As expected, the Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma just declined his player option for the 2023-24 season and became an unrestricted free agent, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
This doesn’t come as a surprise as the $13 million a year option was far below Kuzma’s value in the open market. Kuzma is likely to receive multi-year offers above $20 million annually with potential for around $25 million.
Whether the Washington Wizards are interested in retaining him is an open question. Now that the Wizards are poised for a rebuild, it doesn’t make too much sense to keep Kuzma on a large contract. Kuzma is more valuable for teams trying to contend.
Fortunately for the Wizards, teams that are trying to contend and are likely to be interested in Kuzma don’t have the cap space to sign him outright. They are going to have to resort to sign-and-trades.
The Wizards can take advantage of this by flipping Kuzma to a playoff team for a positive return. Kuzma, coming off the best season of his career where he averaged 21.2 points per game, will have a lot of suitors in free agency. The Wizards can potentially get a promising young player and/or future draft picks in exchange for Kuzma.
The former Lakers forward was acquired by Washington in the Russell Westbrook trade in the 2021 offseason. Since then he was a consummate professional for the organization, publicly declaring his satisfaction playing for the Wizards and living in Washington. He backed this up by being one of the most consistent performers on the team, reaching career-best numbers in minutes per game, points per game, and assists per game.
Therefore, keeping Kyle Kuzma on the team wouldn’t be the worst option for the Wizards, especially if he wants to stay. But there is no need for the Wizards to break the bank and try to beat the offers he receives in the open market. Working out a sign-and-trade may be the best option for both sides.