Golden State Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga had one of the best performances of his young career on Tuesday night. Kuminga was the team’s leading scorer in their 130-92 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Kuminga poured in 22 points in just 18 minutes. While the points aren’t a career-high for him, Kuminga scored 26 against the Raptors on December 18, it was his most efficient game. Kuminga was on fire shooting the ball, he was 8-for-9 from the field and 4-for-4 from 3-point range. To hear Kuminga and the Warriors tell it though, they aren’t surprised when Kuminga plays like this.
Kuminga came out of high school as a consensus five-star recruit. He opted to play in the G-League instead of playing college basketball. High expectations have been a part of Kuminga’s basketball journey and his early play with the Warriors has him and the team with high hopes for the future. According to a story from NBA.com, Kuminga believes he can be a future All-Star.
“As long as I put my work in and respect everything I got to do to get there, I know that’s a real possibility,” Kuminga told NBA.com. “I’m still a rookie and working my way there. Hopefully, it happens. But I know it’s going to happen at some point. I believe in my work. So, I’m going to get there.”
There are two things to really like about that answer from Kuminga. First is his confidence, which has shown on the court this season. Second is the acknowledgment that he still has to put in the work to get to that level. The Warriors also have confidence that Kuminga can get to that level.
“Jonathan Kuminga, at his highest gear, is special; like ‘LeBron-James special,’ ” Jama Mahlalela, a Warriors’ assistant coach and the director of player development, told NBA.com. “If he keeps developing, and that’s a big if. There’s a lot of room to grow, and he’s not there yet. But he can be an All-Star.”
What Makes Kuminga Special?
That is huge praise from Mahlalela. It’s hard to draw a lot of similarities between LeBron’s rookie season and Kuminga’s so far, the situations are drastically different. A couple of similarities between the two are their size and athleticism coming into the league.
The main reason Kuminga was drafted seventh overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, was because of his elite athleticism.
When people think athleticism in the NBA, minds often go to high-flying dunks, but Kuminga’s helps him in other areas as well.
“The athleticism and the explosion is obvious for anybody to see,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “That kind of physicality, in theory, allows him to guard any spot on the floor.”
With the way Kuminga has played when his number has been called, some might be wondering why he hasn’t gotten more opportunities. Kerr and the Warriors though have said they want him to earn his minutes.
“One of the reasons we brought him along slowly is he’s got to learn those things before we can really trust him to play big minutes,” Kerr said. “In my mind, it’s a really organic, natural way to bring a young player along, rather than just hand him minutes. He’s got to earn them by making the right plays.”
To his credit, Kuminga has handled his lack of minutes well so far. Members of the Warriors staff have referred to him as a student of the game, who does a good job paying attention to what he’s been taught.
“What I like about him is he’s aware on every play,” Mahlalela said. “If I show him the film, he remembers the play and he remembers what he sees and he remembers what is going on. He may have made the wrong choice in that one. But at least he remembers and has a feel for it. It gives the whole staff a framework in which he can work and get better.”
Clearly, some of the most encouraging things about Kuminga are his positive attitude and lack of entitlement. Those qualities have served him well so far in his rookie season. If he continues along this path and continues to put in the work, then the sky really could be the ceiling for the Warriors rookie.