Clearly better? Talk about being a homer.
Wiggins was regarded as one of the best players in college basketball and was the #1 overall pick. In his rookie season, he averaged 16.9 points with the same lousy shooting statistics as this season. At 23 years old, with four years of experience in the NBA, he’s a high volume scorer who hasn’t shown one bit of improvement in four seasons. The only thing he did in 2016–2017 was take more shots to average that magnificent 23.6 ppg.
Kuzma was lightly regarded in college. He admits he wasn’t very good and determined to work his butt off. As a 22-year-old rookie, almost every metric shows Kuzma is better than the 23-year-old Wiggins.
The only thing you can argue is that Wiggins had a better reputation entering the league, and an On/Off rating inflated by having two All-Stars do all the heavy lifting for him.
So let’s look at the stats.
A) Basic performance metrics
PER: Kuzma (14.22), Wiggins (13.10)
RPM: Kuzma (-1.53), Wiggins (-1.62)
Advantage, Kuzma, unless they’ve change the definition of better to be “less is more.” Or is more less better than less less?
B) traditional stats
FG%: Kuzma (.450), Wiggins (.438)
3P%: Kuzma (.366), Wiggins (.331)
FT%: Kuzma (.707), Wiggins (.643)
RPG: Kuzma (6.3), Wiggins (4.4)
PPG: Wiggins (17.7), Kuzma (16.1)
FGA: Wiggins (15.9), Kuzma (13.5)
FTA: Wiggins (3.8), Kuzma (2.7)
MIN: Wiggins (36.3), Kuzma (31.2)
So Wiggins scored 1.6 more ppg by playing more minutes, and taking more shots and more free throws. On a points per shot basis, Kuzma (1.19) is still better than Wiggins (1.11).
Just to be fair, maybe we should compare apples to apples.
C) Per 36 minutes stats
Kuzma: 18.6 pts, 7.2 reb, 2.1 ast, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, 2.1 turnovers
Wiggins: 17.5 pts, 4.1 reb, 2.1 ast, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks. 2.1 turnovers
Kuzma is better. Might as well see what happens on the other side of the ball.
D) Defensive stats
Def Win Shares: Kuzma (.032), Wiggins (.031)
DRating: Kuzma (106.4), Wiggins (107.7)
DREB%: Kuzma (17.4), Wiggins (10.7)
%DREB: Kuzma (22.7), Wiggins (14.0)
Neither one is very good, but Kuzma is slightly better and might improve as he actually seems to try on defense.
E) Transition stats
Wiggins 1.04 ppp, on 2.5 possessions with a 12.9% frequency 39.9 percentile
Kuzma 0.98 ppp, on 3.9 possessions with a 23.6% frequency 27th percentile
Finally, absolute proof of Wiggins’ superiority.
F) ESPN Player Ratings
Wiggins is rated #70 by ESPN
Kuzma is rated #71 by ESPN
I guess that really settles that argument that Wiggins is clearly better than Kuzma: people’s opinions and almost zero actual statistics.
With regard to the mental side of the game, I think you’re completely wrong to ascribe Kuzma’s performance to teams not getting up for the Lakers. That can only explain the first game.
After the first overtime game in Los Angeles (which Kuzma missed due to back spasms), the Lakers had the Warriors’ attention. In the next game, Golden State went up by double digits twice during the first half, but the Lakers fought back to force another overtime. Kuzma went 25–6–3 in that game, shooting 10 for 16 and 4 for 6 from beyond the arc.
Two days later, Kuzma exploded for 38–7–4 in a Laker win at Houston while Harden scored 51.
Two day after that, they played in Oakland and Kuzma was even better, going 27–14–1, while shooting 9 for 15 and 3 for 6 from beyond the arc.
Elite athletes pay attention to what’s going on around them. It’s ridiculous to think none of the Warriors noticed the Lakers winning at Houston two days before the game in Oakland.
In terms of mental toughness, anyone with good coaching and discipline can beat up on inferior opponents. But athletes who perform with no fear in the biggest situations have a chance to become great, once they put in the work to become consistent. Kuzma is one of those guys; Wiggins is not.
I can’t wait to see how Kuzma plays when he has at least one All-Star as a teammate. (Although maybe it will be two, depending on how much Ingram improves).
I think I’ll be reminding you about your Kuzma pronouncements throughout the year with the same joy that I replay back your analysis of Jared Goff.