Jonathan Kuminga's rookie season has been unlike most in NBA history for players drafted with the No. 7 overall pick. The swingman has seen plenty of ups and downs, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes navigating those peaks and valleys will be the toughest part of Kuminga's first NBA season.
"I think that's his biggest challenge is just dealing with the ups and downs because he's had plenty of both, he's so raw and talented that the sky's the limit, but because of his lack of experience, he's going to make mistakes," Kerr told reporters after practice Saturday. "We just try to tell him it's fine to make mistakes, that's expected. Nobody could possibly come into the league at this age and pick up everything right away, so he's done a great job of becoming more and more open and communicative and he's getting better and better, you can feel it.
"His good games come now more frequently, but there are still going to be lows, that's all part of being a rookie, and we just have to keep his spirits up because when things go badly for him, he gets a little down and we just got to help him keep his spirit and his energy."
Kuminga, 19, has gone from rarely seeing double-digit minutes early on to a handful of 30-plus minute nights recently. He has had a handful of G League games with Santa Cruz and also has been on the floor with the Warriors' core players in the final minutes of nationally-televised games.
The last three players drafted No. 7 overall in the NBA draft before Kuminga all averaged more than 20 minutes a game over their rookie seasons, while Kuminga has seen just 12.8 so far.
Kerr did recognize, when asked by The Athletic's Marcus Thompson, that Kuminga's footwork is quite advanced for someone with his limited background in basketball.
"He's a really interesting player because he's got really good footwork down on the low block, we've seen a couple step throughs and drop steps and he's so powerful and he jumps so high that all he needs is a tiny bit of an angle on his defender and he can score easily," Kerr said of Kuminga. "He's had some plays in transition, crossover dribbles, inside-out dribbles where he's gone right around his guy, so I feel like he's had a lot of skill work in his growth as a young player coming in here, so what he's missing is more game experience and more NBA knowledge, which is great because the foundation of your game has to be your footwork and the fundamentals and he's pretty good with that stuff."
Kuminga will have a chance few top-10 draft picks get in his rookie season, to potentially see meaningful playoff minutes as the Warriors try to capture another NBA championship.
As he garners more game experience and develops a more thorough understanding of the Warriors' system, Kuminga only stands to get better and better. It might be a bit of a rollercoaster, but the future looks awfully bright for the 19-year-old.