Kerr praises Warriors' bench, 'phenomenal' front office


Steph Curry finally ended his Christmas Day slump in the Warriors' 116-107 win over the Phoenix Suns. Curry came into Saturday's showdown with the holiday being his lowest average scoring day of his career. That narrative was laid to rest with a game-high 33 points. 

But Curry was far from the only Warriors storyline from their Christmas win in the desert. Even while missing a handful of key players, this was a vintage Strength in Numbers performance from Golden State. 

Gary Payton II was inserted into the starting lineup with shooting guard Jordan Poole in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and GP2 continued to be a revelation by scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds. He was plus-11 in plus-minus. 

Otto Porter Jr. started for Andrew Wiggins, who also was in the health and safety protocols, and the veteran wing made a handful of clutch shots down the stretch. Porter's 19 points were second to only Curry, and he was a plus-16. 

Rookie Jonathan Kuminga came off the bench and scored 12 points and was a plus-5. Nemanja Bjelica scored 10 points, and others deserve recognition as well. 

"Bench has been great," Steve Kerr said Monday to reporters. "The older veteran guys who we signed and expected to play a lot for us have all performed really well. Otto, Belly, Gary Payton, they've all been really good. The young guys are developing.


"I'm really happy with Jonathan Kuminga's overall development. He's only been doing this for a couple of months now and you can already see the improvement, the awareness, the fearlessness. He's really a bright prospect and I think it's been a great atmosphere for him to grow and to learn."

Kuminga was just 18 years old when the Warriors made him the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. For a team with title hopes, it was known that the 6-foot-8 win would need some time to develop. But quickly before our eyes, Kuminga has earned more and more minutes for Kerr. 

The now 19-year-old looks like a future defensive star who already is expanding his offensive game. He can use his power and athleticism to put his head down and go get a bucket. His shot is looking more fluid and he's taking better shots, draining his only 3-point attempt against the Suns. 

For how much credit the Warriors' brain trust deserves for the Kuminga pick, they deserve just as much -- or more -- for the handful of offseason additions they made. Just look at the contracts they handed out compared to the contributions they're getting. 

Porter's deal is for one year and just under $2.4 million. Bjelica signed a one-year contract worth just over $2 million. And Payton made the roster on Opening Day, and his $1.9 million contract isn't even guaranteed. 

"Really pleased with our bench," Kerr said. "I think I said this the other day, I think our front office just did a phenomenal job putting our roster together this year. We have a lot of options every single night to play different kinds of lineups, to feel very confident in every player we put in the game.

"It's been a lot of fun to coach."

RELATED: Why Warriors' Wiggins deserves to make NBA All-Star Game

The Warriors' depth and front office decisions will be put to the test even more with Draymond Green now in the health and safety protocols. Thus far, they've shown they can pass pretty much every test, no matter what curveball is thrown their way. 

Next up is the Denever Nuggets on Tuesday night at Chase Center.

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