Sometimes, you got to give the people what they want.
@JoeMullinax wouldn’t mind seeing a breakdown from the blog comparing Dillon Brooks and Kyle Kuzma considering Kuzma’s new deal if anyone over there has time and interest— Jacob Ginn (@jginn1704) December 20, 2020
Our Site Manager Joe Mullinax also said this was an idea that had my name all over it. He’s not necessarily wrong either.
I’ve been a strong advocate for Dillon Brooks since the 2017 draft, as I’ve become infamously known as the author of the 6-part series on why he can become an elite role player, and a co-founder of the critically-acclaimed Dillon Brooks island. Meanwhile, I became intrigued with Kyle Kuzma’s game when he exploded in Summer League alongside the mega-popular-at-the-time Lonzo Ball.
Brooks and Kuzma have arguably been two of the biggest steals from the 2017 draft, and now they’ve inked extensions that exceed $10M annually.
The two players have more in common beyond their extensions.
Dillon Brooks and Kyle Kuzma basically the large-market and small-market versions of each other, though traditionally they play different positions. Maybe Brooks is wing Kuzma, while Kuzma is big Brooks.
They both carry themselves like they are star players, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a team needs a player with irrational confidence to win games. It also leads to them becoming the scapegoat among the fanbase, when things go awry. And my Lord, with these two players, it can get brutal — and Kuzma gets it on a national scale, unlike Brooks. Shots don’t fall, and everyone grabs the pitchforks; and when they fall, their brash style of play leads to little praise. They both do some stuff on the court that’s super cool and star-esque, and the next possession they can look like Shaqtin-a-Fool All-Stars with some head-scratchers:
Dillon Brooks can’t be disturbed right now, he is playing basketball by himself pic.twitter.com/Ax6wSVTueF— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) December 21, 2019
Kyle Kuzma going for that No. 1 Shaqtin spot pic.twitter.com/69K91tOKSI— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 3, 2020
Watching these players play — through both the good and the bad — is such a wonderful experience
On the court, they both are big, physical 3-level scorers that can get hot or cold and swing the direction of the game. That’s okay too! I’m a believer that great teams need a shot-creator that thinks he’s slightly better than he is, because a hot-shooting night at a high volume can result in a win. Last season, the Grizzlies finished with a stellar 18-4 record when Brooks scored 20 or more points — which could’ve been the difference in having a 2021 first-round pick and not.
Their scoring prowess led to Brooks and Kuzma getting this nice extensions, but the teams are also banking on these players expanding their games past scoring. With the depth the Lakers are presented with, Kuzma needs to round out his game to stay on the court. Though he’s arguably the best shot-creator in the 2nd unit (assuming Dennis Schroder is in the starting lineup), he’s not the most complete player. Where Kuzma could exceed his value is combining his scoring with versatile defense and playmaking.
When locked in, he can be a solid defender, as he possesses the physical tools to defend across the wing positions and in switches.
Kyle Kuzma’s defense tonight pic.twitter.com/NdYHPkEfJv— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) July 31, 2020
He’s flashed early upside as a playmaker, averaging 3.5 assists in the preseason. Whether it’s a preseason mirage or not is up for debate, but he’s proven he can make good reads in meaningful games.
An underrated aspect of Kyle Kuzma's performance against Denver was his playmaking. Kuzma, who is posting a career low assist% by virtue of playing aside two high usage players and not being particularly pass heavy to begin with, made decisive and timely reads in early transition pic.twitter.com/5Zq3iVwOKx— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) August 12, 2020
Dillon Brooks has reiterated to the media about how he’s rounding out his game, becoming a leader, and making better decisions as a playmaker. He’s backed it up in the preseason by averaging 3.5 assists in the preseason, while making legitimate reads and the extra pass on the floor.
Both Dillon Brooks and Kyle Kuzma have their flaws. Their decision-making can be poor at times, and they’re still working on rounding out the rest of the games. Despite (what it seems like) the All-Star expectations for these players, and the fact that they haven’t (and probably won't) reach them, there is value in players like Brooks and Kuzma.
Don’t listen to the noise that it’s not true.
Shot-creation, multi-positional players, and 3-point shooting are premiums in today’s NBA, and both of those players fit the criteria for all 3 here. Just as easily as they can “lose a game” for their teams, they can get hot and seal wins for them as well. That’s valuable in today’s NBA.
So while most will focus on the bad when taking their extensions into account, make sure you tune into the good that they do on the floor, and how they continue to add to their bags. From the looks of it, both Dillon Brooks and Kyle Kuzma are ready to prove that they can do more than score, and that they can make a winning impact for the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers.