Return or burn: should the Washington Wizards retain this star forward?

Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis of the Washington Wizards watch game from the bench. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis of the Washington Wizards watch game from the bench. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

With the Washington Wizards entering the offseason, one of the biggest issues they’ll have to get situated is Kyle Kuzma and his free agency. Right now, Kuzma has a $13 million player option entering the 2023-24 season. Coming off the best season of his career, Kuzma is heavily expected to decline his player option and exercise his worth in the free agency market.

In January, it was reported that Kuzma was already gaining attraction from teams. The Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns were among the teams that publicly announced interest in the power forward.

Since being traded to the Wizards from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021, his production level has elevated tremendously. He went for being a role player to becoming a starter who the Wizards could rely on.

When he played with the Lakers, he was still a player who could score and give you 15 to 18 points a night, but he was extremely inconsistent. Of course, that could be pointed to the fact he had to play alongside superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He was so streaky that a lot of Laker fans asked for him to be traded.

Now that he’s with the Wizards, he has been given the opportunities to be his own player and somewhat of a leader for the younger guys.  He’s playing more with the ball and improving his iso-scoring.  When he’s off the ball, he’s finding way to create plays for guys who have the ball.

The Washington Wizards should try everything they could to keep Kyle Kuzma

Not only has he improved his scoring efficiency, but he’s also becoming someone who can be trusted in late-game situations. This season, the Wizards had been placed in a lot of tight circumstances where the game had to be decided by clutch points. Kuzma was third on the team in clutch points with 1.5, behind Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis.

He was also one of the best defenders in the starting lineup. He was able to contest a lot of jump shots, particularly 3-point shots. He only allowed his opponents to connect on 546 of the 1,526 3-point shots attempted.

The Wizards can definitely use Kuzma’s hustle and perimeter defense.

If Kuzma decides to opt out of his player option by the June 21 deadline, the Wizards will have enough cash to offer him up to $20 million a year.

However, there are some teams who the Wizards might have to fight in order to keep Kuzma.  The Portland Trailblazers could lose Jerami Grant, who has been a great offensive and defensive player for the Blazers.

However, if Grant Williams ends up leaving the Boston Celtics, they could be the biggest bidder. Grant is a huge piece the Celtics desperately need.  He’s a great defender who can be a spot-up shooter and create plays.

The Wizards need to be careful and aware of the other teams’ need and realize that keeping Kuzma is best for them.  If Kuzma heads to another team, particularly an Eastern Conference team, the Wizards might be having the same season they had before.

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