Warriors’ Jonathan Kuminga Endures Rocky Start in International Debut

Jonathan Kuminga Warriors

Getty Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga runs the floor during a summer league bout with the San Antonio Spurs.

The jump to the international stage was rocky for Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga.

After a first NBA season where he showed flashes of brilliant play alongside some typical rookie struggles, Kuminga’s debut for the Congolese national team went much the same way. The 19-year-old Kuminga is representing his country in the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers currently taking place in Tunisia, and had a rocky performance when his team played Cameroon on Friday.

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Kuminga Goes Cold From the Field

Kuminga had a difficult time finding his jumper in Friday’s game, making just four of his 15 shots from the field and missing all seven of his 3-point attempts. Despite the struggles, Kuminga willed his way to a team-high 18 points, thanks largely to hitting 10-of-12 on his free throws.

Kuminga’s Congo team ultimately ended up losing 71-69, with the Warriors forward coming up short on a chance to win the game. Kuminga had a 3-point attempt with the score tied at 69 and 35 seconds remaining, but missed. The Cameroon team secured the rebound, going on to score a game-winning layup on the next possession.

Kuminga will have some immediate chances to bounce back, as the Congo team plays against South Sudan on Saturday and Angola on Sunday. He will be back with the Warriors in a little less than a month, as the Warriors start training camp on September 24 and play their first of five preseason games on September 30.

Bigger Role for Kuminga

After a rookie season where he played sparingly — averaging 9.3 points in 16.9 minutes per game — the international stage could provide a chance for Kuminga to rehearse a new role for the Warriors.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s C.J. Holmes noted that the team is trying to prepare Kuminga to become a more versatile offensive player, easing him into that role during Summer League play.

“Kuminga was forced out of his comfort zone in summer league, frequently asked to initiate offense and handle the ball in pick-and-roll scenarios. Why? Because the Warriors know that with increased versatility, he becomes more valuable and dangerous,” Holmes wrote.

“Year 2 for Kuminga will be all about continuing to flesh out his complete offensive skill set, rather than relying solely on his athletic ability. That, and improving on defense, will be key for him to stay on the court for extended minutes.”

Holmes added that the Warriors believe Kuminga already has the tools needed to be one of the team’s best perimeter defenders, and want him to show off more offensive versatility that would allow him to fill in for Draymond Green as the center in small-ball lineups.

But some concerns have arisen regarding Kuminga as well. Speaking on First Take on August 22, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith pointed out that there are some concerning reports about Kuminga’s lack of commitment, especially compared to the other budding young stars on Golden State.

“I expect [Moses] Moody and [James] Wiseman to be significant. I’m worried about Kuminga. I’m hearing too many things about him off the court in terms of his head. The level of discipline he lacks. You understand? Some of the foolishness,” Smith said.

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