Kyle Kuzma trade rumors: Suns, Hawks interested, but Wizards view him as a cornerstone, per report

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When Kyle Kuzma was up for a contract extension after his 2020 championship season, he took a deal that seemingly came in below his market value. The catch on his three-year, $40 million pact with the Los Angeles Lakers was a player option on the final season that would give him the right to hit unrestricted free agency at the age of 27. Now that he’s thriving as a member of the Washington Wizards, he’s almost certain to exercise that right and cash in this offseason.

As such, teams are calling the Wizards to try to get their versatile wing before he hits the open market. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns are interested in trading for Kuzma before February’s deadline. The Wizards are reportedly interested in Atlanta’s John Collins as well, which could facilitate a potential deal, but according to Charania, the Wizards are treating Kuzma as a cornerstone player.

“We’ve had great respect for Kyle since he’s been in the league,” Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard told The Athletic. “He had a great rookie season, being in the Rookie of the Year conversation, and then life changed when LeBron 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.”

Kuzma’s next contract could easily cross the $100 million threshold. He’s averaging a career-high 20.1 points per game to go along with stellar rebounding and solid defense at the wing spot. Virtually every team in the NBA is thin at forward, so Kuzma’s services will be in demand. The Wizards, 11-13 after a hot start, will have to decide how much they want to invest in him if the team remains in the lottery for the fourth time in five seasons.

Washington has the advantage if Kuzma does become a free agent. With his Bird Rights, they can go above the cap to re-sign him in an environment in which few teams carry the sort of cap space to sign a player of Kuzma’s caliber. But if the Wizards do decide to make Kuzma available, Phoenix and Atlanta surely won’t be the only teams interested. Two-way forwards are extremely rare in the NBA, and Kuzma won’t come cheap. That’s as true financially as it is in trade terms.

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