In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s post breaks down Utah power forward Kyle Kuzma.
Kyle Kuzma is a sneaky good basketball player. He makes just enough mistakes that it seems to obscure a lot of the things he is starting to become very good at doing. He has excellent size (6’8, 223 pounds) and length (7’0 wingspan) and he moves more like a wing than a big man. He does not really know what he is doing on a basketball court right now but if he can figure that part of his game out... look out!
Kuzma was the highest usage player on a good offensive basketball team at Utah last season. The thing that jumps out at you is his emerging ability to be able to create on offense. He is not a stretch four; that might be a part of his game if he can become a much more consistent shooter, but that descriptor would significantly undersell his game.
The former Utah standout can operate in the pick and roll with a guard. He can run a pick and roll. He can create out of “dribble hand off” action and he has a solid face up game. Kuzma can also operate a fast break. In this draft class the only other players his size that demonstrate that type of offensive creation potential are projected to be top 5 picks.
His shooting mechanics are very clean, there is no wasted motion. Kuzma is not a consistent shooter yet (32.4 percent from three, 66.9 percent from the line), but the mechanics are just fine. He can play a bit emotionally at times so it might just be a matter of improving his mindset. He is willing to take shots from NBA range although he is pretty consistently short on them. He looks like a shooter that just needs to add core strength to be able to be able to extend the range of his shot.
Kuzma can also play above the rim and loves to attack off of the dribble. He has not learned to back dribble out of a double team or trap yet, but that is a pretty basic aspect of the game to learn. When he is under control he demonstrates great court awareness and vision and looks to be more than a willing passer.
Kuzma easily has the agility and mobility to defend on the perimeter at the next level. He needs to become a smarter defender and needs to improve his defensive posture but all the raw skills are there. He does not have rim protection skills, so he is never going to be a Paul Millsap type player that can slide to the center position defensively. Ideally, he will be deployed with a big man that can handle the rim protection responsibilities. Apart from that, he offers a ton of positional versatility on defense.
He is very proactive putting his body on someone as a defensive rebounder. And he is elite as a grab and go player. He is solid defending against the high screen and roll but just needs to improve his footwork and discipline to become above average or better in that area.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
To put it simply, the fit with Kuzma and the Hawks could not be better. The play a high motion offense that prioritizes ball movement and he is one of the most advanced power forwards in this draft class in terms of the skills needed to fit into those actions. Beyond that, the Hawks have a proven track record of being able to teach players to shoot. The Hawks need offensive creators as such it should not be surprising in the least that they reportedly have strong interest in Kuzma.
Draftexpress.com currently has Kuzma mocked to the Hawks with the No. 31 overall selection. If the Hawks could get him there, it would be incredible value. But after completing my full evaluation on him, I just don’t see how he makes it to that selection. I’m starting to become convinced that Atlanta could be targeting him at the No. 19 overall pick and that they could have been working out players such as Jarrett Allen as a smokescreen. Only time will tell.