It’s safe to say that Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga is yet to fully find his rhythm and true place in the team. It’s a tough look as the franchise made him the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft because they had high hopes for him, but they won a championship with him just being another rotation guy.
Not all optimism is lost, though. As he steps into his third season at the tender age of 21, hoops fans—especially Dubs fans— will watch with bated breath, hoping this might finally be his breakout year.
Standing tall at 6’8, Kuminga is a tweener forward, a player whose skill set blurs the lines between traditional positions. His defining features on the court include remarkable speed, quickness, and athleticism, making him a force to be reckoned with. However, despite his potential and the buzz that surrounded him over the last few years, he has found himself confined to the Warriors’ second unit, struggling to carve out a niche for himself in the core.
The situation became even more complicated during the 2023 off-season when the Warriors faced a disappointing elimination in the Western Conference Semifinals at the hands of their rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the aftermath, Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr subtly voiced his frustrations on a podcast, seemingly taking shots at players, including Kuminga, who he believed hadn’t fully embraced the team’s system and complained about limited playing time. The writing on the wall seemed clear – Kuminga needed to step up, or he might find himself on a different team sooner than he anticipated.
“None of those guys on Miami are sitting there saying, ‘Well, I didn’t play,’ or ‘Man, they put in so-and-so.’ They’re just all about winning … And you know this from our groups that we’ve had, when you have that championship mentality, every guy is bought in, every guy is just trying to win, nobody — nobody cares about any of that stuff.
You don’t go in the locker room saying, ‘Well, I should have played more.’ You just wanna win. And that’s the beauty of finding that magic when you have a championship team, is that everybody is bought in, and it makes the decision for the coach really simple.”
Many believed that Kerr was taking shots at Kuminga and Jordan Poole, and we all know they’ve moved on from the latter. Maybe that’s the good news? The one who got retained has strong believers.
In any case, new faith also flickered on the horizon during the ongoing preseason. Kuminga, determined to prove his worth, played a pivotal role in helping the Warriors secure victories in all three preseason games. Averaging an impressive 26.0 points on 54.5% shooting, he showcased the talent that had initially propelled him into the NBA limelight. These performances not only silenced some of his critics but also rekindled the optimism that he might finally be finding his footing in the league.
Crucially, there’s also beacon of hope in the form of veteran point guard Chris Paul, a new addition to the Warriors’ roster. Paul’s experience and court vision could be the missing link, providing the kid with the guidance and support he needs to thrive. Their styles of play could complement each other seamlessly too. There might be a small revival of Lob City.
As the regular season looms, it’s impossible to ignore the significance of this juncture in Kuminga’s career. This season could very well be the make or break moment for him. If he seizes the opportunity, continues to impress, and demonstrates consistent growth, he could secure his spot in the Warriors’ line-up and cement his future in the league. However, if he falters or fails to progress, the Warriors might be left with no choice but to explore trade options, parting ways with a player who, despite his potential, couldn’t find his place in the team’s system.
This season represents a chance for Kuminga to narrative, to silence the doubters, and to finally emerge as the star he was destined to be. Whether he seizes this opportunity remains to be seen, the one thing that’s certain is he has to be aggressive in taking it and making things happen.