CHICAGO -- For 26 minutes Friday night in Chicago, the Warriors' future was on full display as Jonathan Kuminga put together the best performance of his young career, scoring 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting while showcasing a wide range of skills in Golden State's 138-96 romp over the Bulls at United Center.
Kuminga's athleticism and explosion feel different, even at 19 years old. It's easy to watch Kuminga have a night like Friday where he is attacking relentlessly on offense, protecting the rim, showing off his court vision, and fast-forward the tape three to five years and envision Kuminga taking a Giannis Antetokounmpo-like path to stardom.
But these Warriors aren't daydreaming about tomorrow. They are firmly planted in the present. So, the question becomes, can Kuminga develop enough, and become consistent enough, to help these Warriors in their title chase?
"That will show itself," Steph Curry said Friday after the Warriors' win. "I mean it’s kind of hard to predict, but it’s also on him to maintain focus on what’s going to make him better whether he’s playing 25 minutes, whether he’s in the G League, whether he’s coming in for spot minutes. That effort that he showed tonight was amazing and he needs to do that every time he has an opportunity to play because every rep he gets is important for his development, for his confidence, developing his skill set.
"His game is interesting because you can kind of throw him out there with any lineup for the most part and he can do what he does. It’s just effort and intensity at the end of the day for him. He is so athletic, he has unbelievable upside for what he does well and it comes and shines when he is playing hard."Kuminga did it all Friday night.
The No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft scored the Warriors' first two baskets of the second quarter, the first on an inverted pick-and-roll with Curry. The Bulls defenders both went with Curry, giving Kuminga a free runway to the rim. Kuminga's second-quarter statement also included a nifty transition pass to Curry for an open 3-pointer, some solid on-ball defense on DeMar DeRozan, and a deflection of a Lonzo Ball pass that led to a breakaway dunk.
With the game out of hand in the second half, Kuminga got extended run to show off his other-worldly athleticism, including a huge block in the fourth quarter that was the exclamation point on his night.
The Warrior will continue to work Kuminga in when it's appropriate. Coach Steve Kerr mentioned after Friday's win over the Bulls that they have been asking Kuminga to work at running the floor hard and using his athletic gifts to his advantage.
But the Warriors leave Chicago at 31-11. They own the second-best record in the NBA and just got Klay Thompson back from a 941-day absence. At this point, Kuminga is a wild-card with a ton of potential. The Warriors don't need to rely on him. Whatever he gives them is a bonus.
"It's a lot of learning," Kuminga said of his first NBA season. "I feel like I am getting better. It's a good thing that I am going back out there and getting more comfortable. Getting the minutes that I get and help the team win."
Still, it was hard to watch the Kuminga Show at the United Center on Friday and not see how he might play an important role when the lights are brightest.
But that's a story for another day.