season with Philadelphia in 2020-21.
  4. Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic, 2018-19, 23 — A bit off year for Gordon — this 112 PPA season was sandwiched between a 121 and a 119. His best season: a 134 at age 20, let it be said in passing. Another example of how improvement for a young player should never be assumed.
  5. Chandler ParsonDallas Mavericks, 2014-15, 26 — Second-round pick (38th overall), Parsons broke into the league with a 107 PPP as a beginnerand he improved from there – PPA: 127, 125, 130 (season comp, career best) and 129. Then he kept getting injured and went from a productive starter to a replacement level producer when he could get in the field.
  6. Metta World Peace, Houston Rockets, 2008-09, age 29 — This was the penultimate season above the World Peace average — a 114 PPA. He followed that up with a 100 and was a solid league average contributor for another three seasons (until age 33) with the Los Angeles Lakers. At its peak, World Peace was a formidable defender and an elite pest – two things no one ever accused Kuzma of being.
  7. Keith Van Horn, New Jersey Nets, 2001-02, age 26 — Like Harris and Chandler, the production models are similar, but Van Horn was better. This competitive season was one of six consecutive years with an average rating or higher, five of which were rated 120 or higher. In this comp season, Van Horn’s PPP was 127. What ended his “streak”? A series of injuries that diminished his production, sidelined him and convinced him to retire at 30.
  8. Tobias HarrisPhiladelphia 76ers, 2019-20, 27 – See #3, above.
  9. waltz williams, Toronto Raptors, 1996-97, 26 — Here’s yet another player with (somewhat) similar production who was generally just a bit better than Kuzma so far. During this competitive season, Williams had a PPP of 103, up from 119 the previous year. Williams peaked at 122 with the Rockets during his 29-year season. Also, true story alert: I once stole the ball from Williams in a pickup game at Camp Five Star.
  10. Kelly Oubre Jr., Phoenix Suns, 2019-20, 24 — Remember the similarities at this point are there but aren’t as strong as they have been with other players. It was Oubré’s best season – a 112 PPA. He followed that with a 102 for the Warriors in 2020-21 and a 97 last season with the Charlotte Hornets.

The good thing about Kuzma’s compositions is that they were all at least decent players. On the other hand, his comp list looks a bit like an entirely overrated or overpaid list. And the recurring theme is that Kuzma has been the poor version of the best of these guys.

Survey

Who’s next through the Doppelgänger machine

  • 19%

    Daniel Gaffford

    (17 votes)

  • 43%

    Kristaps Porzingis

    (37 votes)


86 voices in total

Vote now

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