Kuminga, and the changing Golden State rotation
Preview: Is this the season we finally get a Warriors/Kings rivalry?
The Golden State Warriors are not off to a great start. Their solid core nearly guarantees that the team will be in the thick of it come playoff time, but some early growing pains have put them a bit behind the curve.
Ex-Warriors coach, Mike Brown has taken his defensive expertise and coaching acumen up north, where he hopes to transform the Sacramento Kings into a team playing for something besides their annual middling draft pick. Led by the speedy De’Aaron Fox, the Kings might just be one of the teams fighting it out with the Warriors down the home stretch of the season… maybe not; but for now both teams have three wins apiece and are urgently looking to add to that total.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (3-7) vs Sacramento Kings (3-5)
WHEN: Monday, November 7th, 2022 // 7pm PDT
Blog Buddy: Kings Herald
Injury update: no changes, but there is some ramping up!
It’s time to talk about Kuminga
One of the problems with rooting for everyone is that there is a fine line between supporting a player, and levels of delusion that put the “fanatic” into the words “fan.” They’re all very good at basketball but, but definition not all will develop into the elite strata.
That line is so fine in fact, that sometimes it’s impossible to tell where exactly one is on the spectrum. For Golden State, none of that really matters right now. It’s time to chase some wins and leave the bigger questions for later. We aren’t giving up on Wiseman (well, most of us aren’t) but it’s just not an issue that is immediately resolvable.
A simple adjustment should be the one that has been shockingly absent this season: a more consistent role for Kuminga.
As a member of the latter aspect of the “two timelines” plan, Kuminga impressed last year. He’s an elite athlete with a shot and dribble profile molded off of Kobe Bryant youtube videos. A touch raw, but the sort of young player that I expected to see heavily developed this season. Instead, take a look at his minutes this season.
A game after coach Steve Kerr said that he and his staff would be seriously looking at their rotations, all we got to see was a game played without the core four of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green. In that game - a close loss to a surprisingly tough New Orleans Pelicans team - Kuminga came out looking good on his way to 18 points (from just 12 shots). He’s elite at drawing fouls, and though he’s still raw defensively, has the size and instincts to play a hybrid big/wing role that should translate well to the modern NBA.
Now, it’s time. We’ll get into the reasons behind why this launch was slow this season, but for now, we can all simply be happy that Kuminga has earned his way back into Kerr’s rotations. Here’s Kerr himself, talking about this issue yesterday during his media availability:
The 0-5 road trip hurts, but it’s not like the 3-7 Warriors are tearing it up at home so far this season either. There’s a lot going on with this team. The numbers are showing James Wiseman as a big negative right now, and as much as Golden State would love to develop him immediately, there’s a time pressure here that may push Wiseman’s playing time down in the near future. Which is a bummer, because he needs to get better in order to earn minutes in any other iteration of the future too.
But Kuminga is better right now, and that matters (again, the whole 3-7 thing). `
The Wiseman experiment is far from over, but it will be pushed back a little. Kuminga is closer to ready, which matters for a team aiming to have someone - anyone - emerge from the deep end of the depth chart.
This change is as much about Kuminga is it is anyone else out there. Wiseman’s name will draw the most attention because of his position in the two timelines plan, but this move is just as much about JaMychal Green. Green looked good in the preseason, but has struggled to stand out amongst a bench unit that has been outright bad.
“We’ll play it out and see what happens” got this team through 10 games - with less than stellar results. Now it’s time to take those early lessons and tweak the plan a bit. Kerr already indicated ahead of the Pelicans game that Kuminga was one of the names at the top of his list of adjustments. Presumably, the core group will return, now it’s time to see if a revamped bench rotation can keep up. The old ideas and rotations are out the door now though, and that’s step one.
Meeting Mike Brown’s Kings
Ah the Sacramento Kings. Or, as their loyal fans call them: the Kangz.
Much like the previous era of pre-Curry Warriors ball, there’s a certain level of pain that comes with rooting for the team in Sacramento. But also, a fair amount of… you can’t call it faith… durability? Despite all that historical inertia, the Kings look to be on the cusp (again).
It all starts with De’Aaron Fox, the Kings’ electric young guard with quick hands and quicker feet. He just had one heck of a game winning deep three in OT:
Fox leads the team in points (26.3 per game), but his new running mate is a big help in a lot of other ways. Domantis Sabonis doesn’t score as much as Fox does, but he is averaging a nice well-balanced stat line of 16 points, 10.6 rebounds, and a team-leading 6.1 assists per game. The pairing is an extremely solid one-two punch with a guard and a big with games that mesh well together.
There’s plenty of holes in the roster. Old friend Harrison Barnes is their veteran, but he’s off to a rough 5 of 27 start from three that is all too familiar to those of us still scarred from him going ice cold in the NBA Finals all those years ago.
But the real secret weapon tonight may well be ex-Warriors coach, Mike Brown. Many have wondered how much correlation there is between his departure and the drop off in Golden State’s defense. As a long time coach here, he’s going to be able to give his team some excellent scouting and advice for tonight’s game.
The Warriors are due for a win!
The experiments aren’t over, but there have been some lessons learned. I’m excited to see what sorts of new rotations coach Kerr has cooked up. It feels like the games against Sacramento are always a little extra fun, hopefully this one comes with a home town win too.