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NBA Rumors: Insiders Believe Kyle Kuzma Prefers New Team, Won't Sign Wizards Contract

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 16, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards looks on against the New York Knicks at Capital One Arena on January 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Kyle Kuzma's future with the Washington Wizards has become quite the subject of intrigue ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline.

According to NBA reporter Marc Stein, the Wizards "continue to push back on the idea that they are going to move Kuzma before the deadline, repeatedly insisting behind the scenes that they are prepared to pay Kuzma what it takes to stay after he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the offseason."

However, it's unclear whether Kuzma shares a desire to keep the partnership going long term. Stein added that the "belief persists in various corners of the NBA map that Kuzma would prefer to relocate in the offseason but perhaps that is wishful thinking from teams that covet him."

Kuzma, 27, is having a career year, averaging 21.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from three. For a Wizards team that has gone a disappointing 18-25 to start the season and finds itself 12th in the Eastern Conference, Kuzma has been a rare bright spot.

It isn't a shock that trade rumors have hovered around him this season, especially as the trade deadline nears. Stein reported in December that there was a "rising belief leaguewide that Kuzma is gettable between now and the Feb. 9 trade deadline."

It makes sense that the Wizards would at least poke around the trade market, given that Kuzma—who has already made it clear that he'll be declining his $13 million player option for the 2023-24 campaign, as he should—will be a free agent after the season.

"This is a sport, this is entertainment, but business always trumps all in life," Kuzma told The Athletic's Josh Robbins in December while confirming that he wouldn't sign an extension with the Wizards this season because it would cap him to around a four-year, $70 million deal given the NBA's salary-cap rules.

He'll likely be able to command something much more lucrative than that as a free agent this summer. While Kuzma isn't a max-caliber player, a competitive market for his services could potentially get him somewhere in that vicinity.

That means the Wizards have to carefully consider their next move. Do they keep Kuzma, hope to make a push for a playoff spot and gamble on re-signing him this summer? Or do they cut their losses and look to trade him while his value is at an all-time high?

It will be a telling few weeks in Washington, that much is certain.