First, there is no argument that Kuzma was horrible shooting three pointers this year. One part of this was how playing as a stretch four or five meant that he was getting beat up physically, which affected his shooting. The second part was the injuries and how the Lakers had no continuity, so he kept trying to do more than he should. The third part is that insidious Mamba mentality that also turned Tatum into an inefficient iso player who shoots fall away jump shots.

Secondly, it’s obvious you’re going to penalize the Lakers because of their horrible season and ignore Kuzma’s offensive talents. But when you write about his negative On/Off rating, you must be talking about the difference between his On Court offensive and defensive rating (-1.2).

If that’s the case, why on earth would Collins (-1.9), Allen (-2.7), and Bryant (-3.0) be on the team before Kuzma?

If you look the overall difference he makes on his team, his On/Off rating shows that he is helping his team (+1.9), while Collins has a huge On Off differential (+6.7) because his team is so horrible when he’s off the court? Basically you’re penalizing Kuzma because the Lakers were bad, but rewarding for Collins being on an even worse team, as well as rewarding Allen for dragging down a slightly more successful team in a weaker conference.

None of that makes much sense, but you couldn’t be further off with your assessment that he was just an inefficient volume scorer.

Kuzma was terrible from distance, but extremely good on 2-point shot percentage (.533), which beats Morris (.529), White (.528), Mitchell (.484), Tatum (.482), Markkanen (.479), and Fox (.459).

Just look at his shooting stats compared to the other non-centers on your list:

Effective Field Goal %: Simmons — who never shoots outside the paint (.562), Morris (.559), Anunoby (.541), White (.521), Kuzma (.515), Tatum (.507), Markkanen (.506), Bogdanovic (.496), Fox (.493), Mitchell (.492)

True Shooting Percentage: Simmons — who never shoots outside the paint (.581), Morris (.574), White (.553), Markkanen (.553), Tatum (.548), Anunoby (.548), Kuzma (.546), Fox (.541), Mitchell (.534) Bogdanovic (.531)

Points Per Shot: Fox (1.27), Simmons — who never shoots outside the paint (1.24), Kuzma (1.22), White (1.22), Tatum (1.20), Morris (1.19), Mitchell (1.18), Anunoby (1.16), Bogdanovic (1.15), Markkanen (1.09)

Overall, Kuzma was a more efficient scorer than Tatum, Mitchell and Fox in most of these categories, so your argument about his shooting is far too narrow. Check out NBA player efficiency rankings:

Simmons 24.92
Fox 18.83
Mitchell 18.35
Allen 17.61
Tatum 16.65
Kuzma 16.41
Adebayo 15.28
Bryant 15.20
Morris 14.64

(Collins, Anunoby, Markkenan, Bogdanovic are not on the list)

Kuzma wasn’t great on defense, but calling out his 112 defensive rating doesn’t tell the whole story. Being forced to play out of position against big power forward and centers at the beginning of the year was a horrible miscalculation by the front office and coaching staff, as it killed his defensive rating and beat him up physically so his offense suffered. And being force to play defense when you’re surround by vets who are either pouting, not trying, or simply unwilling to play defense doesn’t help a player’s reputation.

If you compare Kuzma’s defensive rating to the team’s defensive rating for each month of the season, you’ll find that he was a plus defender for about half the season:

October: team 112.5, Kuzma 113.4 (forced to play center)
November: team 105.0, Kuzma 103.5 (surprised?)
December: team 106.7. Kuzma 105.5 (hustling!)
January: team 107.6, Kuzma 110.7 (LeBron hurt, offensive option #1)
February: team 116.4, Kuzma 115.1 (still trying in spite of the vets)
March: team 110.8, Kuzma 112.3 (injured his foot March 4th)

You couldn’t be expected to watch Lakers games, but Kuzma worked hard on defense. Just look at his hustle stats compared to his peers:

Charges drawn: White (.14), Kuzma (.10), Morris (.09), Bryant (.03), with Simmons, Mitchell, Tatum , Collins, Adebayo, Allen and Fox all at 0.0.

Contested 3-point shots: White (4.3), Collins (4.2), Tatum (4.1), Kuzma (3.3), Simmons (2.9), Fox (2.9), Mitchell (2.8), Bryant (2.0)

Contested shots: Allen (15.9), Collins (10.4), White (9.5), Bryant (9.1), Kuzma (8.5), Adebayo (8.0), Tatum (7.8), Simmons (6.6), Mitchell (5.6), Fox (5.5), Anunoby (5.5)

Most of Kuzma’s defensive mistakes were mental errors on help defense, mistakes which can be corrected with more experience, and minimized if he plays with teammates who give a shit about trying to play defense. (The Lakers’ defense completely collapsed after Lonzo got hurt).

  1. I don’t include Morris and Anunoby because neither player was a starter, or had many responsibilities outside of a tightly defined role. Their stats and efficiency were based on playing fewer minutes against lesser competition. (And if voters looked at things like most points scored in the 4th quarter, Lou Williams would be in the MVP conversation.)
  2. Defense and hustle need to factored into how well someone is playing.
  3. The one stats that shows how important a core player is to his team, is On/Off ratings. Unlike Net Ratings, On/Off ratings corrects for the bias of playing for a really good or a really bad team. If a player’s team does better when they’re on the bench, traditional stats have to be viewed with a grain of salt. Part of that is reflected in how the team’s record compares to the previous year.

Fox (+4.5) My vote for the Sophomore MVP, based on his On/Off rating and the fact that he lifted his team to contend for a playoff spot for most of the season and the Kings improved their record by at least 12 wins)

Tatum (+4.7)both he and his team under performed this year

Collins (+6.7) was really good offensively (+9.0 On/Off offense), for a really bad team that might have set the record for losses if he wasn’t playing

Mitchell (+2.0)still a net positive for the Jazz, even though they didn’t live up to this year’s higher expectations

Simmons (-1.9) — still great statistically, but surprisingly bad on defense this year, teams figured out how to play him in crunch time, and he was actually replaced by Butler as the closer with the ball on his team.

White (+5.6)good D (-3.8 Off/On defensive rating), the glue guy who helped turn around the Spurs’ season

Markkannen (+4.7) — he made the biggest difference for his team’s offense of anyone on the second team with a +5.4!

Adebayo (+2.4)rendered Hassan Whiteside obsolete

Kuzma (+1.9)carried the team on his shoulders with so many injuries, while also carrying the burden of all the pressure in playing with LeBron

Lonzo (+1.2) biggest On/Off defensive team improvement of any player (-3.9), among the guards on your list, he was: 2nd in rebounds, 2nd in steals, 3rd in assists, 2nd in screen assists, 1st in ast/to ratio, 3rd in def rating, 2nd in deflections, 3rd in loose balls recovered, 2nd in contested three point shots, 2nd in contested total shots, 2nd in DWS.

He’s easy to ignore because of his offense ad because he deferred so much to LeBron. You could also leave him off your team because of all the games he missed, but he still played more total minutes than Anunoby, and as many minutes as Bryant.

The other players you listed had negative Off/On ratings: Morris (-0.2), Bryant (-1.4), Allen (-4.5), and Anunoby (-12.1).

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Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at https://guttmanshapiro.com. Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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