A lot was expected this season from Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and Moses Moody, but the trio of Warriors' lottery draft picks have struggled to find their way so far.
Wiseman has been sent to the G League and there's no timeline for his return, while Moody is on the fringes of the rotation at the moment. Kuminga is playing but he's not having the impact he expected to have, at least statistically.
For Draymond Green, he understands how tricky of a situation Kuminga, Wiseman and Moody are in right now, trying to learn how to play in the NBA while playing in games that have a ton of meaning.
"One of the things I've spoken about with the young guys is the tough spot that they're in," Green told reporters after the Warriors' win over the Utah Jazz on Friday night. "Jonathan Kuminga is the seventh pick, Moses Moody is the 14th pick, James Wiseman is the second pick. Those guys are usually on teams that suck and they can do whatever they need to do to improve. That's not their situation. They're expected to contribute at a championship level in Year 1 last year and Year 2 this year, and Year 1 and a quarter for James Wiseman. Like, you're expected to contribute at a championship level."
Kuminga and Moody were able to accomplish that feat last season, playing about 15 minutes a game while helping the Warriors win the 2022 NBA championship.
But with their luxury tax bill growing, the Warriors decided to let Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee leave in free agency, hoping the youngsters would be ready to step up and fill in the gaps.
That clearly hasn't happened yet this season.
"The reality is, if you go find the rest of the guys around the league that are their age and you try to put them in that situation, all of the guys where we're like 'Ah, that guy's doing great and he's going to be this,' " Green told reporters. "The reason we feel like that is because they are on bad teams and they can grow through their mistakes. It's not quite the same for those guys. And so, in the long run, it will be better for them, having played championship basketball and adjusting to everything they need to adjust to.
"But right now, you have to grow with those growing pains and it sucks, because quite frankly, we haven't won as much, so then everything is your fault and it's all coming down on you. And that's where we can make sure we can continue to do our job to win games so their growing pains are not so magnified like they have been because they're going to have them and there's no way around it."
Kuminga played 13 minutes on Friday night and didn't score. He didn't even shoot the ball once. But he grabbed three rebounds, dished out one assist and was a plus-2.
With Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole combining for 92 of the Warriors' 129 points against the Jazz, Kuminga didn't need to score. As Golden State tries to figure out who can help them this season, they need Kuminga to play solid defense and rebound.
"He's allowing himself to have a positive impact and not worry so much about offense," Green told reporters. "And as a young guy in this league, everyone at home is going to be like 'Hey man, you need to score, you need to do this, you need to do that.' And the reality is, scoring is not going to get him on the floor with this team. Now, doing what he did tonight, it's going to get him on the floor and with the ability that he has, that will allow him to score.
"But to go in with a scorer's mentality on this team, it's tough because there are four guys that are going to get the bulk of the shots. So it's tough to have that mentality and I think he's starting to figure that out. Just move the ball. If you find shots, you find shots. If not, make sure you're doing something that positively impacts the game. And I think I can speak to that from experience, knowing that there are so many things on the court that need to be done to make sure the team wins. Someone has to do them. When he's on the floor, he's more than capable of doing them and he did those tonight. And that's going to continue to earn him more and more playing time."
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was pleased with what he saw from the 20-year-old against the Jazz.
"It's the total game that we're looking at and his defense was really key tonight," Kerr told reporters. "And that should be the No. 1 priority for him. He's so athletic and strong and versatile, if he establishes his defense, the offense will come, the transition buckets, the rebounds, the game will get easier."
Kuminga wants to make a major impact on the stat sheet right now. But as Kerr noted in relaying a story to reporters, even for all-time great players, it simply takes time to feel comfortable in the NBA and figure out what role suits each person.
"His approach, his attitude, have been great," Kerr told reporters. "I love coaching him. He wants everything to happen now and it's just not the way it works. I asked Steph and Draymond the other night after our game in New Orleans, when did you really feel comfortable, like you could affect winning in the NBA. And Steph said his fourth year. Draymond said his third year. And we're talking about Hall of Famers. And these are guys who went to college for three or four years. I think it's hard for young players to keep hearing 'It's going you happen, you need the experience, you need the reps,' but there's no getting around it."
The Warriors are going to be patient with Kuminga, Wiseman and Moody while also understanding that they can't afford to waste the prime years of Curry's career. The goal is to win now. The trio of youngsters might not be able to help as much as initially expected, but Kerr and Green are going to make sure that their development doesn't stall.
Would Kuminga, Wiseman and Moody be playing more minutes on another team? Absolutely. But they might also learn bad habits and get used to losing with those teams. With the Warriors, they are learning how to win and they are getting to watch what it takes to be great by being so close to Curry, Green, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.