The Warriors coach expects big things from the third-year forward.
The upcoming NBA season is not exactly shy on storylines, from superteams jockeying for supremacy to superstars on the trading block. And the Golden State Warriors are not shy on storylines, either.
Most of the stories around the team right now are focused on the integration of Chris Paul, the ability for their aging stars to put together another title run, the bounce back of Klay Thompson, and the mysterious as-yet-to-be-determined starting lineup. But there are plenty of stories beyond those headlines, including the exciting and intriguing third year ahead of lottery pick Jonathan Kuminga.
Kuminga enters his third season in a critical position. Through two years, he’s flashed all sorts of potential, and a toolkit that features nearly every single NBA skill in the book. He also has struggled at times to do the important things that winning organizations ask of their players, such as rebounding, playing defense, making the right reads, and making hustle plays.
A cursory glance at the Warriors roster suggests that the Warriors are anticipating that Kuminga will help quite a bit this year, especially since the two names ahead of him at the power forward position — Draymond Green and Dario Šarić — are not exactly paragons of clean health. And conventional wisdom says the addition of Paul, a pick-and-roll wizard who has helped plenty of young athletes actualize their potential, will help Kuminga take a leap forward.
But you can’t improve in the games if you’re not first improving behind the scenes, and it seems like Kuminga is doing exactly that. As the Warriors meet up at Chase Center to prepare for another championship run, coach Steve Kerr seems pretty happy with where Kuminga is, and where the hyper-athletic 2021 seventh-overall pick is going.
“I’m excited about JK, he’s had a really good summer,” Kerr said at Tuesday’s media availability. “I was getting reports routinely when I was overseas, and the coaches were all raving about him, saying that he’s really worked hard and understood what’s needed from him.”
Kerr added that it will be “very helpful” for Kuminga to have Paul around, before adding that, “He’s getting better, and working hard, and he’s right on track to get where he needs to go.”
It’s worth remembering how young and inexperienced Kuminga is, and how much patience that warrants. Still two weeks away from his 21st birthday, the third-year pro is a half-year younger than Steph Curry was when Curry made his NBA debut, nearly a year younger than Thompson was when he debuted, and a full year-and-a-half younger than Green was when he first stepped on the NBA hardwood.
But if Kerr’s excitement tells us anything, it could be a big year for JK.