The Golden State Warriors are running out of options with an injury-ridden roster and depleted frontcourt. How much of the load can rookie Jonathan Kuminga carry down the stretch of the season?
The 19-year-old has a chance to leave a big first impression by stepping up just when the Warriors need him most. However, his leash remains tight as Steve Kerr yanked him from the court on Sunday rather quickly, with the rookie playing just 14 minutes despite starting the game at center.
Have the Golden State Warriors given Jonathan Kuminga more than he can chew? How can they get the rookie back into a comfortable role?
This was the third straight start for Kuming and his second at the center position. Despite this, Kuminga has been on the bench for most of both games. He is a combined minus-20 in his 28 minutes played.
What exactly is going wrong? For starters, Kuminga is vastly undersized for the center position at 6-foot-8-inches. Sizing up against Clint Capela (6-foot-10) and Kristaps Porzingis (7-foot-3) is a tall task for an inexperienced Kuminga.
Surprisingly, the Warriors won the rebounding battle each night. They even scored more points in the paint than the Wizards. Yet, Kuminga was taken out of the game quickly as the Warriors have dropped five of their last six.
The absence of Stephen Curry can be attributed to some of their shortcomings. Kuminga is shooting 2-for-11 over his last two games, something that could be resolved with better spacing and playmaking around him.
However, one of the more pressing issues has been Steve Kerr’s questionable rotations. What purpose does it serve to start Kuminga, only to sit him for a majority of the game? Would it not be more effective to roll with Kevon Looney, who has done everything asked of him at this point, and bring Kuminga off the bench in the same role he has been growing into?
(Side note: when are we going to see Moses Moody return to the lineup???)
This feels like a classic case of too much too soon. Kuminga had been averaging 14.5 points on 55.3% shooting since February in his typical forward position. Since the drastic decision to make him a small-ball center, he has struggled more than ever.
Returning to normal will not be possible without Curry but it is clear Kuminga can not carry the weight of being a starting center on a slumping team. It’s time to reinsert Looney into the starting five and focus on keeping things simple for the rookie.