Jonathan Kuminga Is Special

There have been very few franchises in NBA history that have been able to seamlessly transition from one superstar to the next. The 76er’s having the twilight of Dr. J’s career overlap with the beginning of Charles Barkley, a young Kawhi Leonard being a critical piece for the Spurs in Tim Duncan’s last Finals run, Dirk Nowitzki’s final year being the first for Luka Doncic, these are very rare occurrences in the NBA. Yet here we are, possibly witnessing the next passing of the torch thanks to the Warriors Jonathan Kuminga.

When the Warriors drafted Kuminga with the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, many scoffed at the selection. Kuminga, while wickedly talented, was considered too raw and needed too much development to contribute to a team with Championship aspirations this year. There was a high level of concern amongst fans and media members alike that Kuminga did not “fit the timeline” of the careers of franchise cornerstones Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, and to be fair some of those concerns were valid. The teenager from the Congo opted to play for the developmental G-League Ignite team rather than going the college route. In his stint with the Ignite, Kuminga averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting just 24.6% from beyond the three-point line. He looked incredibly raw and displayed questionable basketball IQ on both sides of the ball. Yet the Warrior’s brain trust of coach Steve Kerr and GM Bob Myers were able to see past all that. They saw the natural gifts that few in the league possessed and realized if they could get him in their organization around their winning culture with high IQ veterans, the sky was the limit for Kuminga. In many ways, a strong organization, where he would be playing meaningful games, was the best place for the rookie to go.

In limited playing time this year, Kuminga has flashed that insane potential. If you turn on a Warriors game on any given night you can see what the “Kuminga Truthers” saw during the draft process. His physical gifts are astonishing. He can jump out of any gym in the country and has the size, strength, and speed combination to be a defensive stopper as he continues to grow on the mental side of the game. Kuminga’s talent has been so apparent, that he is working his way from a bench warmer to earning meaningful rotation minutes.

Friday against the Chicago Bulls was a coming-out party of sorts for Kuminga. In a little over 25 minutes, he scored 25 points, 3 blocks, and shot 10 of 12 including 2 of 4 from deep in the Warriors blow-out win. He also displayed some good vision and playmaking including a transition assist on a Steph Curry three-pointer. The big night prompted Kerr to say post-game, “It was his best game, he showed the whole package.” Kerr went on to praise how hard Kuminga has run the floor the last two nights, a point that Steph Curry would touch on saying, “The effort he showed tonight was amazing. He needs to do that every time he has an opportunity to play because every rep is important.”

There are two parts of the Kuminga situation that warrant monitoring as time goes on. The first is how he fits into the Warriors’ plans this year. Although they may have not expected it coming into the season, Kuminga has earned rotational minutes and can help this team win now, provided he continues to give A+ effort and stays engaged. In what role the Warriors wish to use him is the question. Kerr can go the route of using him as a small-ball 5, in which case the team would be sacrificing some rebounding ability in exchange for his ability to switch out on the perimeter and defend. Or they can opt to use him as a big wing 3 or 4 which would leave them sacrificing a bit of shooting in exchange for his defense and athleticism. Both options are valid, and depending on the matchup, the Warriors could deploy him in either way, but the important thing is they find some way to get him on the court.

Then there’s the future projection and developmental side of Kuminga. His natural ability makes his ceiling so extremely high. Some nights he reminds you of young Giannis Antetokoumnpo, all though I think it’s unlikely Kuminga grows three inches like Giannis did. Other nights it’s easy to see the comparisons to a rookie Kawhi Leonard with the defensive prowess but the raw and promising offensive game. Developmentally, the Warriors need to do everything they can to help Kuminga reach his full potential. Who knows what the future holds for Kuminga, but as the Warriors start thinking about a post-Curry era in the next maybe three to five years, having a budding superstar in Jonathan Kuminga is a good place to start.

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Sports Lover and Bay Area Native, Twitter: @JackHubertSucks

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Jack Hubert

Jack Hubert

Sports Lover and Bay Area Native, Twitter: @JackHubertSucks

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