The Washington Wizards appeared to have a clear direction when they traded Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis during the offseason. However, a subsequent move raised some questions, given the circumstances.
On a contract worth $102 million over four years, Kyle Kuzma remained with the Wizards.
The Wizards opted not to dismantle their core entirely by bringing back Kuzma, who stands at 6-foot-9 and had just wrapped up his most successful scoring season.
Despite low expectations for the team in 2023-24, Kuzma chose to remain with the Washington squad. As the team's unquestionable star player, the 28-year-old faces both obstacles and possibilities.
Kuzma expressed his excitement about his new role in his career, stating that it is something he has been anticipating his entire professional life.
“This is a new role for me in my career, so naturally that’s very, very exciting.”
“...it’s something that I’ve been waiting for my entire career,” Kuzma stated.
During his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018-19, LeBron James was joined by former University of Utah player Kyle Kuzma, who emerged as the team's second-highest scorer.
However, with the acquisition of Anthony Davis, the Lakers were able to secure the championship in 2020. Kuzma's contribution was relatively smaller, leading to his trade to the Washington Wizards as part of the Russell Westbrook deal.
Since joining the Wizards, Kuzma has been a consistent starter for the past two seasons, and in 2022-23, he recorded a career-best of 21.2 points.
Due to the challenge of keeping Beal, Porzingis, and Kuzma healthy simultaneously, Kuzma has had numerous opportunities to take on a leading role, which is expected to continue going forward. He acknowledges that he will be facing top defenders as his primary opponents most nights, presenting a challenge that requires consistent production.
Kuzma has proven his worth and turned down his player option worth $13 million for this season. While the Wizards are aware of his capabilities, their chances of competing for a championship in the near future are slim, having failed to make it to the playoffs for the past two seasons.
See the best moments of Kuzma with the Wizards
Kuzma wants to make a lasting impact on his team and thinks this is the perfect place to do so. He also sees this as a chance to demonstrate his leadership skills and versatility. The Wizards rely on him to be the main figure of the franchise and the center of attention going forward.
On Monday's media day, there were some chuckles about Deni Avdija being the most experienced player on the Wizards team at just 22 years old and in his fourth season. However, it's worth noting that Kyle Kuzma, entering his seventh NBA season, is expected to take on a leadership role.
Over the summer, Kuzma sought advice from Derek Jeter and learned the importance of leading by example and staying focused. He understands that earning trust as a leader takes hard work and attentiveness.
Despite having Beal and Porzingis on their roster, the Wizards only managed a 35-47 record last season. FanDuel Sportsbook predicts they will win 23 1/2 games in the 2023-24 season.
Kuzma expects challenges as they integrate Jordan Poole and Tyus Jones into the team, but he's excited for a faster pace and more entertaining gameplay. Although they may struggle in half-court situations at first, Kuzma believes their speed will make up for it.