‘Tis the season for NBA trade rumors. So, it’s not a shock when almost any name gets mentioned as a potential trade candidate. However, in the midst of a great season, it is a little shocking that Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that there could be a Kyle Kuzma trade in the works between the Washington Wizards and the Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards don’t necessarily want to make a Kyle Kuzma-Hawks trade, but with an under-market value player option in his contract for 2023, Kuzma will likely be a free agent this offseason. If the Wizards hope to get anything for Kuzma, a trade with the Hawks might be the best move to make. And if Atlanta wants to add another strong piece to its squad, here is the Kyle Kuzma trade offer the Hawks must make that the Wizards can’t turn down.
Kyle Kuzma and Delon Wright for John Collins and draft picks
At 27, Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma is having a career year. Through 24 games, he is averaging career highs in minutes (34.6), points (20.6), and assists (3.5). He’s also developed into one of the better defensive wings in the NBA this season.
With talented, versatile, 6-foot-9 players like Kuzma in high demand in the NBA these days, there is zero chance he picks up his $13 million player option for 2023.
After winning the bubble title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, Kuzma took a shorter deal for less money for the ability to hit free agency at 27 instead of 29 or 30. That bet on himself and his development worked out in a big way, as Kuzma is now in line for a contract in the neighborhood of $20-$25 million a year. That’s the going rate for wings like Jerami Grant, Mikal Bridges, John Collins, and Draymond Green.
Speaking of Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins, it is no secret that the Hawks have been shopping him for a while now. With the emergence of big men Clint Capella and Onyeka Okongwu and forwards De’Andre Hunter and rookie AJ Griffin, Collins (and his three years plus a payer option and $102 million left on his contract) is surplus to requirements.
And between the other players stepping up, Collins’ always (at least somewhat) contentious relationship with the team’s star, Trae Young, and the fact that Collins’ contract potentially runs through 2026 — longer than anyone else on the Hawks other than De’Andre Hunter — Atlanta wants to move on from their star forward.
And there is where a Kyle Kuzma-Hawks trade could happen.
Again, the Hawks do not want to trade Kuzma. Shams Charania says Kuzma is a player who the Wizards “want to continue to build around,” but only if the price is right and the player wants to stay. If it doesn’t seem like a long-term deal is in the cards, the Wizards will try to get something back for the forward.
And if they do bring something back, the deal should offer the Wizrads much of the same things that Kuzma does. They would want a younger wing who can contribute offensively and is a player that the team could ultimately build around as they continue their (seemingly perpetual) rebuild.
That’s where John Collins comes in. At his best, he is equal to or even better than Kuzma offensively. In his best season (2019-20) he was a 20/10 guy, and he is a better and stronger pick-and-roll player than Kuzma. Collins is also two years younger and is wrapped up through 2025 (and maybe 2026 with a player option) for the same salary range Kuzma will get ($23.5-$26.5 million).
This isn’t an ideal Kyle Kuzma trade for the Wizards, especially because they would have to include their best perimeter defender, Delon Wright, to make the deal work. But the Wiz have been without Wright for the last month with a hamstring injury anyway.
In order to make the deal palatable for the Wizards, though, the Hawks would have to trade a first-round pick in the deal. The only two Hawks first-rounders that the team can trade right now are 2023 or 2029. Their 2025-27 first-rounders are gone (or eligible for pick swaps) in their offseason deal with the San Antonio Spurs for Dejounte Murray.
This Kyle Kuzma-Hawks trade makes sense for all involved if (and only if) the Wizards get the idea that they won’t be able to re-sign Kuzma at all or for under $25 million a season after this year. Then, a return of John Collins and a likely late-first-round pick in next year’s draft is about as good a return as the Wizards could hope for in a Kyle Kuzma trade.