Jonathan Kuminga made the most of his first opportunity to jump into the regular rotation for the Golden State Warriors, and one insider believes that the rookie’s breakout performance could help him stay there on a permanent basis.
The No. 7 overall pick had a slow start to this season after suffering an injury during the preseason, but on Friday had the chance to play his most extensive minutes of the season. Kuminga entered during the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls and was on the court for the entirety of the fourth quarter, helping secure a 119-93 victory with the help of a pair of highlight-reel dunks.
The performance earned some praise from his coach and teammates, and could now help vault Kuminga from the end of the bench and into a spot in the rotation.
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Kuminga’s Breakout Game
As Brian Witt of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, Kuminga did plenty to impress during his 16 minutes of action against the Bulls. He was plus-seven during that time, scoring eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, though not all of his buckets were of equal importance. Kuminga threw down a pair of back-to-back thundering dunks, putting an exclamation point on the Warriors win over the Central Division-leading Bulls. Witt speculated that the performance could help Kuminga to see more regular playing time for the Warriors.
“I thought he was great when he had the ball in his hands,” Green said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “Just take what the defense is giving you, but make an impact. And when he’s getting down to the rim — I told him on that block that Lonzo Ball got in the transition play, ‘He can’t get that. You’ve got to finish that dunk.’ — and he finished every one after that, and it’s great to see.”
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr also had some big praise for the lottery pick, saying Kuminga earned his chance to jump into the regular rotation through his hard work. Prior to Friday’s game, the rookie had mostly entered for scattered minutes or in end-of-game blowout situations.
“He’s really earned the minutes he’s getting. He had a great scrimmage yesterday in our 4-on-4 that we played with the young guys,” Kerr said. “His attitude, his approach over the last week — you have to remember he missed three weeks, so he basically missed most of camp and so he was swimming upstream a little bit. And I think over the last week, he’s made huge strides and we wanted to reward him.”
Up and Down Season
While Friday’s performance could lead to more minutes for Kuminga, Kerr has also hinted that there will be a more slow and deliberate process to develop the rookie this season. The Warriors rotation is set to grow more crowded in the coming weeks with the return of second-year center James Wiseman in the next few weeks and Klay Thompson in December, and Kerr hinted that Kuminga could end up spending more time with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors in order to get more time on the court.
“There will be plenty of nights where we’re off and in town in the Bay, and Santa Cruz has a game, and there will be plenty of nights where our young guys will go down and play,” Kerr said on November 1, via USA Today’s Rookie Wire.