Celtics Star Tatum Sounds Off on Warriors Rookie Kuminga

Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors

Getty Jonathan Kuminga #00 of the Golden State Warriors dunks against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second half during an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on March 08, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The play of Golden State Warriors rookie swingman Jonathan Kuminga has inspired some strong reactions this season, including from Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum.

Tatum, 24, took to Twitter on Saturday, March 12 to laud Kuminga for his play. His comments came after Kuminga put up 14 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes during a Warriors’ 122-109 home victory over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.

“Kuminga gone be very good for a long time,” Tatum wrote.

The praise for the Dubs’ rookie is high, particularly considering its source. Tatum is a three-time All Star selection and one of the most skilled and prolific scorers in the NBA, averaging more than 26 points per game each of the last two seasons.

He started off the season slowly from an efficiency perspective but has rebounded since as the Celtics continue to assert themselves in a crowded and competitive Eastern Conference behind Tatum’s offense and the best team defense in the league. Tatum is currently averaging 26.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1 steal through 65 games this season. Former NBA head coach Stan Van Gundy said on the Thursday, March 10 edition of The Dan Lebatard Show With Stugotz that if Tatum had played the entire year the same way he has performed over the last 20 games, he would be firmly in the MVP conversation.

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Kuminga Shining in Big Minutes Over Last Two Months

Jonathan Kuminga Warriors

GettyGolden State Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga reacts after a made basket during a game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Kuminga, 19, remains far from the class of player Tatum has entered but his ceiling is arguably somewhere in the same ballpark.

One of the traits that make Tatum truly great is his ability to defend, and Kuminga has also shown flashes on defense impressive enough to believe he could someday become one of the better two-way players in the NBA.

Beyond that, his athleticism is devastating and his play across the board has been too good for Golden State to keep him out of the regular rotation. The Warriors have one of the deepest benches in the league, yet the rookie has carved out a role amounting to 16.1 minutes per night. Kuminga has appeared in 56 of the team’s 68 games, starting seven of them, and was averaging 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 rebounds per contest as of Sunday, March 13.

The rookie’s role and production are actually more considerable than his averages indicate. Kuminga is playing more than 25 minutes per night and scoring just over 15 points per outing in 17 games played across the months of February and March.

Golden State Close to Full Strength For Regular Season Stretch Run

Draymond Green Warriors-Heat

GettyGolden State Warriors star Draymond Green reacts during a game against the Miami Heat.

Kuminga’s game action may diminish some as the Dubs make their final push through the end of the regular season, but not because of anything he’s failing to do on the court.

Draymond Green has missed 30 consecutive games with a back injury but will return to the court Monday night against the Washington Wizards. Meanwhile big man James Wiseman been out the entire season with knee troubles but recently made his return to the floor with the Warriors’ G League affiliate, looking spry and athletic in his two appearances thus far.

Both performers play on the Golden State’s front line and their relative health likely means less time on the court for Kuminga. That said, the rookie’s versatility and a deep bench will allow head coach Steve Kerr to experiment with highly athletic and dynamic lineups that include Kuminga and Green together, possibly along with Wiseman as the situation demands.

The Warriors are currently in third place in the Western Conference standings and reside just a half-game back of the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies. Golden State has reeled off three wins in a row following a 2-9 stretch that was by far their roughest of the season. But now, with the band back together and the Dubs’ young role players producing at a high level, the team has reattained its championship-level ceiling.

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