The Washington Wizards are one of the more confusing teams in the NBA right now. Despite clearly having a team that is not a championship contender, the Wizards front office is building their team as if they will be in contention for a title. That mentality continued once again at the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline.
Many folks expected the Wizards to explore the possibility of moving on from some of their players in an attempt to build up some draft assets and improve their future outlook. Instead, they ended up only making one deal well ahead of the deadline that involved sending Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Wizards are a team that many folks believe needed to make moves in order to improve, whether it be in the present or in the future, but instead, they remain stuck in the middle of nowhere. Washington made a couple of mistakes at the deadline by failing to really make any deals, but it’s clear that their biggest mistake involved not moving on from this player who is in the middle of a nice breakout campaign.
Wizards 2023 NBA trade deadline mistake: Not trading Kyle Kuzma
For several players on the Wizards roster, the 2022-23 season has not gone according to plan for them. But that hasn’t been true for Kyle Kuzma, who has excelled while taking on a bigger role for Washington this season. And with the Wizards not really contending at any point soon, it made a lot of sense for them to explore moving Kuzma.
Kuzma had continued to grow as a strong offensive player this season (21.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 4 APG, 45.3 FG%) while remaining a solid defender as well, and for teams looking for impact players at the deadline, Kuzma was one of their top options. While Kuzma was involved in several trade rumors, it never really seemed like the Wizards came close to selling him.
Once again, this decision to hold onto Kuzma really just adds to the mystery surrounding the Wizards. They seem to believe that they can contend, despite the fact their roster isn’t very good and they have a 25-29 record. Dealing off pieces like Kuzma would seemingly allow them to add some pieces that could help them in future seasons.
But as we all know now, the Wizards decided to ignore Kuzma’s sky-high value and hold onto him at the deadline. While he’s not as valuable as O.G. Anunoby or Mikal Bridges, these guys were drawing offers featuring multiple first-round picks in return for them on the market. It’s not a stretch to say that Washington could have gotten a pair of first-round picks in return for Kuzma had they opted to move him.
The logic for holding onto him just doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Wizards aren’t going to be contending anytime soon, especially if Bradley Beal continues to struggle to stay on the court, so holding onto a player like Kuzma, who has a lot of trade value, is just a confusing decision. Maybe the offers weren’t there, but that also seems very hard to believe.
Now the Wizards will move on with the same questions that faced them heading into the deadline. What does the front office actually think this team can accomplish? It’s clear they don’t want to rebuild for whatever reason, but at some point, they are going to have to realize they cannot win as they are currently constructed. The hope was that it would happen at the deadline, but it looks like more of the same from Washington.
Until the Wizards firmly decide to either go all in on building a contender or rebuilding, they will be stuck in the same cycle of mediocrity for the foreseeable future. Having committed a ton of money to Beal certainly doesn’t help, but Washington isn’t really in a spot where they can just stand pat and hope for the best. They have to make radical changes in an effort to improve themselves.
By not moving Kuzma, the Wizards front office has let the team down once again. Kuzma is still just 27 years old, and is a strong player on both sides of the ball. Playoff contenders across the league could certainly use him. Instead, he will be stuck in Washington helping them fight for one of the final spots in the Play-In Tournament, which is just wasteful.
Staying quiet at the deadline was a mistake, but failing to move on from their highest value player in a season where they won’t be winning is clearly the Wizards biggest mistake of the deadline. They may have been close to a deal, but chances are they never really explored moving him.
And while it may not seem like a huge mistake to keep good players in town, Washington needs to decide what they want their future to look like soon. Keeping Kuzma doesn’t help them reach that decision, which is why it’s another mistake for the Wizards in what is becoming a long line of them.