In what may be the least shocking development in Washington Wizards history, forward Kyle Kuzma declined his player option for next season and will become an unrestricted free agent, according to reporting by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
After averaging a career high 21.2 points per game, Kuzma is likely to earn substantially more than the $13 million he would have been paid if he’d remained under his current contract.
Odds of him returning to Washington likely diminished significantly when majority owner Ted Leonsis fired Tommy Sheppard and replaced him with a new executive team.
As they work to finalize the trade of Bradley Beal, team president Michael Winger, executive vice president Travis Schlenk and general manager Will Dawkins appear to be focused on rebuilding the roster to contend for a championship rather than the shorter term “win now” goals of previous years.
While Kuzma is likely to be playing elsewhere next season, the Wizards may be able to recoup some value by working with a potential destination in a sign-and-trade. That would enable a team with minimal cap space to add Kuzma.
Teams with significant cap space that could have interest in Kuzma include the Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers. Other teams with space such as the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons would seem to have less interest. Detroit could get involved to bring the Flint, Mich. native back to his home environs.
The next contract will almost certainly be the most lucrative of Kuzma’s career. He’s entering his seventh NBA season coming off what was widely perceived as a breakout performance. His new deal could surpass $100 million over the next four seasons.