Wizards excited about potential of Beal-Kuzma-Porzingis trio

Wizards excited about potential of Beal-Kuzma-Porzingis originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma have been teammates in the Wizards organization for over seven months now, but have yet to play together in a formal setting due to Beal’s recovery from left wrist surgery late last season. Even on Saturday, the first practice of training camp, they were split up during the team’s scrimmage.

Their potential as a trio has plenty of intrigue, but exactly what they are capable of can only be determined by them actually playing together. The process of building on-court chemistry is still in its early stages, though the three players are excited for the possibilities.

They praised each other’s games on Friday at Wizards media day and also presented caveats for what will determine their success. Kuzma explained how defense will be a key factor, particularly for the three of them as leaders of the team.

The Wizards ranked 25th in defensive rating last year, so a lot of players on the roster will need to be better on that end of the floor. But Kuzma says that starts with him, Beal and Porzingis.

“That’s the million-dollar question right there. Obviously, on offense we all can score, but it’s about how important defense is to us. If it’s important to us three, then everybody on the team is going to be dialed into it. That’s usually how it works,” Kuzma said.

“That’s what I’m anxious to see; how important is defense to us? If it’s important to us, it will be important to everybody.”

Kuzma has a unique perspective on leading by example having joined the Wizards from the Lakers where he was a complementary player to superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He won a championship with the Lakers in 2020 when Los Angeles boasted the league’s third-ranked defense.

Kuzma saw firsthand how James, Davis and the other core players of that Lakers team set an example for others. Kuzma believes it is important leaders on the Wizards do the same.

While defense will go a long way towards determining the Wizards’ chances this season, offense is what stands out the most about Beal, Porzingis and Kuzma as a combination. Beal is just one season removed from leading the Eastern Conference in scoring, while Porzingis has averaged 18.9 points per game during his career and Kuzma has proven capable of being a primary scoring option himself, including last season in Washington.

All three present matchup problems for opposing defenses and because of that they should be able to complement each other, especially given they each play different positions and generally like to attack from different spots on the floor.

Beal gave Porzingis a huge compliment during his media day press conference.

“I’m excited because he’s a specimen. He’s probably the best big I’ll play with in my career,” Beal said.

Porizingis could arguably be more than that. He may end up being the best scorer Beal has played with, based on volume and efficiency. Both John Wall and Russell Westbrook averaged 20-plus points alongside Beal, but Porzingis has shot a higher percentage throughout his career than they did in Washington.

The question for Porzingis, of course, has never been his talent. It is about his availability, as he has a long and well-documented injury history. He’s determined to rewrite that narrative and Beal believes that he will.

“I think he’ll prove a lot of people wrong this year and it will be exciting to see,” Beal said.

Porzingis called himself a “great fit” alongside Beal and Kuzma when he addressed the media Friday. And he offered specific details about how he believes they can help each other offensively.

Porzingis gave a vivid example of how he and Beal could force opposing defenses to make quick decisions on whom to guard off screens. 

“Brad draws a lot of attention. Me as a big, for example in setting the situation; I’m setting the screen and Brad’s in the corner and I’m going to get him to come off,” Porzingis explained.

“With a different big maybe who’s not a shooting big, the defense they can top-lock because the guy who would be guarding the big man can be down and protect the guard in case he goes backdoor. In this case, it won’t happen most likely because I can shoot it from the outside.”

[a ‘top-lock’ is when the defender gets in between a would-be screen to encourage a backdoor cut, usually into the range of a rim-protector]

That’s just one specific way Porzingis envisions developing chemistry with Beal. He says there are many more that will hopefully be on display this season.

For now, all of it remains in theory. But soon the Wizards should finally get to see some results.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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