Golden State Warriors provide positive update on third-year forward

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors
New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

Having missed four games with a knee issue, Golden State Warriors' forward Jonathan Kuminga is expected to make a return to the lineup against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on Thursday.

Kuminga hasn't played since last Tuesday against the Miami Heat, with the 21-year-old going for 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the 21-point win at Kaseya Center.

With Jonathan Kuminga set to return, Steve Kerr will again have decisions to make on the Golden State Warriors' starting lineup

Kuminga has been dealing with knee tendinitis over the last week, but will be active on Thursday according to head coach Steve Kerr. Per ESPN's Kendra Andrews, trainers want to ramp up Kuminga's workload before a return to the floor.

The Warriors have won four-straight games by an average of nearly nine points in Kuminga's absence, including a crucial 104-100 win against the Dallas Mavericks at Chase Center on Tuesday night.

Kerr has gone big with Trayce Jackson-Davis at the starting center spot over the last four games, pushing Draymond Green to his more usual power-forward role. The 34-year-old has had two of his best defensive performances of the season over the last two games, recording six steals and a block against the San Antonio Spurs and four steals and a block against the Mavericks.

Could Golden State's success with Green and Jackson-Davis put Kuminga's starting spot in jeopardy upon his return? The Kuminga-Green two-man combination holds a 9.3 net rating this season, while the Green-Jackson-Davis pairing has an 11.5 net rating.

On the other hand, Kuminga has clearly developed into the team's second-best scorer and perhaps a top three player overall. The 2021 lottery pick has averaged 19.3 points since the start of the New Year, having shot 54.4% from the floor while ranking fourth on the team in plus-minus.

As impressive as Jackson-Davis has been in recent games, it remains likely that Kuminga will slot straight back into the starting five. That would once again push veteran Kevon Looney out of the rotation, with the 28-year-old having averaged 11 minutes across the last four games.

There will be no easing into it for Kuminga with the Warriors looking to extend their three-game advantage over the Rockets for the Western Conference's tenth-seed. A win on Thursday would all but confirm a Play-In Tournament spot for Golden State with less than two weeks left in the regular season.