It was a tale of two halves for Jonathan Kuminga on Wednesday night, with the third-year forward going from zero to hero in the Golden State Warriors' 110-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Despite playing what Steve Kerr acknowledged as his best game of the season two games ago against the LA Clippers, Kuminga was surprisingly left out of the rotation in what was a disappointing first-half for the Warriors.
Steve Kerr's backflip with Jonathan Kuminga on Wednesday signified a major issue for he and the Golden State Warriors
With Andrew Wiggins and Chris Paul both returning from injury, someone had to pay the price. Yet after not playing a single second in the first-half, Kerr had no choice but to reinstate Kuminga when Golden State found themselves down 11 to the undermanned Trail Blazers in the third-quarter.
The 2021 lottery pick turned from zero to hero, scoring 13 points on a perfect 6-6 shooting amid playing nearly 17 minutes to close the game. From out of the rotation to perhaps the most impactful player in the game, the Kuminga flip signifies the issues and questions for the Warriors right now.
Having trusted in his veteran core for most of the season, Kerr belatedly acknowledged in the postgame that change might need to happen as his young players continue to step up in impressive fashion.
""It's just easier to play and to coach when everybody knows exactly where they fit in. Role players, it's easier to play a role when there's a set rotation and the stars are playing well...the puzzle hasn't fit this year," Kerr said."
The issue is that aside from Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Kerr has eight or nine players whose overall value is fairly similar and can shift drastically from game-to-game. Moses Moody has perhaps been Golden State's most consistent player over recent games, but how many minutes do you take from veterans like Wiggins, Paul and Klay Thompson to bump his playing time up?
Some would say that's a good problem to have -- Kerr has options right down toward the end of the roster. However, he's right in saying that it makes things harder, that it opens up questions that he's not always going to answer in a way fans would like him to.
The Warriors haven't had this type of murkiness in their rotation for years -- even during their highly-publicized struggles last season, the starting lineup was elite and something Kerr could rely upon. Now, having a deep roster is pointless if you don't have the top-end talent you know will deliver 30-35 minutes of high-level play on a consistent basis.
Kuminga showed in one night that he can be equally deemed unplayable, and be in the closing lineup. That characterizes a lack of clarity that's unsettling at present, with that unlikely to dissipate soon as Kerr mix-and-matches different lineups and rotations.