Before the start of the season, a Western Conference assistant coach was sizing up the state of the Golden State Warriors. He was asked about the addition of Chris Paul. He was asked about the contract situation with Klay Thompson, whose extension negotiations were not going well. He was asked about the durability of Stephen Curry. He was not being asked about a Jonathan Kuminga trade, though.
“You’re asking the wrong questions,” the coach admonished. “What you should be asking is about Jonathan Kuminga. I think how he plays and what they do with him is going to decide how this season goes for them. I think they are a good team that can get to the second round of the playoffs as is. But, Chris Paul is not the real wild card there.
“It’s Kuminga. He’s got to put it together this year, and if he does, they’re a contender. If not, they’ve got to talk more seriously about a Jonathan Kuminga trade.”
Kuminga is not the only reason the Warriors have slumped into a six-game losing streak. But he is part of the problem, and around the league, there is, as always, interest in a Jonathan Kuminga trade.
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Fact is, there has been trade interest in Jonathan Kuminga essentially since he arrived in the league in 2021 at age 19. He flashed tremendous athleticism and enough raw skill to make opposing teams overlook his warts. Even as the Warriors competed for a championship—and won, in 2022—they resisted all entreaties on a Kuminga trade.
That has continued for two years. Teams asked the Warriors for Kuminga at last year’s trade deadline, and were quickly shut down. More questions came up in last year’s playoffs, when Kuminga was disengaged from the team throughout its series against Sacramento, and appeared to be sulking as he played just 6.1 minutes per game in the postseason.
This summer, there was again a push for a trade for Kuminga, with Kuminga open to a move so that he could land a bigger role with a new team. At the 2023 NBA draft, the Warriors were offered a lottery pick for Kuminga, but turned down the deal.
The Warriors front office, especially owner Joe Lacob, has faith in Kuminga as a future star. Warriors coaches are far less sure, though. And so Kuminga and the Warriors have been stuck in limbo—he wants to be a star, the front office wants him to be a star, but he has just not been good enough to warrant that kind of role.
Kuminga, despite his solid showing in his first game as a starter in a loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday (21 points, six rebounds) has not put it together this year, not through the first portion of the season, at least. In 12 games, he is averaging 12.3 points and 3.2 rebounds, making just 42.0% of his shots and 18.5% of his 3-pointers.
Jonathan Kuminga Trade More Likely?
Jonathan Kuminga plays 20.7 minutes per game. That’s eighth on the team. He attempts 9.9 shots per game, which is fourth. But he wants to be a starter, wants 30-plus minutes per game. He does not want to be a fourth option. Keeping him in that spot might not be sustainable.
But a trade would require the front office to change its view on what Kuminga is.
“It has always been, ‘No,’ on him,” one NBA executive told Heavy Sports. “It’s always, ‘We’re not trading him, move on.’ But how long can they stick with that, if he is not going to be a guy they rely on and he is not going to be happy in that role? There is going to be a breaking point. And I think they’re getting near that point where they have to say, we need to move him get help now. It has not happened yet. But give it a month. Everybody’s got their eye on that.”
Kuminga is only 21. The upside is obvious. But it is becoming more obvious, too, that he will struggle to fulfill that upside with the Warriors.