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Catching up with Former Utes: Kyle Kuzma

He now plays for the Washington Wizards and recently signed a four-year, $102 million contract.
Rishi Deka
Ute Kyle Kuzma drives against Husky Sam Timmins during the Utah Utes 85-61 victory over the Washington Huskies at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. (Photo by Rishi Deka | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


On June 30, 2023, Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma signed a four-year, $102 million contract to remain with his team. Kuzma, who won an NBA championship in 2020, set up his family for generations. Averaging 21.2 points per game in the 2023 NBA season, Kuzma set himself up as one of the premier offensive threats in the league. However, before any of this national success, Kyle Kuzma began his collegiate basketball career at the University of Utah.

Kuzma had a strong senior season while attending Bentley High School, putting together averages of 22 points and seven rebounds per game. He then signed on to the U as a four-star recruit, where he would have a relatively unspectacular freshman year, appearing in just nine games on the season. However, Kuzma really put his name in the national spotlight his sophomore year, where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Kuzma improved in his sophomore year, putting together an astonishing 16.4 points and an incredible 9.3 rebounds per game during his junior year. This really helped build up Kuzma’s draft stock, and after his junior year, he declared for the 2017 NBA draft.

Kuzma was picked with the 27th overall pick in the NBA draft originally by the Brooklyn Nets. However, he was immediately traded along with Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. There, with the Lakers, Kuzma would start his professional career.

Kuzma’s first year in the NBA was much like his college career, as he caught the eyes of many. As just a rookie, he managed to put together an impressive 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. In fact, he even managed to be named to the 2017-2018 NBA All-Rookie first team, joining other high-profile players like Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum.

Kuzma, as he had done his whole career up to this point, continued to improve in 2018-2019. He averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds this season, with a highlight of the year being his earning of the Rising Stars MVP award. Playing with other young players in the league, Kuzma dropped 35 points, earning a $25,000 bonus in the process.

After two solid years with the Lakers, Kuzma was given the opportunity to be a part of something larger in the 2019-2020 season. Playing with one of the best teams in the league, Kuzma actually saw a bit of a downtick in production during the regular season, scoring 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. However, Kuzma made some integral plays. In a game against the Denver Nuggets during the 2020 COVID-19 bubble, Kuzma hit a near buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Lakers a 124-121 victory. The Lakers would go on to beat the Miami Heat 4-2 in the 2020 NBA Playoffs, giving Kuzma his first NBA championship.

After the championship, Kuzma signed a 3-year, $40 million extension with the Lakers, giving him his first big payday in the league. His fourth and final year with the Lakers saw him post 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. However, after a playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns, Kyle Kuzma was part of a larger trade package sent to the Washington Wizards for point guard Russell Westbrook.

In the 2021-2022 season, Kuzma improved from the end of his tenure with the Lakers, putting up 17.1 points and a career-high 8.5 rebounds. While the Wizards failed to make the playoffs, Kuzma emerged again as a top scorer. He followed this up with an even better 2022-2023 season, putting together a career-high 21.2 points to go along with 7.2 rebounds.

Because of his strong efforts this past season, Kuzma earned more than $100 million in his next contract. He started out as a freshman for the Utes who saw little playing time, but continued work ethic and perseverance have truly paid off for the forward.


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About the Contributor
Max Lepore, Sports Writer
Max Lepore is a sophomore majoring in political science with a minor in business. He enjoys writing about sports as he has had a passion for sports ever since he was born in the Bay Area. Max also works with Housing and Residential Education as a resident advisor in the Marriott Honors Community, a peer mentor for the Honors College, and an associate director of the Development Board for the Union Programming Council.

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