Jonathan Kuminga is 19 years old.
I can safely say that most of us at 19 couldn’t even do a third of what Kuminga has already managed to display at this point in his young NBA career. Then again, most of us aren’t athletic specimens – which, to say the least, is the most reductive label you can give it.
Kuminga has shown everyone flashes of his potential, at an age when he is not even allowed to take a sip of alcohol. With every chance he gets to play and show what he can do, his proverbial ceiling rises higher and higher, to the point where his theoretical final form has Warriors fans’ mouths watering.
Rookies aren’t usually very burnt out by championship contending teams. A team as deep as the Warriors would have no trouble rushing a rookie’s development and are often content to hide him in the back of the bench. But Kuminga – due to being 6’7” and making huge strides in his developmental path – has earned a modicum of trust from Steve Kerr.
Kuminga finished with 25 points on 10 of 12 shooting against the Chicago Bulls, which included a perfect 8-of-8 clip at two and 2-of-4 at three. It pulls a mere 29.3% beyond the low volume arc. This shot needs consistency and more repeatability in form and mechanics.
From the eyesight test, Kuminga seems to be more comfortable spotting than shooting up. Defenses will tend to leave it open on the perimeter; knocking down open shots will give opponents a bit more thinking.
At the moment, Kuminga is best as an explosive rim forward, with a sprinkling of low post possessions that use his strength, especially when shifting against smaller defenders.
Kuminga only sees 10 minutes per game of playing time. Should it be more? May be. He can be a weapon off the bench at both ends of the floor. His athleticism and outburst out of the grip are incredible sights to behold. Few teenagers in NBA history have wielded such a combination.
Smarter defenders on smarter defensive teams would likely be more conservative when shutting down to Kuminga. But if anyone made the mistake of using their forward momentum too much, Kuminga showed determination to punish such decisions.
The way Kuminga glides and flies towards the rim has an element of grace and smoothness that feels so naturally natural. Combined with a soft touch and a nearly flawless finishing arsenal with both hands, he quickly becomes a potent rim attacking force – arguably the kind the Warriors haven’t had in their entire run. dynasty.
Kuminga’s shots to the rim make up just 52% of his total shooting regimen — 58th percentile for his position, per Cleaning The Glass. This mark should be much higher, and there is no doubt that if his minutes increase and his confidence level – already at a much higher point than expected – reaches its zenith, it should increase even further.
Although there were times when Kuminga unnecessarily forced the issue close, he learns from such mistakes at an accelerated rate. Such lessons involved learning to change the pace of his attacks, stopping just short of the rim, and using his soft touch on runners/floaters and flip hooks, combined with surprisingly deft footwork.
Until he develops a consistent pull-up beyond the arc and into the midrange, Kuminga as a ball handler in a traditional pick-and-roll – that is, that the screener is your ordinary big man – probably won’t be an effective way to deal with the attack. Defenders will be content either to change or to hide under the screens, the big opponents being perfectly in agreement to retreat.
That’s why Stephen Curry installing reverse screens for Kuminga is the most ideal use of Kuminga as a pick-and-roll operator.
Even more than his score, it was these fleeting flashes of brilliance that helped Kuminga fit perfectly into the general philosophy of the attack. To survive and thrive, it seems almost mandatory to be able to level up; Kuminga not only met such a requirement – he passed with flying colors.
On the possession below, he patiently scans the ground and waits for an extra defender to commit to him. His height above his main defender allows him to see everything that is happening around him. Nemanja Bjelica dives to the edge following the brace, and Kuminga has no problem whipping the pass.
When the Warriors put together a base game – “Motion Weak” – Kuminga shows awareness and instinct beyond his years. He sets the screen for Jordan Poole at the wing; knowing he’s on the wrong side of the screen, he flips the screen and turns the action into an empty pick-and-roll. He receives the pocket pass on the roll and – anticipating the rotation on the assist side – finds Juan Toscano-Anderson on the base cut for the lay-up.
It’s the kind of feel for the game that’s more natural than nurturing.
Another example of Kuminga’s feel for the game: knowing when to slide screens and dive to the edge.
Instinctive plays like the ones above also translated to the other end of the floor. Kuminga can be thrown there against a whole range of positions. Its length and ability to cover the ground suffocates smaller guards and makes life on opposing wings a little more difficult. He survives the post against the greats thanks to his strength and physicality.
More than his physical gifts, his core fundamentals and discipline impressed the most, especially when tasked with defending big-name stars.
Kuminga navigates around the dribble transfer and cuts DeMar DeRozan’s right, preventing him from turning the corner. He stays with DeRozan, using active feet and flowing hips. He uses a measured and effective contest to force a shot that fails. It’s Kuminga’s ideal defense, a big part of why he wins minutes and earns the confidence of the coaching staff.
On another possession, Kuminga fits into Draymond Green’s role of being an all-around operator: picking up three-quarters of the field and pressing the ball; switch on anyone, including the big ones at the low post; and act as an assistant and help where needed.
Plan for some small-scale drama: In Kuminga’s 290 minutes on the ground this season, the Warriors have been eight points per 100 more stingy possessions on defense, according to PBP stats. In context, the lower rosters Kuminga has faced probably play a huge role in this – but he’s collected a sizable amount of equity to make some of that noise count as legit.
The Warriors probably don’t need Kuminga to be a rookie-caliber player of the year for their championship aspirations to come true. They probably don’t even need to give Kuminga a raise in minutes or responsibilities. But they were perfectly content to give him ad hoc assignments and specialized responsibilities – and Kuminga made the most of the opportunities presented to him.
So far, Kuminga is living proof that the Warriors’ unprecedented philosophy of struggling while growing — questioned and ridiculed in large part during the offseason — has worked.