Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma are the Kobe and Shaq of the Tanking Title

Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma are the Kobe and Shaq of the Tanking Title

It’s never a good thing when your two superstars are trending on social media after another loss. That has become the norm for Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma. Their first run-in with infamy came when Poole lobbed an oop to Kuzma off the backboard while losing by 20. Together they’re the Bennifer of pro basketball. They’re an unholy basketball marriage of inconvenience, terrible on-court chemistry, producers of poor box office stats, but who see themselves as megastars in the making. On Monday night, the Raptors trailed the Wizards by 16 with 7:25 left in regulation. In that time, the Wizards staged a magnum opus in dysfunction, and never hit another field goal during Toronto’s ensuing 19-1 run.

This season, the duo of Kuzma and Poole have a net rating of minus-23.4. That’s the league’s lowest net rating in the league for two-man combinations who’ve played at least 150 minutes together. The worst part is that they’re so overpaid that they will likely return for a repeat in case they end up with a weak draft like the 1989-90 Nets and draft the next Derrick Coleman instead of a championship cornerstone. Sometimes respectable players wind up on a team that doesn’t mesh and wind up in the cellar ala the Baron Davis and Al Thornton-led Clippers. That team also featured Zach Randolph, who was a laughingstock around the league until his reformation with Memphis. But historically bad duos are something else entirely.

Kuzma and Poole are not developmental players on rookie contracts ala last year’s Houston Rockets or the pre-Embiid Process era Sixers. This offseason, Kuzma signed a four-year, $90 million extension with the Wizards. Poole is in the first year of a $128 million extension he signed in Golden State. He’s even given up all attempts at grooming in a symbolic representation of the level of sloppiness he’s bringing to the table.

The Wizards transitioned Chris Paul into his next life as a backup for Jordan Poole instead of keeping him around as a veteran presence so they could bottom out and it’s going according to plan. In the annals of pro basketball, Poole and Kuzma are painting the chef d’oeuvre for traumatizing basketball. There have been crummier teams to suit up together, but for their two leading scorers to also be monumental knuckleheads is a higher level of ineptitude. Night in and night out, Poole and Kuzma provide lowlights for all to witness. This season, Poole is shooting 30 percent from distance, well below the league average. Kuzma might be retaining some trade value, but he’s a follower who occasionally takes some of the poorest shots.

Whether it’s Poole getting distracted by conversations during timeouts and lingering behind to catch up on what was drawn up or Kuzma launching an airball after Jordan Poole fell to his knees while trying to back down the perimeter gawd Jrue Holiday, they look like future first-ballot Bad Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.

The aforementioned Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry were awful for the Knicks, but that experiment was over after a season. In 50 games together, they tested the limits of how many one-dimensional big men who eschew conditioning can occupy the low post at once and accumulate a -14.6 net rating. For years, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe had the Pistons running in quicksand. At their worst, Monroe and Drummond clogged the lane and temporarily paired with Josh Smith for one of the NBA’s worst trios. But big men don’t control the ball like a pair of ill-fitting guards.

The Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings tandem got lost to history because the Bucks were fortunate to snag Giannis Antetokounmpo in the middle of the first round in 2013, but for a brief time, they were a dark cloud over the Bucks. Ellis was the forerunner to Poole. A volume shooter who was so full of himself, he told The Mercury News that he wouldn’t be able to co-exist with Steph Curry. Mind you, this was the underdeveloped and pre-weight room Curry, but it still provides a link through the generations. While Poole never explicitly said he couldn’t play with Curry, he did have a penchant for frustrating Draymond Green and the two-time MVP.

Ironically, Ellis seemed to find a kindred spirit in Jenkins. Between 2011 and 2013, Ellis and Jennings played 101 games and never accumulated a positive plus-minus rating on the floor. However, at least they were able to muster an 8-seed out of the pairing’s offensive fireworks.

The incompetence is the point for Washington. They play at one of the league’s fastest paces, which has convinced them to play hurried basketball and make frenetic mistakes. An eighth seed ala Ellis and Jennings would be even more painful than the reality of knowing that this disaster class should have been executed a year earlier. In the pantheon of bad duos, Kuzma and Poole are running away with the tag team belt.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.