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Another report of ‘rising belief’ Kuzma trade coming at deadline

Washington Wizards v Sacramento Kings

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 23: Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards dunks the ball during the game against the Sacramento Kings on December 23, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Kyle Kuzma has already said he will become a free agent this summer. The reason is simple: Kuzma has a player option for $13 million next season, however, on the open market he will make well above $20 million a season and likely closer to $25 million per year on a four-or-five year contract.

The Wizards are the only team that can offer that fifth year — and larger raises as well — but there is a sense Kuzma wants out of Washington, which is why Kuzma’s name comes up in trade talk. Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard has to consider trading Kuzma rather than lose him for nothing, and the trade speculation around him continues to grow. The latest comes from Marc Stein in his latest newsletter.

Some of the strongest sentiments circulating at the recent G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas pertained to Washington’s Kyle Kuzma. Among them: Kuzma (averaging 21.8 points and 7.6 rebounds) is widely regarded as a lock to become a free agent at season’s end after completing Year 2 of his three-year, $39 million contract. And: There’s a rising belief leaguewide that Kuzma is gettable between now and the Feb. 9 trade deadline as a result because the Wizards might ultimately be forced to concede that they have to trade him before the buzzer to ensure they don’t lose him for nothing. Based on the rumbles I’ve heard, I struggle to envision Kuzma wanting to stay in the nation’s capital beyond this season.

There are already reports of the Lakers, Hawks and Suns having interest, but you can be sure a lot more teams than that are calling Washington right now. Kuzma is a 20-point-a-game two-way wing and those are highly valued players around the league.

Kuzma has some leverage in where he gets traded because he will be a free agent — if his representatives let a team know he will not re-sign with them this summer, teams won’t be willing to give up as much in a trade.

Kuzma is suddenly joining Jae Crowder and John Collins on the “most likely to be traded” at the deadline list. And in a market with far more buyers than sellers the Wizards, along with the few teams trading guys, could see a better-than-expected return.