Key factor in the Golden State Warriors' starting shooting-guard debate

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns
Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

After over a decade with a firm grip on the starting shooting-guard position, veteran Klay Thompson found himself demoted to the bench in the Golden State Warriors last game before the All-Star break.

Despite Thompson having responded with a season-high 35 points against the Utah Jazz, head coach Steve Kerr confirmed post-game that rookie guard Brandin Podziemski would continue to start over the 34-year-old.

Jonathan Kuminga will be a fascinating player to watch with the Golden State Warriors having changed their starting lineup again

On an individual form basis, the decision to go with Podziemski over Thompson was an obvious one prior to the Jazz matchup. Despite the age gap, it was the youngster who had provided more consistent production in recent weeks.

Podziemski can impact the game in a multitude of ways -- whether it be scoring on the inside, from the perimeter, setting up teammates with his playmaking, being a strong rebounder, and putting his body on the line defensively.

In contrast, Thompson's game is still predicated around his shooting. When the shot is falling he remains an effective player, but when it's not the four-time All-Star becomes much more limited. However, there's no debating that Thompson is a top five, perhaps top two or three shooter in NBA history, and there's benefits that subsequently come with that.

The Warriors have actually shifted their playstyle over recent weeks, largely thanks to the emergence of Jonathan Kuminga who is giving his team much more of a presence on the interior offensively. The third-year forward is undoubtedly benefiting from playing alongside two of the greatest shooters of all-time, allowing him greater space to thrive at the rim where he's proving an unstoppable force.

For all the positives that Podziemski brings to the table, starting him does shrink the floor a little for Golden State. Defenses aren't going to guard the 20-year-old like they do Thompson, even if the latter is having a cold night.

Picture this. Kuminga driving one-on-one to the rim with either Podziemski or Thompson in the weak-side corner. You can guarantee the help defender is going to be much more willing to come off Podziemski than Thompson, potentially forcing Kuminga into being a passer which is not particularly his strong suit at this stage.

In last Thursday's 140-137 win over the Jazz, Kuminga took a total of six shots -- his least in any game since December 16. It's one game so it's hardly a trend, but it's enough for it to be worth monitoring what kind of impact Podziemski's insertion to the starting lineup has on Kuminga's field-goal attempts and overall game.

Golden State have a +5.5 net rating in 721 minutes with Kuminga and Podziemski on the floor together, though that's actually less than the latter's individual net rating of +5.8. Kuminga and Thompson are +2.1 in 804 minutes together, which although worse is actually good in comparison to Thompson's individual net rating of -1.9.

Having developed into the team's second-best scoring option, Kuminga should serve as a factor in what the Warriors do with the rest of their starting lineup come season's end. This is not to say his production is going to suddenly drop off with the change at the two-guard spot, but it's an aspect worth watching once Golden State return from the All-Star break against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.