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Kyle Kuzma confirms he plans to opt-out, become free agent next summer

Kurt’s Korner recalls last week’s take on Kuzma and then focuses on this week's topic of the Warriors and their road problems this season posting a 2-12 record thus far.

Whatever he said publicly, there was never any doubt Kyle Kuzma would opt out and become a free agent next summer. It’s the smart business move. He’s grown into a high-quality player at one of the most sought-after positions in the NBA — a two-way wing —averaging 20.6 points per game this season.

Kuzma confirmed his free agency plans to Ava Wallace at the Washington Post.

In an interview this week, following statements he made in The Athletic, Kuzma said he does not expect to sign an extension with the Wizards and plans to decline his player option for the 2023-24 season to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“Those are just business decisions,” Kuzma said.

The math is pretty simple. Kuzma has a player option for $13 million next season, the Wizards can offer him an extension off that starting at around $15.6 million a season for four years, or about $70 million total. However, on the open market he will make well above $20 million a season (a Jalen Brunson-level four-year, $104 million seems like the ballpark).

Even if he wants to stay a Wizard, Kuzma should be a free agent and grab the bag.

It puts the Wizards and GM Tommy Sheppard in a tough spot. Sheppard has said he views Kuzma as part of their core moving forward, but he and ownership need to decide first if they want to pay Kuzma the market rate. Even if they do, will Kuzma sign and return to the Wizards, or does he want to move on from the nation’s capital? League sources told NBC Sports Kuzma appears to be leaning towards a fresh start with a contender or in a bigger market (maybe Washington could overpay to keep him, but do they want to?).

This is why Kuzma’s name comes up in trade talk — the Wizards must explore it. The Lakers, Hawks and Suns are reportedly interested, which is likely the tip of the iceberg considering the value of two-way wings around the league. Kuzma has some leverage in the trade market, if his representatives let a team know he will not re-sign with them this summer, teams aren’t going to give up as much in a trade just to rent him.

Whatever happens with Kuzma over the next seven months, he’s about to get paid.