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Warriors Dynasty Drafting: Jonathan Kuminga
All articles in this series are at How the Warriors Extended The Dynasty Through The Draft, an in-depth series
In the big picture, our comparisons show that GSW drafted quite well compared to who they could have drafted, and better than any other post-1980s dynasty. However, the nature of the draft is that you’ll get picks that don’t work out. It’s the overall body of work that counts for judging a front office. Criticizing an individual draft is like criticizing a player’s single shot. If it was a good shot, then the result is not as important as the overall shot profile and efficiency.
Despite having just said that, I will now critique the individual draft picks from the point of view of results for the dynasty.
It’s too early to evaluate, but I’ll do my best to write this up for completeness.
I was not excited about this draft pick until I dug into his film. As I wrote in the recent 2021 Draft Takes Revisited:
A keen observer may notice that I did not list Jonathan Kuminga on my Board. To be completely honest, I just knew it would take a lot of work to watch all Kuminga’s film to get a real opinion about him, so I just abstained from ranking him at all. I also was pretty sure he would fall to #7 and that GSW would draft him and I didn’t want to send any energy into the world reinforcing that.
After we drafted him, I admit I was quite un-thrilled as I had been told by many sources that he was a terrible lazy defender and was a many-years project. So when I watched his G-League video before preseason, I was really happily surprised and wrote these two pieces and videos.
I was one of the first people to suggest he was going to be an engaged, plus defender, which became obvious once he actually got playing time. Since then, I take with a big grain of salt any draft assessment of a prospect being lazy at defense. As I wrote:
Confusion and messing up on switches on first glance looks a lot like lazy indifference.
Who was a better pick in 2021?
The Warriors picked Jonathan Kuminga at #7. He proceeded to not play for the first month. Thanks, Kerr.
Once he cracked the lineup, he started a rampage against rims across the nation.
By February, Kuminga was regularly playing 20+ MPG.
He had dazzling plays and also showed head-slapping rookie confusion, and an allergy to showing any kind of effort when in the G-League.
The players drafted after Kuminga, ordered by Win Shares:
Herb Jones, NOP, #35. Impressive defensive specialist playing a big role and big minutes for a young playoff team.
Franz Wagner, ORL, #8. Do-it-all big grinding out numbers for one of the worst teams.
Jonathan Kuminga, #7
Now I know Win Shares are a very limited measure, but I’ve been using it as a convenient standard benchmark for this whole series. Anyway, I was very surprised by how well Kuminga rated, considering Kuminga’s very spotty playing time.
Herb Jones is an enjoyable pro, but there was no way GSW or anyone in the universe was going to pick him in the lottery, much less at #7.
Much of DNHQ pined for Wagner to be picked instead of Kuminga. In our Draft Tourney, Wagner was a strong contender but got a bad draw and was taken out in the Second Round by Moses Moody. I am curious (for real, not Taylor Jenkins conspiracy theory curious) whether people still feel Wagner would have been a clearly better pick.
How did GSW do against the field?
Kuminga ranked for the entire draft class #5 in Win Shares and #13 in Value Over Replacement Player.
Given Kuminga’s relative slow ramp up to playing time, that’s a passable showing.
And this is anecdotal, but after Kuminga showed off his potential, I did not see much complaining about picking him specifically, despite this year being a particularly neurotic and whiny year on Dub Nation Twitter.
(Yes, there continued to be calls for a Magical Win Now Trade shipping out Kuminga, but with no specific targets ever named, these ideas remain vague at best. And these Magic Trades would have shipped out any rookie chosen at #7.)
Pick Grade: C
It’s too early to grade this as a draft pick. But from the Dynasty perspective, it is NOT too early, because the main question is not about Kuminga’s immense potential, it’s a cold look at what he contributed to the 2022 Playoffs, and whether other rookies would have contributed more to the 2022 Playoffs.
Kuminga played essentially garbage time in the playoffs, with two important exceptions. First, and most importantly, he was a key chess piece when Steve Kerr played him noticeable minutes in Games 1 and 2 against MEM, seeing him as an athletic option to put pressure on the rim and guard the long, strong MEM attackers. Kerr even moved him into the starting lineup against MEM for Games 3 through 5. GSW went 2-1 in those games, but it was no thanks to the starting lineup, which got smacked each game for an early deficit, and the veterans had Kerr put Kevon Looney in Kuminga’s place in order to establish solid defense and rebounding.
Second, Kuminga was part of, yes, the garbage time crew, in DAL Game 4 when the Mavs went up 29 and the Warriors starters basically headed for the plane. But then the Warriors rookie expendables went on a huge comeback run to pull the game to single digits down the stretch and force Luka Doncic and starters to come back into the game, which contributed to Luka’s wearing down in Game 5.
So Kuminga played a minor, neutral to mildly negative role in the Playoffs. He played 15 games of more than 1:00 playing time and had negative +/- in 13 of them. One was positive (the DAL mega-comeback) and one was +0 (MEM Game 2, which is probably what prompted Kerr to consider starting him).
What rookies would have done better in the crucible of the Playoffs? We know for sure that Scottie Barnes did decently. I suspect Evan Mobley would have done well. However both of them were unfortunately gone by pick #7.
We saw: Bones Hyland play 17 MPG in (slightly negative +/-) backup minutes in the doomed DEN series; Trey Murphy III shoot respectably in 20 MPG in the NOP-PHX series on low volume; and Herb Jones play big minutes as a starter for NOP as their version of Gary Payton II. But nobody would have taken these players at #7.
It’s up to your imagination to decide if Franz Wagner (or Chris Duarte or anyone else) would have lit up the Playoffs.
In the end, the Kuminga pick has not done much to advance the Dynasty, but neither has it set it back, and it gave Steve Kerr an important option in the most important series (GSW-MEM). We expect Kuminga to be playing a more significant role next year, and so he still will have a chance to contribute to the 2022-23 Dynasty Title Defense. For now, I give the grade C.
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