Warriors Rookie ‘Way Ahead of Schedule’ After Breakout Game: Insider

Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors

Getty Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors

Golden State Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga was drafted with the franchise’s future in mind, but his time could be coming much sooner, one insider says.

Kuminga has seen limited playing time this season as he and fellow rookie Moses Moody have bounced between the Warriors and the team’s G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz. It may be harder for the Warriors to keep Kuminga out of the regular rotation after the performance he turned in against the Chicago Bulls, scoring 25 points in 25 minutes on 10-of-12 shooting while contributing some strong defense that some insiders believe bodes well for a postseason run.

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Kuminga ‘Ahead of Schedule’

As Brad Botkin of CBS Sports noted, the Warriors have shifted into “win-now” mode this season with the return of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry still playing at his peak, which leaves little room for developing some of their promising young players. But Kuminga’s play is too good to ignore, Botkin wrote, noting that that 19-year-old is “looking way ahead of schedule.”

“It marked the third straight game that Kuminga has scored in double figures as Steve Kerr continues to place more and more faith in the rookie as a rotation player,” he wrote of the rookie’s January 14 performance. “If he keeps playing like this, he’s going to be an every-night guy getting meaningful minutes very soon, even with Klay Thompson back.”

Botkin envisioned the ways that Kuminga could continue to contribute to the team’s title hopes this season, using his “freak” athleticism to guard top perimeter scorers in a playoff series or joining the team’s very active defensive rotations alongside Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.

Other insiders agree that Kuminga will likely be taking on a larger role. Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area noted that Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been historically averse to moving rookies along quickly, but hinted that the expectations surrounding Kuminga have been growing since the start of the season.

“He’s learning what this is all about,” Kerr said. “He’s obviously making strides, and a night like this validates that.”

Kuminga Earns Praise from Teammates

Kuminga’s play is also earning some praise from his teammates. Guard Jordan Poole, himself one season removed from getting heavy minutes in the G-League before moving into a starting role, noted a certain maturity in the teenager’s game.

“He was patient,” Poole said of Kuminga’s performance against the Bulls. “He took his time, took the shots he normally takes, and he was dominant: 25 points in (26) minutes. Proud of him. Proud of him to make sure that he continues to keep going like this, that he continues to keep going in right trajectory. And we’re going to lead him in the right way.”

At the same time, Kuminga stands out for his raw athleticism. Since early this season, Kuminga managed to squeeze some highlight-reel plays into his more limited minutes.

“Man, he is an athlete,’ Wiggins said. “He can jump out the gym. He’s fast. He’s strong as s—t. He’s got it all. And today he showed out. He was aggressive toward the rim, hitting his shots, played amazing defense. The sky’s the limit for him.”

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