Should the Warriors Start Jonathan Kuminga at Center?

Jonathan Kuminga

Getty Jonathan Kuminga dunks the ball in a game against the Chicago Bulls.

Center Kevon Looney has started all 43 of the Golden State Warriors’ games this season and has played a stellar brand of defensive basketball while hitting the glass hard at 6.9 boards per game in just 20.0 minutes of playing time.

However reliable his production has been, there’s something brewing in Golden State that might make it worth moving Looney to the bench for at least a period of games. What’s brewing is the development and potential of Jonathan Kuminga, who seems to get better and better by the week.

Starting Role Could Lead to Further Growth

It should be obvious what the forthcoming argument is. By providing Kuminga with a starting spot, he not only will get more experience, he’ll also get to play against starting rotations, a significant challenge and developmental tool for any 19-year-old.

Standing 6-foot-8, with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and a 38-inch vertical leap per NBC Sports, Kuminga has the physical tools to compete with most opponents not named Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert, but has the agility and athleticism to stick with mostly everyone else.

However, it’s not necessarily on defense where he should leave his mark.

With Draymond Green out for another two weeks due to a back injury, per Warriors PR, the Warriors could use more playmaking and ball handling up front, which is an area Kuminga has Looney beat somewhat significantly.

Admittedly, on the surface this appears as a bit of a wonky idea – maybe even too wonky for a championship contender – but with Klay Thompson back, Andrew Wiggins playing the most reliable ball of his career, and a bench with some serious firepower, the Warriors can afford to be a bit wonky.

If nothing else, it’s a way to test out just how much stock the team needs to put into Kuminga’s recent hot streak of averaging 18.0 points over his past four games.

While some might wonder why Kuminga couldn’t start at the power forward position instead of center, it’s simply to allow Otto Porter the room to make the starting lineup, as to present a spacing element that otherwise wouldn’t be there in a Kuminga/Looney frontline.

Investing in the Playoffs

It isn’t just for seasons beyond this one it makes sense to invest in Kuminga. In the playoffs, teams need athletic and switchy defenders who can make plays with the ball. Kuminga fits that description, even if he’s only 19 years old.

That’s not to suggest he should play a ton of minutes, especially considering Green and the whole crew are likely healthy at that point. But it’s a good card to have close to the vest for head coach Steve Kerr at the very least.

If nothing else, it’s also a way for the Warriors to mirror in certain ways what Green provides the team, while he’s out. That’s not to insinuate that Kuminga will go out an average seven assists per game, but he provides the Warriors with capable on-ball capabilities and can mimic certain actions occupied by Green, keeping the offense humming during the veteran’s absence.

The idea of starting Kuminga will split waters.

For any championship contender, especially one with the second-highest odds of winning the whole thing, per FanDuel Sportsbook, sticking with the same lineup and trusting veterans is the usual recipe for success. This isn’t to suggest a major change in that line of thinking, but rather an attempt at instituting a break of the norm, albeit for a limited time, simply to see what the Warriors have in the young player.