Getty Steve Kerr of the Warriors
Before the season began, a Western Conference assistant coach assessed the state of the Golden State Warriors. He was asked about the addition of Chris Paul. He was asked about the contract situation with Klay Thompson, whose contract extension negotiations were not going well. He was asked about Stephen Curry’s durability. However, he was not asked about a Jonathan Kuminga trade.
“You’re asking the wrong questions,” warned the coach. “What you should be asking is about Jonathan Kuminga. I think how he plays and what they do with him will determine how this season goes for them. I think they are a good team that can reach the second round of the playoffs as is. But Chris Paul isn’t the real Joker there.
“It’s Kuminga. He has to do it this year, and if he does, they’ll be a contender. If not, they need to talk more seriously about trading Jonathan Kuminga.”
Kuminga isn’t the only reason the Warriors have fallen on a six-game losing streak. But he is part of the problem and, as always, there is interest in the league for a move for Jonathan Kuminga.
The dissatisfaction was clearly felt during the Warriors’ 2023 NBA Playoffs
The fact is that player interest in Jonathan Kuminga has essentially existed since he entered the league in 2021 at the age of 19. He showed tremendous athleticism and enough raw skill to make opposing teams look past his warts. Even as the Warriors competed for a championship — and won in 2022 — they resisted all pleas for a Kuminga trade.
This has been going on for two years. Teams asked the Warriors about Kuminga at the trade deadline last year and were quickly rebuffed. More questions arose in last year’s playoffs when Kuminga was left out of the team for the entire series against Sacramento and sulked, playing just 6.1 minutes per game in the postseason.
There were renewed moves to trade Kuminga this summer, and Kuminga was open to a move so he could take on a larger role with a new team. The Warriors were offered a lottery pick for Kuminga in the 2023 NBA Draft, but rejected the deal.
The Warriors’ front office, particularly owner Joe Lacob, believes in Kuminga as a future star. The Warriors’ coaches, however, are far less certain. And so Kuminga and the Warriors are stuck in limbo – he wants to be a star, the front office wants him to be a star, but he just hasn’t been good enough to warrant that type of role.
Although Kuminga had a solid performance (21 points, six rebounds) in his first game as a starter in Thursday’s loss to Oklahoma City, he hasn’t done it this year, at least not in the first part of the season. In 12 games, he averaged 12.3 points and 3.2 rebounds while making just 42.0% of his shots and 18.5% of his 3-pointers.
Jonathan Kuminga trade more likely?
Jonathan Kuminga plays 20.7 minutes per game. This is the eighth on the team. He attempts 9.9 shots per game, which ranks fourth. But he wants to be a starter and have more than 30 minutes per game. He doesn’t want to be a fourth option. Keeping him in this location might not be sustainable.
However, a trade would require the front office to change its view of Kuminga.
“He always said ‘no,'” one NBA executive told Heavy Sports. “It’s always, ‘We’re not replacing him, keep going.’ But how long can they keep this up if he’s not the guy they can rely on and he won’t be happy in that role? There will be a breaking point. And I think they’re getting to the point where they have to say: We have to move him and get help now. It hasn’t happened yet. But give it a month. Everyone has their eye on that.”
Kuminga is only 21. The advantage is obvious. But it’s also becoming increasingly obvious that he’ll have a hard time realizing that advantage with the Warriors.
Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter who covers the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has been writing for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of NBA reporting experience, including 17 years as a senior NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of seven nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley Were Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney
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