Could youngster's ascent spur a shocking Golden State Warriors trade?

Brooklyn Nets v Golden State Warriors
Brooklyn Nets v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors will have some extremely difficult decisions to make, and they could arrive sooner than anyone expected.

Following the Warriors' second-round playoff exit last May, many believed that Golden State's "two-timeline" plan had reached its limit. The front office, led by first-year GM Mike Dunleavy, seemingly pulled the plug on the experiment when he shipped Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards in exchange for veteran point-guard Chris Paul.

With CP3 and newly acquired forward Dario Saric captaining the second unit, the Warriors planned to employ a completely new rotation, defined by experience and expertise. But this is the NBA after all, and things don't always go according to plan.

Entering the 2023/24 campaign, some of the biggest questions surrounding the Warriors concerned the development of their younger players. How would third-year guys like Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody make their mark off the bench? How would they find ways to impact winning with limited opportunity?

About a quarter of the way into the regular season, those questions have evolved into doubts about Golden State's veterans. Whether it's the on-court antics of Draymond Green that's seen him indefinitely suspended, or the inconsistent play of Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, and Klay Thompson, the Warriors have been unable to rely on their old guard to consistently perform on both ends of the floor, opening up a world of opportunity for the younger guys on the squad.

In the past week, rookies Trayce Jackson-Davis and Brandin Podziemski solidified their places in the rotation, while Jonathan Kuminga continues to reach new heights in showcasing his elite two-way ability.

With Jonathan Kuminga ascending and Andrew Wiggins struggling, the Golden State Warriors might view the Canadian as an expendable piece ahead of the February 8 trade deadline

Jonathan Kuminga has finally started to put it all together, recording double-digit points in his last nine games while shooting over 50% from the floor. Kuminga, dubbed a "raw" prospect during his time with the G-League Ignite, has always had the tangible tools to be a real two-way force. This season, the 21-year-old has honed in on the intangibles with an emphasis on making the right basketball play, and it's paid off in a big way so far.

Speaking after the Warriors 129-118 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday, head coach Steve Kerr labelled this latest period as "the best stretch of basketball he’s (Kuminga) ever played."

"“The plays that Jonathan is making that are really making me smile are the extra passes,” Kerr observed. “He had another one where he hit Klay for three. He wasn’t seeing those plays over the last couple of years. Now, he’s really starting to feel and see the extra pass, especially when it’s to Steph and Klay. You’re playing with arguably the two greatest shooters of all time. Get them the ball, and quickly…JK’s been fantastic.""

Kuminga had 22 points, four rebounds and three assists against the Wizards, before following that up with 11 points, six rebounds and a season-high five assists against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night. The third-year forward believes the game is starting to slow down for him, allowing him to thrive amid greater opportunity.

""Even most of the time when I go back and watch film... knowing when to attack, when to pass the ball, what angle to attack from, just things like that. I feel like its become even easier now," Kuminga said."

On the flip side of Kuminga's recent success, has been the continued struggle of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, who was recently moved to the bench in favor of rookie guard Brandin Podziemski, missed the recent back-to-back through illness. The 10-year wing has endured the worst stretch of his career, characterized by horrid shooting splits, and surprisingly poor effort on the defensive side of the ball.

Less than two full seasons ago, Wiggins was the consensus second-best player on a championship-winning squad. He was in and out of the rotation last season as he dealt with some family issues off the court, but even with a full offseason under his belt, Wiggins has been unable to find any sort of rhythm to his game.

It's no secret — the Golden State Warriors championship window is closing, and closing fast. The front office can't afford to wait for players to find their footing 50 games into the season, and if they have the means to upgrade their roster before the deadline (which it appears they do), it would behoove them to do so.

Draymond Green's actions have already put the Warriors' season in significant jeopardy, as they will be without their defensive ace for at least the next eight games. At 15-14, the Warriors are fighting to stay alive in the unforgiving Western Conference. Moving Wiggins could be the difference between landing a real difference-maker, or wasting another year of Stephen Curry's prime.

The emergence of Kuminga has granted the Warriors the privilege of optionality. Now, the pressure is on Mike Dunleavy Jr. and the rest of Golden State's front office to make the most of it.