Warriors

Why Kerr compares Kuminga's rookie season to Kawhi's

Warriors

BROOKLYN -- When Jonathan Kuminga was selected by the Warriors with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the overarching consensus was that the then 18-year-old was one of the rawest players in the draft class. Sure, he also probably has one of the highest ceilings, but it would take years to unlock. 

The Warriors weren't expecting Kuminga to have that big a role on the team this season. With a championship title in their sight, they're relying more on veterans than youth. They want him to be a piece of the franchise's future. 

When thinking of Kuminga's place in the current team, Warriors coach Steve Kerr keeps drawing comparisons back to one specific player.

"I think about Kawhi Leonard a lot," Kerr said after practice on Monday afternoon in Brooklyn. "I think that's a good comp, in regards to size and strength. I've watched a lot of Kawhi his rookie year and look back at San Antonio's circumstances then. Kawhi was working with Manu (Ginobili), (Tim Duncan) and Tony Parker so he was a fourth or fifth option. I think he played 24 minutes a night, scored 10 points and played defense and that was the foundation of what he's become. So it's a good comp."

Kerr admits that Kuminga probably won't play 24 minutes per game with the Warriors this season because of their depth, but, "but in terms of his big-picture development, this is a great time for him to be laying a foundation."

 

Kuminga's foundation so far has been good. And the key is keeping it simple. 

In his latest appearance, Kuminga scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in the second quarter. He did it off of a spinning floater, a second-chance dunk and a dunk in transition -- nothing too flashy or fancy, but came to him in-game. 

He also had four rebounds, a steal and a block and helped slow down Charlotte's LaMelo Ball. This was two days after defending Chicago's DeMar DeRozan. 

Kuminga's performances, particularly on offense, are a nice contrast to and show growth from his showings during Summer League. Then, he was much sloppier with the ball and played with a more chaotic energy. 

Sometimes when Kuminga played with the Santa Cruz Warriors -- which he's done twice since returning from an injury that sidelined him for three weeks -- that chaos comes out. But in the G League, that's OK. 

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Kuminga's in a unique position because he has opportunities to develop in games with Santa Cruz, as well as practices and games with Golden State. His time with the Sea Dubs will allow him to play a large number of minutes and really play his game -- do what he wants and get the big mistakes out of the way. 

In practice with the Warriors, he gets more one-on-one time with coaches to address what he did in Santa Cruz, and an opportunity to gut running time with Steph Curry and Draymond Green. In games with the Warriors, he works on the basic and simple moves. 

"He understands that when he's playing with us, he's deferring to Steph and Draymond," Kerr said. "He's not the focal point but he can be part of it without having to shoulder the responsibility of all the decision making. Then when it comes time for him to make a decision, make a play, just do the simple thing. And that's a great sign for a young guy."

Not many young players with Kuminga's ceiling have this three-pronged development plan, and it has the potential to all come together to make him a highly lethal player in time. 

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