Without the efforts of rookie forward Jonathan Kuminga, the Golden State Warriors may not have prevailed in their Saturday road tussle with the Spurs. The 19-year-old scored a team-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting and knocked down two triples.
Moreover, he was a team-best plus-nine over his 22 minutes on the court, which was a key factor in Golden State pulling out a six-point win.
It was the most impact Kuminga has had on a game in more than two weeks, as his role and minutes have largely reverted to early-season levels. Over his last eight games, he has averaged just 16.7 minutes per contest, which is a far cry from what he had been getting since his January breakout.
According to head coach Steve Kerr, though, fans should probably get used to seeing less of the former No. 7 pick.
Kerr Puts Kuminga on the Rotational Outskirts
With postseason play tipping off in a matter of days, Kerr has increasingly leaned on his veterans to be the workhorses. Nemanja Bjelica once again bears the look of a second-unit bucket-getter. Otto Porter has reentered the fray in a big, bad way. Andre Iguodala has finally returned to the team, too.
Regarding Kuminga’s reduced playing time, the Warriors coach made it clear that he values big-game experience over potential in the title hunt.
“Gary [Payton II], Otto, Beli, Andre,” Kerr said, via The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “JK is the guy we go to after that group. It’s been that way the last few games. If he’s got it going, we’ll stay with him. If not, we’ll go back to the vets.”
Kuminga played a grand total of nine minutes during key bouts with the Suns and Jazz. It was more of the same on Thursday against the Lakers when he logged eight minutes in the blowout win.
On the other hand, he saw more action against the Spurs, Grizzlies and Kings recently. And Kerr appears willing to roll with Kuminga when things happen to be clicking.
“That [rotation] could change 10 minutes into Game 1,” Kerr added. “You just don’t know how the playoffs are going to shake out. We have a lot of options. I like a lot of those guys coming off the bench. I like the combination of those vets. But the option to go to JK is there, and it’s really a powerful one.”
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On/Off & Lineup Data Backs Kerr’s Strategy
Kuminga may just be the future of the Warriors franchise and there’s no doubting that he has been one of the best rookie players in the Association this season. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be playing major minutes in the playoffs.
In fact, the stats show that Kerr is correct in taking a measured approach to his postseason minutes.
For the year, the Warriors have outscored opponents by just 1.1 points per 100 possessions when Kuminga has been on the floor. Only fellow rookie Moses Moody has a worse number among the club’s standard-contract players.
Meanwhile, the Dubs are outpacing opponents by 7.3 points/100 poss. when Kuminga is on the bench.
In terms of five-man lineup combinations, Kuminga isn’t a part of any of Golden State’s positive groups sharing 36 or more minutes together on the court. People raved about him while he was holding down Draymond Green’s spot in the starting five, but that particular crew actually had a net rating of minus-6.5.