According to Marc Stein’s substack, the Sacramento Kings are once again interested in acquiring the services of Kyle Kuzma.
The Kings are another Western Conference contender, like Dallas, known to be Kuzma fans. The Wizards, though, are under no real pressure to trade Kuzma in this transaction window. Not with Kuzma in Year 1 of a four-year, $90 million contract that pays out $25.6 million this season but descends all the way to $19.4 million in Year 4.
This rumor should come as no surprise to Kings fans, as Sacramento has been linked to Kuzma throughout the entirety of Monte McNair’s tenure. First, there was the blown Buddy Hield-Kyle Kuzma trade of 2021, followed by the Kings trying to trade for Kuzma at the 2022 trade deadline (alongside, surprise, suprise, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam), followed by the Kings pursuing Kuzma in free agency this past summer.
The Kings might just have a crush on Kyle Kuzma, and the attraction makes sense, especially when comparing Kuzma’s skill set to that of the struggling Harrison Barnes. While Kuzma isn’t the floor-spacer that Barnes is, as his career and current season average of 34% from deep doesn’t exactly intimidate defenders, the rest of his package far outpaces that of Sacramento’s current starting forward. Despite an ill-earned reputation as a ball-stopper, Kuzma actually averages 4.2 assists per game, and his assist percentage of 21.5% (Barnes sits at 5.6%, second-lowest on the team), would rank 4th on the Kings, a few percentage points behind De’Aaron Fox. Kuzma is also a much better rebounder than Barnes, averaging 6.4 boards to Barnes’ 2.8, and his ability to cut behind defenses and snag easy buckets, or score in isoloation, isn’t a feature Barnes has displayed in quite some time.
Contractually, Kuzma’s deal is also quite attractive. As Stein mentions, his deal is declining, and 29% of his contract will be paid out this season. He’s owed $23 million next year, $21 million in 2025-2026, and $19 million in his final season. There is almost no risk in the contract itself, unlike other wing options such as Jerami Grant or Andrew Wiggins, allowing the Kings cap and second apron flexibility as Sacramento’s core grows more expensive.
Fit-wise, there are two primary concerns with Kuzma, although neither will likely preclude the Kings from making a trade if agreement on value can be reached. First, Kuzma, while not a ball-stopper, can be a bit of a chucker. He’s currently averaging 21.9 points per game, very impressive at first glance, but he’s needed 18.8 field goal attempts to get to those 21.9 points – not exactly a bastion of efficiency. As a third-to-fourth option in Sacramento’s offense, the hope would be that Kuzma’s shot volume decreases, while his efficiency increases, but that’s a bit of a risk for Monte McNair and Mike brown to take on mid-season. If he’s willing to sacrifice individual numbers to join a winning situation, an attitude he didn’t display in the offseason, Kuzma would be a fantastic upgrade for Sacramento.
The second challenge in a Kuzma acquisition is Sacramento’s dire need of a single individual not named Keegan Murray to care about defense. The Kings need both a defensive-minded player and a defensive quarterback, and it’s unlikely that Kuzma can fill either of those roles perfectly, especially the latter one. During the Lakers bubble championship run, Kuzma showed himself to to be a competent, versatile wing defender, but there’s been no evidence of those skills lately, and with most of the of the current Sacramento rotation not playing defense, it takes a bit of squinting to see Kuzma regaining that form with no defense being played around him.
Outside of Kuzma’s positives and challenges as a contributor, the final question in Sacramento’s pursuit of the Wizards forward is what exactly they’re willing to pay for his services. The current asking price is two first round picks, according to Marc Stein, and while that price may come down as the deadline approaches, it’s well known that several other teams, including the Dallas Mavericks, would also like to add Kuzma’s firepower to their roster. The Kings, a team with almost no desirable, likely-to-be-traded assets outside of future first round picks, which are already limited by the protected 2024 first rounder owed to the Atlanta Hawks, may have to pay a steeper premium than those with more flexible assets.
It’s clear that the Sacramento Kings believe that Kyle Kuzma would provide an upgrade to the starting lineup, and that belief is likely accurate, and Kuzma’s potential acquisition will certainly come down to what price the Kings are willing to pay, as was the case in 2021, 2022, and 2023.