SACRAMENTO -- It was one game, their first at the NBA level, a glorified scrimmage against a roster of players much less heralded than they are.
But if first impressions matter, and they sometimes do, the Warriors’ lottery-pick gifts, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, will have long careers in the league.
The teenagers will need years of refining and growth, multiple cycles to be sure, but the raw tools on display Wednesday night in a 94-87 loss to the Miami Heat in their Summer League debut at Golden 1 Center project to the possibility of producing as rookies.
The Warriors have terrific athletes, notably Andrew Wiggins. They don’t have much of a physical presence aside from Draymond Green. Kuminga, though he doesn’t turn 19 until October, combines both components better than anyone on the roster since robust Festus Ezeli, whose knees betrayed him after three seasons.
At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Kuminga projects as a smallish power forward but has the agility to defend on the perimeter and the strength to go after some big men. He has a lot of rough edges, but his hunger is evident.
“He’s a hard worker, a good listener, committed to get better,” Jama Mahlalela, one of the new assistants under head coach Steve Kerr, said of Kuminga. “He wants to get in the gym mornings and nights, every day. He’s driving me crazy -- in a great way."
Shooting with confidence, Kuminga scored 18 points, shooting 7-of-14 from the field, along the way throwing down an emphatic dunk and draining a triple from the left corner. He defended, at various times, all five positions, several times dealing with 7-foot Heat center Omer Yurtseven.
“His energy and his strength, as an 18- or 19-year-old, he’s got a chance to be a really good player,” Summer League coach Kris Weems said of the No. 7 overall pick.
Kuminga acknowledged his failures -- “to reduce some of my (six) turnovers” -- but otherwise showed well enough to begin his comfort with NBA activity.
“I feel I can impact it right away,” he said of getting minutes as a rookie. “Just learn all the plays, try to get better and stay around Steph and Klay and learn a lot of stuff real quick.
“The teams (I’ll be) playing with, they’re not going to need me to score 40 or 50 points. They just need me to be aggressive every single night.”
Moody is only five months older than Kuminga but, having played elite high school ball and spent one full season at the University of Arkansas, is considerably more advanced in the fundamentals. He has solid court awareness and clear defensive instincts.
He also has a nice-looking jumper.
“That’s something I pride myself on, especially as a young player, just hitting open shots,” Moody said. “Paint-touch kickouts, that’s how the coaching staff preaches. We go over that all the time in practice. You’ve got to hit those shots, especially in a real game, when that pass is coming from Draymond or somebody like that.”
That Moody, a pure wing at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, also outrebounded his fellow rookie, 7-3, indicates a desire to mix it up in the paint.
“He makes a choice,” Mahlalela said. “He hunts offensive rebounds. He has a knack for that, and he’s showing that. He has to figure out the defensive ones, too, though.”
Moody scored a team-high 19 points, but seemed to tire in the second half, during which he shot 4-of-12 from the field. He conceded there was one thing about his first game in an NBA jersey that surprised him above all else.
“Probably how long the game was,” he said. “I’m used to watching those games, and I can get up and get something to eat and come back. But when you’re out there on the floor, it’s a long game.”
Note to Moses: Summer League games are only 40 minutes, eight fewer than an official NBA game.
Note to both rookies: This is the beginning. The road will be long, at times unforgiving. There will be nights when you never leave the bench. You’re on the same roster as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Green and Wiggins. Patience will be required, so pack plenty of it.