Kuzma, Grant, Green: Who provides the best value?

Published December 8, 2023, 8:00 AMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

Three different power forwards at similar price points. Which player brings more value to his respective team?

In a previous article, I broke down three playoff point guards at three different price points, similar to how the web series usually does it.

It also got me thinking. A player’s worth in the NBA isn’t just about how much they cost and how much they can produce on the court. Sometimes one player can be more valuable than another even if they’re both being paid the same.

That’s why for this piece, I will be taking a look at three different power forwards at three similar price points to find out which one brings more value to the table.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

2023-2024 Salary: $22.3 million

Just by taking a look at his averages, it would have been easy to declare that Green is worth the salary he’s getting. He’s currently averaging 14.8 points (highest average in his career), 8.1 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. Those numbers are similar to his All-Star production from 2016 to 2018.

Is he going to be an All-Star this season? I doubt it.

That’s because even if the averages look good, his impact on the Warriors just isn’t the same. Golden State isn’t dominating the league like it used to. They’re 9-11 and currently out of the playoff picture in the West. Now, all this isn’t solely on Green but the key numbers that made him so effective as an All-Star have also dropped this season.

Back in his All-Star years, Green was the key to the Warriors being able to go small and scuttle opponents. He could capably handle the workload in the paint while comfortably switching out to defend guards in the perimeter.

This season when the Warriors go small, they get pulverized in the paint. They’re 9th in total rebounds allowed per game and near the bottom in blocks per game. As for Green, this season he’s giving up 113.9 points per 100 possessions and only grabbin 11.8 percent of the rebounds when he’s on the floor, both the worst numbers of his career.

What used to be a strength has now become a weakness for the Warriors because Green isn’t the same player he used to be. His basketball IQ is still one of the best in the league. But injuries and age have robbed him of a lot of the physical tools that made him such an impactful player in his prime.

Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers

2023-2024 Salary: $27.5 million

When the Blazers traded for Grant, they were buying low on a player they viewed could be an All-Star next to Damian Lillard. They even signed Grant to a long-term agreement in the offseason with the idea that he’d grow into the player they imagined him to be next to Lillard.

Now, Lillard is gone and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Blazers overpaid for Grant. All he brings to the team are empty stats. Yes, he’s putting up 22 points per game. But he’s scoring at a 43 percent clip. He’s also only grabbing 3.8 rebounds and dishing out 2.2 assists per game. The worst part about that is that those numbers aren’t far from what he was putting up last season with Lillard.

The tricky part about this whole situation is that they signed Grant to that massive contract before Lillard left the team. Now, the Blazers are stuck with a player whose production does not match his salary. Grant is clearly not part of Portland’s plans for a rebuild. He eats up too much of the salary cap which could be used for more productive pieces.

Portland has no choice but to play him in the hopes that he raises his game to at least match his current salary so that they can move him to make space for the rebuild. Right now, no other team is crazy enough to take on the $160 million he’s owed in the next five years.

Kyle Kuzma, Washington Wizards

2023-2024 Salary: $25.5 million

Kuzma (and Jordan Poole) is the poster boy for a player that gets everything early in their career. Kuzma is a champion and has the security of a multi-year contract. There’s no real incentive for him to play better than he has already been. He could coast all the way until the final phase of his current contract, then go hard to try to get signed to a new deal. We’ve seen that happen to a lot of players before.

This isn’t the case for Kuzma. He’s having the best year of his young career, averaging 23.6 points on 47.4 percent shooting. He’s become the clear focal point in Washington, with his usage, scoring and assist numbers all at the highest of his career. 

If the Wizards were a better team like last year’s Utah Jazz, then we’d be talking about Kuzma in the same way we were about Lauri Markkanen. Unfortunately, the Wizards are one of the worst teams in the league with only three wins in 19 games. Kuzma’s growth this season has been overshadowed by all the foolishness going on in Washington.

Who’s worth the most?

This is like a case of having three different meals at the same price.

Ordering a Jerami Grant is like getting a fast food burger. It’s all empty calories and you might regret it down the line. Draymond Green is a burger from a popular local place. It still reminds you of the same dish from a few years back but they’ve had to scale back on the portion size so you’re not getting the same burger as before. 

Now, as for Kuzma, it’s like getting your familiar burger from a chain restaurant. Sure there are better versions of a burger, but in the end it’s still tasty and filling. 

Kuzma is a player who a contending team could possibly trade for. He’s proven that he could help a team win a championship before, and now that he’s older, he’s better equipped to help a contending team. 

He could also stay in Washington and still be part of their rebuild. He’s young, healthy, and productive. He might not be a franchise cornerstone but he’s definitely a piece that’s worth keeping. Definitely worth the $102 million he’s earning over the next four years.