Draymond Green’s injury opens the door for Golden State Warriors youngster

Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green, Jonathan Kuminga. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green, Jonathan Kuminga. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Last week it was reported that Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green suffered an ankle sprain that could sideline him for 4-6 weeks. As a result, the 33-year-old will likely miss the start of the NBA regular season.

The Warriors will undoubtedly miss Green’s playmaking and defensive prowess to start the year. But on the bright side, the vacancy could create a huge opportunity for the young players on the roster, particularly 20-year-old Jonathan Kuminga.

Jonathan Kuminga will need to capitalize on an increased role for the Golden State Warriors in Draymond Green’s absence.

Kuminga is entering his third NBA season, but he’s still just 20 years old. His short career has been a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, yet he’s shown flashes of star potential and steady overall improvement.

While Kuminga’s playing time was the victim of a shortened rotation in the Warriors’ 2023 playoff run, he became a valuable asset prior in the second-half of the regular season. His sustained improvement over a large sample size leads one to believe that he is ready to take on a bigger role in 2023-24.

A quick glance at the stats showcases Kuminga’s improvement in his 21 games post the All-Star break. The former seventh overall pick saw his minutes increased from 19.3 to 24.2 per game. His scoring went from 8.4 to 13.2 points, his field-goal percentage from 49.5% to 57%, and his three-point shooting went from a pedestrian 33.3% to a sharp shooting 44% (on 2.4 attempts per game).

The effectiveness was clearly displayed by his improved plus/minus — -1.8 before the break and a +1.4 afterwards. Additionally, he showed improved defensive awareness and consistency, often guarding the opposing team’s best wing.

Ironically, it was also an injury that opened up an opportunity for Green in 2014. When Warrior starter David Lee went down with injury, Green accepted his increased role and played so well that Steve Kerr was forced to leave him in the starting lineup even when Lee returned.

It’s unlikely Kuminga will dethrone Green from his starting role, but he could undoubtedly use the increased minutes to secure a prominent bench role and look to be the starting power-forward of the future.

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We’ll find out on opening night how Steve Kerr tinkers with the rotations without Green, but Kuminga will almost certainly see an increased role. It’s up to him to make it impossible for Kerr to shove him back to the end of the bench.