Jonathan Kuminga hasn’t just been the brightest developmental aspect of the Golden State Warriors season, but as we enter the final stretch of the regular season, he’s simply one of the defending champions’ most important players.
Prior to Friday’s matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, the 20-year-old had averaged 21 points across his previous three games. Given that and his importance on the defensive end, many believe Kuminga is worthy of a bigger role in the Warriors’ starting lineup while Andrew Wiggins remains away from the team.
Steve Kerr’s refusal to place Jonathan Kuminga in the Golden State Warriors’ starting lineup shows he’s not yet sold on the youngsters’ perimeter jumpshot.
NBC Sports’ Monte Poole made a strong argument for Kuminga to join the starting unit earlier this week, taking a particular focus on his much-improved perimeter game. After a slow start to the season, Kuminga has made 32 of his 73 (43.8%) three-point attempts this calendar year. This huge rise in efficiency over a significant stretch is giving credence to the idea that Kuminga should take the place of the 6’4″ Donte DiVincenzo.
Kerr’s hesitancy to make the shift is a clear indication that he’s not yet sold on Kuminga’s three-point threat. That’s fair, largely because opposing teams also hold that mindset. Of his 130 three-point attempts this season, 90 have been considered ‘wide open’ and another 38 ‘open’ — that means a grand total of two have been tightly contested. Some of that is the spacing the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole create, but it’s also a sign that Kuminga’s jumpshot is yet to be respected around the league.
We saw that against Philadelphia, with Joel Embiid and others regularly daring Kuminga into taking the open three. He did but with little positive effect, making just one of his five attempts from deep in a quieter game for the former number seven overall pick.
So, while Kuminga’s three-point shot is greatly improved, it’s not at a stage where Kerr feels comfortable with him alongside two non-threats in Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. That’s understable based on previous numbers — Kuminga, Green and Looney have played just 18 minutes together this season, holding an horrific offensive rating of 82.5 and an overall net rating of -33.5.
Kuminga just isn’t a small-forward at this stage of his career, at least not offensively. While Kerr needs to ensure he’s still finding him 25+ minutes per game, having him come off the bench is an understandable and clearly effective choice right now.