After the Washington Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention in late March, the expectation amongst most Wizards fans was simple:
- Re-sign Kristaps Porzingis
- Re-sign Kyle Kuzma
- Bring back Wes Unseld Jr.
- Run it back
After a front office shake-up left former Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard jobless, all options became available.
As for Kuzma, he’s held firm all season in his wish to test free agency. He understands he’ll have a sizable market for his talents and wishes to take meetings with all interested parties. To me, it seems pretty simple. If a team like the Indiana Pacers or Houston Rockets blows him away with an offer that Washington simply won’t match, he’ll go elsewhere. If he stays in Washington, it likely won’t be at his projected number of $30 million per year.
It was reported earlier this week that the Sacramento Kings was a front-runner to land Kuzma, but they pivoted elsewhere by signing forward Harrison Barnes to an extension. That leaves Indiana and Houston, both of which have strong interest in the 27-year-old forward.
After trading Chris Duarte to the Kings and creating more cap space, the Pacers have positioned themselves to sign Kuzma if they wish. Reports have indicated their interest in Max Strus and Bruce Brown, so if they go that route, Kuz won’t be lining up in blue and gold.
As for Houston, the Rockets are “emerging as a strong landing spot for Kyle Kuzma,” per Chris Haynes. They have the cap space, and are reportedly willing to spend big on veterans to put around their young talent.
If these teams offer Kuzma, I think he leaves. If not, that means his market isn’t as good as he hoped. The Wizards could then swoop in and offer a more team-friendly deal worth less per year. Here’s my preferred and expected offer for Kuzma from Washington:
Kyle Kuzma: 3 years / $80 million
- 2023-24: $25,500,000
- 2024-25: $27,000,000
- 2025-26: $27,500,000
This gives Kuzma a long-term deal worth an average of $25 million per year. It also gives the Wizards some flexibility if they decide to trade him down the line.
One more note: It was reported by both Jake Fischer and Marc Stein that a Kuzma return to Washington is more likely than we thought. Just something to keep in mind.