A number of teams have expressed interest in Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma, but general manager Tommy Sheppard considers him a cornerstone of Washington’s future, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
League sources tell Charania that the Hawks and Suns have both reached out to the Wizards about a potential Kuzma trade. Washington had interest in Atlanta forward John Collins and the teams engaged in serious discussions about a deal during the offseason, Charania adds.
However, Sheppard indicated that he’s committed to keeping Kuzma, who has meshed with Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis in their first full season together. Kuzma is averaging a career-high 20.6 PPG this season, and he seems to have reached another level since being acquired from the Lakers during the summer of 2021.
“We’ve had great respect for Kyle since he’s been in the league,” Sheppard said. “He had a great rookie season, being in the Rookie of the Year conversation, and then life changed when LeBron (James) came. So when the trade happened, it allowed Kyle an opportunity to join our program, have a bigger role, start for us, and he has been outstanding. Kyle has such a great personality and demeanor, and he has so much more room to grow in the future for us. We’re really excited for his future growth here.”
Kuzma is almost certain to turn down his $13MM player option for next season and test free agency. Charania hears from rival executives that Kuzma’s next contract could start in the $20MM to $25MM range.
Kuzma touches on several topics during an interview with Charania, including:
Why his game blossomed after being traded to Washington:
“Being in this situation helped out a lot. Here, I’m not playing behind LeBron and (Anthony Davis). Those guys are my position, my type of player, who I am, my style. So coming here, I don’t have that anymore. It’s been great because me, Brad and KP don’t get in each other’s way. We all just flow out there. It’s been a pretty good jell for the first 20 games. We’re all averaging 20 a game without having any friction out there.”
His current contract, which has him somewhat underpaid at $13MM:
“I definitely did the Lakers a little favor to have the hometown discount. I always appreciate (Lakers vice president of basketball operations) Rob Pelinka for the deal that he gave me, because it gave me security and it gave me a player option. I was one of the few players in NBA history without being a lottery pick to have a player option in an extension. Everything has worked out in my favor from signing that deal to my progression as a player to this summer too.”
The state of the Wizards’ locker room after chemistry issues last season:
“If you look at our team last year, we were so up and down, because we didn’t like each other. … This year, yeah, we’re still working through some things, but we have a genuine group, an authentic group. We actually like each other.”
Figuring out how to play alongside Beal and Porzingis:
“We’re approaching it every day. For us, we have to keep pushing it, and we have to exhaust each other. We have to make everyone else better. That’s our next step. When we can make other guys better on our team, it will make our job so much easier. We all want to win and we want to make those around us better. I’m a champion. I’ve been at the highest level and played in some of the highest games in the championship. I’ve learned the game of basketball from probably the greatest player of all time, so I have a lot of knowledge in the way that I play, the way that I see the game. It’s all because of my past.”