The Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns are both interested in upgrading their rosters, and each appears to be targeting the same player. According to the Athletics’ Shams Charania, Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma is near the top of both teams’ wish lists.
It’s clear to see why, Kuzma is having a career year, averaging 20.6 points, 7.7 boards, and 3.6 assists per game. Despite that, he seems unlikely to be traded, at least based on comments made by Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard.
"“Kyle has such a great personality and demeanor, and he has so much more room to grow in the future for us. We’re really excited for his future growth here.”"
Kuzma has a team option at the end of the season, however, and he could command a large contract, which the Wizards may be unwilling or unable to pay, and he may be unwilling to stay. After all, they’ll be paying Bradley Beal nearly $52 million a season, on average, for the next four years. They could also have to re-sign a resurgent Kristaps Porzingis to a long-term deal after this season as well.
Potentially paying three players at least $100 million a season for the near future when it’s unclear that they can make the playoffs this season is likely a no-go. Thus, the Wizards should at least consider possible offers.
What do the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns have to offer?
The Atlanta Hawks have been shopping power forward John Collins off and on for years now, and the Washington Wizards have expressed interest in him in the past (subscription required). However, he may not be the only Hawks player available, with a couple of other players also potentially on the trading block. Of the three players, Collins probably makes the most sense, since he fits more of the athletic roll-man type and might fit better with Porzingis.
Meanwhile, the Suns are looking to trade veteran Jae Crowder, who’s sat out the season thus far as the team searches for a favorable deal. His salary is similar to Kuzma’s, though he is five years older and not nearly as good of an offensive player; instead, Crowder is more of a 3-and-D player, which is valuable in its own right.
A deal could still happen between the two teams, though Kuzma fits better age-wise with the Wizards than a win-now player such as Crowder, who is often valued more among playoff teams that expect to go far in the postseason.
Which team could Kuzma end up on?
Of the two teams, the Hawks appear to have a better offer. A potential deal could see the Hawks trading Collins and their 2023 first-round pick to the Wizards for Kuzma and Delon Wright. In doing so, the Hawks would finally move Collins and rid themselves of a contract that has three years and $76 million remaining, saving themselves money moving forward.
Additionally, Kuzma would fit their team better, giving them a more perimeter-oriented power forward who’s taking nearly eight threes per game. That would allow the Hawks to more easily play four-out with Clint Capela serving as their vertical spacer.
For the Wizards, Collins is only 25 compared to Kuzma, who’s 27 and under contract for three more seasons, but his contract makes him a negative asset at the moment. This is considering he has played below his career-best season, in which he averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds during the 2019–20 season.
Still, if the Wizards believe that a change of scenery could do him good, they could swap Kuzma in a deal for him and receive a first for their troubles. After all, Porzingis and Kuzma were both traded to the Wizards after being cast off by the Mavericks and Lakers, and both managed to revive their careers in Washington. Therefore, it’s entirely possible that Kuzma is soon traded to the Hawks for Collins.