The NBA Playoffs are almost here, and it’s time for coaches to shorten their rotations and, conventionally speaking, lean heavily on their veteran players. Not coincidentally, that’s exactly what Warriors coach Steve Kerr is doing as Golden State’s regular season comes to a close.
But if Kerr’s veteran lineup falters in the first round or beyond, could he actually turn to a rookie as a solution?
It seems that may be the case. After Golden State’s win against the Spurs on Saturday, Kerr answered plenty of questions about Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga, who had a stellar game despite his spot near the end of Kerr’s bench.
Kuminga helped lift the Warriors to a large halftime lead, with 14 points on 4-for-4 shooting in the second quarter. He posted a plus-14 plus/minus rating in the frame. But Kuminga didn’t play in the third quarter, and Golden State lost ground to the Spurs. Kerr again turned to Kuminga in the fourth quarter, and he helped steady Kerr’s bunch and lead the team to victory, along with guard Jordan Poole and forward Draymond Green.
Kerr stuck to his story postgame — his bench rotation will feature veterans in the playoffs, notably frontcourt players Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica. But Kuminga remains a “powerful” option, according to the Warriors head coach.
“That (current rotation) could change 10 minutes into Game 1,” Kerr said. “You just don’t know how the playoffs are going to shake out. We have a lot of options. I like a lot of those guys coming off the bench. I like the combination of those vets. But the option to go to JK is there, and it’s really a powerful one.”The Athletic
Kerr is sitting on the fence when it comes to Kuminga’s role in the playoffs, but I can’t blame him. Rookie mistakes can be brutal in the playoffs when games are decided on the razor’s edge. Kuminga, however, has physical skills that are unique to Kerr’s roster.
Most importantly, Kuminga can be an elite force at the rim when the Warriors’ other star players, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole, stretch the floor and do damage from the perimeter. Kuminga can either slash to the hoop when the defense overplays other players on screens, or he can take advantage of physical mismatches and turn to his post moves, as he did in San Antonio.
Because on Saturday, Kuminga looked unguardable at times. He also hit all four of his free throws and added two 3-pointers on just two attempts. It’s unclear how much he’ll play in the playoffs, but as Kerr said, Kuminga is a powerful option. And at a time when you need all of your best weapons, expect Kuminga to be a factor this postseason, ideally with a minimum of rookie mistakes as he provides the Warriors with a presence unavailable elsewhere on the roster, veteran or not.