Warriors Coach Explains Why Top Rookie Reminds Him of Kawhi Leonard

Jonathan Kuminga

Getty Jonathan Kuminga reacts to a play in a game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has a lofty comparison for the team’s top rookie.

Lottery pick Jonathan Kuminga has been moving along slowly in his development, splitting time between Golden State and the G League Santa Cruz Warriors and only recently cracking the regular rotation. The slow start doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for Kerr, who believes that 19-year-old could be on the same path that led to stardom for Kawhi Leonard.

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Kerr Sees Bright Future for Kuminga

Speaking to reporters this week, Kerr said that Kuminga’s situation reminds him much of Leonard’s first few years in the league. The San Antonio Spurs had a trio of established stars in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, meaning they didn’t have to rush Leonard’s development and could allow him to come along more slowly. As Kerr noted, Leonard was the fourth or fifth option and chipped in around 10 points a night those years, laying the foundation for the player he would later become.

Kuminga may be able to come along the same way, Kerr said, letting veterans Steph Curry and Draymond Green shoulder the load for now while he grows more acclimated to the game.

“He’s not the focal point, but he can be part of it, without having to shoulder the responsibility of all of the decision-making,” Kerr said, via The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “Then, when it comes times for him to make a decision or make a play, he’s just doing the simple thing. That’s a great sign for a young guy. In terms of his big-picture development, this is a great time for him to be laying the foundation. That’s what he’s doing.”


Others in the organization see a bright future for Kuminga. Veteran Andre Iguodala said the 19-year-old has been hard at work studying film to better understand defensive concepts and learn the tendency of his opponents.

“With a lot of players, it’s just about wanting to do it. That’s the biggest hurdle. He’s shown right away that he wants to do it and he wants to compete,” Iguodala said, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons. “That’s the mentality you have to have to be a great defender.”

Kuminga Trade Rumors Squashed

The remarks from Kerr about Kuminga’s development bolstered comments from Golden State’s owner that seemed to squash the trade rumors that have surrounded Kuminga for months. There had been regular speculation that the Warriors could use some combination of Kuminga, fellow lottery pick Moses Moody and second-year center James Wiseman as trade bait for an established star who could help their title push this season, but that speculation seems to have been put to rest now.

Before the Warriors used their pair of lottery picks, Marcus Thompson of The Athletic reported that both Curry and Green “made it clear to management they want the franchise to focus on the pursuit of a championship, even to consider using their two lottery picks to get someone who can help immediately, sources confirmed.”

Warriors owner Joe Lacob put those rumors to rest, telling The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami that Golden State is built on a formula that calls for both veterans and budding talent, and that the team has long-term plans for Kuminga and the other young potential stars.

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