The Golden State Warriors have boasted a two-track plan for success, a team filled with veteran stars prepared for immediate success alongside promising young players expected to keep them in title contention for many years to come.
One insider believes those two tracks could be converging sooner than expected.
This offseason, the Warriors lost a number of players who were critical to their title run last season. Defensive-minded guard Gary Payton II was lured away by the Portland Trail Blazers and an offer the Warriors were unable to match. Do-it-all big man Otto Porter Jr. landed a $12.4-million deal from the Toronto Raptors, and fellow big man Nemanja Bjelica opted to return to his former team in Turkey.
As ESPN’s Kendra Andrews reported, those and other departures could shorten the learning curve for the team’s group of young players and thrust them into bigger roles next year, and 2021 lottery pick Jonathan Kuminga could have the most on his shoulders.
Warriors Could Expect More From Kuminga
As Andrews noted, Kuminga flashed plenty of potential during his rookie season and ended up filling an important role in the rotation late in the season. He could play a bigger role in the offense next year, Andrews wrote.
“The Warriors want to see Kuminga use his athleticism to his advantage, most notably his skills as a slasher and finisher,” Andrews wrote. “Toward the end of last season, he flashed an ability to draw contact and get to the free-throw line, evidenced by a 10-for-12 showing at the stripe in a blowout win over the Portland Trail Blazers in late February and a 7-for-10 effort against the Memphis Grizzlies in late March.”
Kuminga could have a more defined role than center James Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Wiseman has missed close to a year and a half after suffering a knee injury, and there are still question marks around his role.
Warriors Hope for Consistency From Kuminga
As the San Francisco Chronicle’s C.J. Holmes noted, the high points during Kuminga’s rookie season were mixed with inconsistent performances and some typical rookie struggles. While another team might have given him the chance at more minutes to smooth out these issues, Kuminga ended up stuck behind steady veterans on the title-bound Warriors and saw more limited playing time, Holmes noted.
But Kuminga could have the chance to break out next season with more consistent playing time and a bigger role, Holmes wrote. That also means more commitment from Kuminga and a willingness to learn from his mistakes, he added.
“The raw tools at Kuminga’s disposal can potentially evolve into an All-Star level skill set with proper commitment,” Holmes wrote. “Getting there will take a great deal of patience on his part and hard work behind closed doors. It’s not just about being consistent on the court, he also has to be locked in and engaged — consistent between the ears. Being in the right place at the right time. Routinely making the proper reads and decisions. Knowing when to go get a bucket and when to create for others. That’s how a young player earns trust, and with that trust comes greater opportunities.”