Trade No. 2: Julius Randle, first-round pick for Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma has long been linked to the New York Knicks. He has made clear his desire to play in a big market and on a winning team; he doesn’t really have either playing in the nation’s capital on the worst team in the league. The Washington Wizards re-signed Kuzma this past summer, presumably to retain the asset and set themselves up to trade him down the line.
There are two questions to answer here. For the Knicks, is Kuzma a different enough player from Randle to justify the deal? They are both power forwards with good scoring instincts and more confidence in their outside shots than is warranted, and both are around the same age.
This season there is a major difference in their games, and that’s in efficiency. Kuzma shoots better on 3-pointers than Randle (this year and for his career) and takes a higher percentage of his shots from beyond the arc, giving him a markedly better true-shooting percentage, 59.2 percent to 42 percent. Kuzma has shot better for his career as well, turns the ball over less often and is probably a better defender.
The difference in the playoffs is even more stark. Kuzma has a 50.0 percent true-shooting in the playoffs across 27 career postseason games; Randle is at just 46.2 percent, with a sky-high turnover rate and a much higher usage rate.
If the Knicks keep Randle, they are almost certainly locking themselves into a player who will take a ton of shots and likely shoot average or worse on them. Kuzma allows them to get a similar player in the building who is used to being more of a role player and can thrive in that role, will do a better job of spacing the court, and could be used as matching salary down the line. It’s not a clear-cut answer, but it’s worth asking.