Warriors

Kerr, Warriors still figuring out Jonathan Kuminga's role

Warriors

With the Warriors are looking to get back into title contention this season, what role will their No. 7 overall pick, Jonathan Kuminga, have this year?

If you're asking yourself this question, you're not the only one. 

"I think that's kind of the question going into this year," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Sunday afternoon. "It's what we're going to have to figure out."

Kuminga has been touted as one of the rawest players coming out of this year's draft, but also has one of the highest ceilings. That's a good building block to have to look toward the future, but it doesn't address the Warriors' desire to win now.

Neither Kuminga -- nor his fellow 2021 draftee Moses Moody -- will be the make-or-break pieces for the Warriors this season, so what does that make their role?

Through a small sample during Summer League, Kuminga proved to not be quite as raw as many people thought, at least, not on offense. And he has continued that showing in training camp. 

"He's an enormously talented, young guy," Kerr said. "He's got some great qualities right away that jump out. He's amazing in transition, he's a physical specimen, he's a freight train coming downhill in transition. But he's got some nuance to his game too. In the scrimmage [Saturday], he made two or three beautiful drive and kick passes that maybe you don't necessarily expect to see from a young guy."

 

Kuminga has displayed a solid understanding of how to use his body to his advantage down low, contorting himself around defenders to find his way to the basket. For a rookie, he already has a decent basketball IQ. 

This suggests that the Warriors could find minutes for Kuminga to slide in at the four and feel comfortable with him on the offensive end. While it's been suggested he could fill in as a small-ball five, Kerr initially plans to use him as a power forward. The caveat comes on the other end of the court. 

"In terms of his outlook, key for him is going to be playing defense," Kerr said. "Picking up our schemes and coverages and tendencies of his opponents and all that kind of stuff. If we feel like we can count of him defensively -- he's showing quite a bit offensively -- that could earn him some minutes, but we'll see."

Kuminga showed flashes of his defensive potential during Summer League, locking down New Orleans' Naji Marshall in the final 15 seconds of the game and forcing a bad shot to take the game to overtime. In overtime of that same game, Kuminga came through with a monster block.

"Defensively I’ve improved a lot since the G League," Kuminga said. "I'm starting to learn to slow down, learning the readings. These are better players and it's not where it needs to be to defend these people. So, basically, I'm working on my defense and it's getting better."

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If the Warriors aren't confident in Kuminga's defense yet and don't want to chance him being a liability while also working to get James Wiseman's defense up to speed, the majority of Kuminga's minutes could be relegated to garbage time.

But, in order to make sure he's developing at a timely pace, Golden State could look to the Santa Cruz Warriors to get Kuminga the chunk of consistent minutes he needs. 

"I think we're going to play that by ear," Kerr said. "We've always looked at Santa Cruz as a great way to develop players coaches, training staff, and the relationship with Santa Cruz has only gotten stronger ... how the season goes will determine who's playing there and how often. But it's 100 percent a tool that we consider to be very valuable."

The first taste of how Kuminga fairs against NBA-level players will be Monday night when the Warriors take on the Portland Trail Blazers for their first preseason game. Kerr says every player available will play, with no one exceeding 20 minutes. 

For a guy like Kuminga, where regular-season minutes aren't guaranteed, this will be a good barometer to measure where he fits in.

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