Last week’s trade deadline featured plenty of teams making moves on the periphery, as contenders looked to bolster depth for the stretch run, but there were very few deals struck that saw starters get moved (much less stars) as the deadline was light on big name involvement.
The Dallas Mavericks were one of the most active and aggressive teams at the deadline, as they sent out two first round picks in separate deals to bring in some much needed frontcourt depth in the form of P.J. Washington from the Hornets and Daniel Gafford from the Wizards. Gafford was apparently not the only player the Mavs targeted on the Wizards, as they made a strong push for Kyle Kuzma as well. On Tuesday, we learned just how close Dallas was to landing Kuzma, as Josh Robbins of The Athletic spoke with Kuzma about the deadline.
Kuzma explained that the framework of a deal was in place and the Wizards front office brought it to him and asked if he wanted to be moved to Dallas, but he told them he wanted to keep building in Washington so they turned Dallas down.
“There was a point in time, Dallas, they definitely did want me,” Kuzma told The Athletic on Monday, before the Wizards played the Mavericks at American Airlines Center. “Winger presented me with what the trade was and obviously didn’t want to trade me and kind of left the decision up to me a little bit and asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to stay and continue to build something. And that was kind of the end of it.”
It’s interesting the Wizards are being this collaborative with their players on trade talks, as Kuzma doesn’t have a no-trade clause and they don’t have to run anything by him. That said, if the deal was something they could live with but weren’t thrilled by, maybe they were just doing him a solid to see if he wanted to be on a playoff team sooner than later.
That makes the reason why he chose to stay with the cellar-dwelling Wizards rather than make a leap to a playoff contender in Dallas even more intriguing, as Kuzma explained that he didn’t feel the Mavericks were a “true contender” to win a title.
“In my career, I won a championship. So, I understand that when we play this game of basketball it’s not about contending for a playoff spot. It’s about contending for an NBA championship. There’s only like three or four contenders — true contenders. I just felt like our timelines didn’t line up.”
That is a particularly fascinating quote for a couple reasons. For one, it’s clear Kuzma’s not particularly high on the Mavs title chances, both right now and in the near future even with Doncic leading the way. It also is a bit odd for him to mention the “timelines didn’t line up” with Dallas when he chooses instead to stay with a Wizards team to “build something” when they are miles away from contention. That said, he gets to be “the guy” in Washington right now, whereas in Dallas he’d be a third option and asked to just spot up and shoot most of the time on offense. Playing that role doesn’t seem to intrigue him much right now, at least on a team that’s not a favorite to be knocking on the door of a championship.