The Washington Wizards may be headed for a full-scale roster teardown, but that doesn't mean that they'll deliberately be putting as terrible of a product on the court as they could. Bringing back Kyle Kuzma on a four-year, $102 million contract certainly signifies that the Wizards, at the very least, would want to keep assets who could bring back pieces that make more sense given their current timeline.
However, have the Wizards simply fallen prey to the disease of mediocrity once again, chasing meaningless wins instead of fully embracing the tank?
Nevertheless, here are grades for both the Wizards and Kyle Kuzma after the two sides came to an agreement on a long-term deal that should keep the 27-year old forward in D.C. for the long haul.
Wizards' grade: A-
Does Kyle Kuzma fit the Wizards' rebuilding timeline like a glove? Certainly not. The Wizards' roster will be boasting the likes of Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert, Bilal Coulibaly, three players who should see plenty of minutes on the wing, so retaining Kuzma could end up just clipping the wings of the players the Wizards must be developing with a future of playoff contention in mind.
But for the price they managed to bring Kuzma back, it's hard to qualify this agreement as anything but a major win for the Wizards, rebuilding phase be damned.
Re-signing Kyle Kuzma for an average annual value of $25.5 million per year for the next four years borders on being a steal, especially when taking into account how much his contemporaries signed for.
Is Jerami Grant that much better than Kyle Kuzma, if at all? Grant is certainly a better defender, and he's a more efficient scorer than the Wizards forward. But Kuzma had to shoulder a bigger shot-creation burden in D.C. than Grant, and the Wizards forward is two years younger as well. Is paying almost $7 million more per year than Kuzma for Grant worth it?
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets paid $6 million more in total for Cameron Johnson than Kuzma. Three-point shooting is a premium skill, and Johnson is a far better marksman from deep than Kuzma. But again, Kuzma is far less injury prone than Johnson, and he's a much better shot creator than the Nets forward.
Simply put, re-signing Kyle Kuzma to a four-year, $102 million deal was a shrewd move for the Wizards, especially for someone who reportedly wanted a contract worth of around $30 million+ annually. This allows the Wizards to, at the very least, not lose Kuzma for nothing in free agency. And for a contract worth around $25 million+, Kuzma, as long as he remains as productive as he was last season, won't be too difficult to move in a potential trade as well.
Kuzma should remain a 20-10 threat in D.C. given the dearth of options they have to rely on on the offensive end, and he should help the Wizards ease Bilal Coulibaly into the fray instead of throwing him into the fire from the get-go.
Kyle Kuzma's grade: B
Make no mistake about it, bagging a $102 million contract is a huge win for anyone. So Kyle Kuzma, in that regard, will be getting a grade of A+. But in the context of the NBA, it's fair to wonder whether Kuzma could have gotten a bigger contract, especially when he's right in the middle of his prime and coming off his best professional season thus far.
As discussed above, Cameron Johnson and Jerami Grant both bagged bigger contracts than Kuzma. While the two play a complementary role at a much higher level than Kuzma can (3 and D), something has to be said for Kuzma's ability to act as a workload sponge — a player who can dominate the ball, create shots from all three levels, and be a huge presence on the glass.
Moreover, staying with the Wizards means that Kuzma is basically accepting the fact that he'll have to stomach plenty of losses for years to come. Sure, winning a championship may not be a pressing matter for Kuzma, since he's already won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2020. But certainly he could have found a landing spot where he could have contributed to a playoff team (or at least to a team close to playoff contention) without having to sacrifice money.
Kyle Kuzma was linked to the Sacramento Kings in free agency, with a move to a team that won 48 games last season reportedly even gaining momentum at one point. That move would have been immense for Kuzma.
This is not to say that the deal he signed with the Wizards is necessarily bad. But Kuzma may have to endure a few years of basketball hell in D.C. as a result of his free agency decision this year.