In the Warriors’ second-round disposal of the Grizzlies, rookie Jonathan Kuminga was an interesting story for Golden State. The teenager started two games, but those starting lineups were ineffective, and Kuminga played sparingly in his starts.
Then he hit the bench for the final two games of the series as the Warriors closed it out in six. Though Kuminga did talk trash to Grizzlies guard Ja Morant as Memphis flew home after Golden State’s clinching win.
So what about the Western Conference Finals? Does Kuminga fall into coach Steve Kerr’s plans against Luka Dončić and the Mavericks?
Kerr says yep, the athletically-gifted Kuminga is in his plans, starting Wednesday night in San Francisco’s Chase Center.
I’m really glad to hear this from Kerr. I thought during those games Kuminga rode the bench against Memphis, and even in his two starts that didn’t go so well, that Golden State could have used his athleticism and ability to be effective in the paint, especially as a slasher.
I believe Kuminga can help there against Dallas, too. Plus, Kuminga is another player that can take a turn as the primary defender against Dončić, who was unstoppable in the second round against the Suns. Kuminga, who stands a solid, sturdy 6-foot-7, matches up well just from a pure size standpoint.
Plus, he has some experience guarding Dončić. Here’s a short clip of his defensive possessions against the Mavericks superstar this season, courtesy of The Athletic’s Anthony Slater.
I’m excited to see what Kuminga can do in this series. Though the last round didn’t go his way on a personal level, each round is different. Kerr says he’ll get another shot. Though those plans could change as well. In a seven-game series, matchups and gameplans can of course be altered drastically as the games go on.
But Kuminga is too talented to keep on the bench as part of the plan. Kerr is wisely plotting his best move, regardless of who’s a teenager and who’s not. The key for Kuminga is to not give Kerr a reason to change the game plan as he had to last series.
I’ve got a hunch Kerr will let Kuminga roll this time, as the teenage rookie has shown he can play a role even as a bright-eyed youngster looking for superstardom. Kuminga undoubtedly knows that the NBA Playoffs are the ideal place to start his own legend, no matter how large or small his role is — as long as he has a role and embraces it like no other challenge of his young life.
EXTRA: Through three games, Kuminga hasn’t played at all in the Western Conference Finals. Was Kerr’s “for sure” statement pure gamesmanship? Or was Kuminga really in his plans? I think Kuminga may have been a backup plan. That counts as being a part of the plan, right?
Andrew Wiggins has been a beast against the Mavericks and Dončić, and he hasn’t hit any foul trouble, so there’s been no real need for Kuminga to enter the game. I still believe Kuminga is a valuable roster piece that can be deployed anytime, much as his fellow rookie, Moses Moody, was thrust into action when forward Damion Lee struggled in Game 2.