Every time Jonathan Kuminga steps on the floor for the Warriors, the rookie offers flashes that show why Golden State made him the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Golden State's recent road trip was the latest example of the energy and athleticism the 19-year-old can bring to a Warriors team that has vaulted back into contention. Kuminga gave the Warriors a crucial six-minute boost in a 102-100 win over the Indiana Pacers and then had a career-high 26 points on Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors.
It's clear Kuminga is deserving of more minutes, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr is quick to remind the rookie that he landed in the ideal situation for his long-term development. That while it might be frustrating not to get consistent playing time, but Kuminga's NBA career is best served by sitting, listening and learning from his championship teammates.
“I told him: ‘If we were a lousy team, you’d be doing this every night,’” Kerr told reporters Monday prior to the Warriors' 113-98 win over the Sacramento Kings at Chase Center. “‘You’d be on the All-Rookie team and scoring a bunch of points, and everybody would be saying how great Kuminga is. But you wouldn’t be learning how to win.’
“We’re trying to keep that in perspective for him. The value of learning from Draymond and Steph and Klay and Andre is actually worth a lot more than rolling the ball out and playing on a bad team. So even though it’s undoubtedly frustrating for him at times, he has a good perspective and we try to remind him he’s learning from winners.”
Kuminga got the start Monday night with Andrew Wiggins in COVID protocols, but the rookie played just six minutes after exiting the game with what Kerr described as lower back tightness.
Kerr understands that it could be frustrating for Kuminga not to have consistent playing time, but he has been impressed with how the rookie has handled a situation most top rookies don't find themselves in.
"We just want to see continued growth," Kerr said of Kuminga prior to Monday's win. "We understand his development is a long-term process. This is not he had 26 points in Toronto, and this is what we are going to see every night. It's going to be up and down. He has got so much to learn. I'm really pleased with the way he has progressed and the process itself. It has been very healthy for him to earn minutes, occasionally play minutes in Santa Cruz, occasionally sit and watch.
"I think it's all been a very organic process, and he is handling it beautifully," Kerr continued. "He is really a good young man. Quiet and thoughtful. He truly wants to get better, and he is putting the work in."
Kuminga has been exactly what the Warriors hoped for when they picked his ceiling over the win-now impact of guys like Franz Wagner and Davion Mitchell. Kuminga is getting a crash course in winning basketball from the best teachers in the NBA. He has been a sponge around a group of champions and has shown he'll be ready to give Golden State a vital boost when it needs him most.