When news filtered through of Steve Kerr's decision to re-insert Andrew Wiggins into the Golden State Warriors lineup on Friday, while simultaneously demoting Jonathan Kuminga to the bench, many fans were quick to lament the move amid rising pessimism surrounding the franchise.
The decision went completely against recent form, with Wiggins having scored 11 combined points on 4-of-19 shooting over the last three games. Speculation of a potential Wiggins trade has grown stronger and stronger in recent days, and we're also just a week removed from reports of Kuminga's 'lack of faith' in Kerr following inconsistent opportunity.
In fairness, Wiggins was taking the spot of the injured Moses Moody who had started at small-forward in the second-half against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday. Kuminga's role was taken by Dario Saric, with Kerr clearly wanting greater floor spacing next to starting center Kevon Looney. Regardless, Wiggins and Kuminga have been inexplicably linked in recent times in regard to their role and the complete inability for the duo to play effectively together.
Andrew Wiggins and Jonathan Kuminga were two of the Golden State Warriors' best against the Chicago Bulls at United Center on Friday
Kerr's gamble had the possibility of backfiring spectacularly, which would have only added to Golden State's recent woes and the pressure on his role as head coach. Instead, Wiggins came out a completely different player, looking assured and confident in everything he did.
The Canadian nailed a three-pointer on his first shot within the first 35 seconds, providing the start to his nine first-quarter points. Wiggins would finish with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but that didn't begin to tell the full picture.
Going into the game, Wiggins' season-high in assists was four, while he had recorded seven more turnovers than dimes in his 33 games. The 2022 All-Star had eight assists and zero turnovers against the Bulls, providing the greatest sign of the improved assertiveness that's long evaded him this season.
Yet for as good as Wiggins was, Kuminga's response to the benching was perhaps even more impressive. The third-year forward made his first eight shots and had 21 points in the first three-quarters, before finishing with an equal season-high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting including 4-of-4 from three-point range.
By the end of the game, Kuminga and Wiggins were closing together alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Saric. Earlier in the week Kerr had all but shelved the idea of the pair playing together, yet on Friday the Warriors had a +14 net rating in the seven minutes where both were on the floor.
Imagine being General Manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. watching that game, particularly Wiggins who provided a timely reminder that when near his best, he remains a perfect fit next to Curry and Thompson. Although it was a major positive, what assurances are there that Wiggins can return to that level on a consistent basis?
From a Kerr perspective -- is having Wiggins back in the starting lineup a sustainable approach? Will Kuminga be comfortable with a regular return to the bench, particularly when his minutes may be further impacted by the imminent return of Draymond Green?
As good and as important as Friday's win was, it may have created even more questions over the coming weeks as the franchise seeks to return towards playoff contention while navigating trade discussion and speculation.