Warriors lose to Timberwolves, but Kuminga's potential continues to show
The rookie is attacking the basket like there's no tomorrow; that could be a weapon for the Warriors in the future.
The Golden State Warriors are now 31-12 on the season after losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves 119-99 on the road last night. It was a close contest until the T’Wolves went on a hot scoring streak towards the end of the third quarter that pushed the contest out of reach for a Dubs team missing Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and James Wiseman.
But games like these allow for Warriors coach Steve Kerr to examine what other players can bring to the table in an extended opportunity. Last night, Dub Nation got to see some playing time for Jonathan Kuminga, the #7 pick in this year’s draft and part of the trade that brought Andrew Wiggins to Golden State. He scored 19 points and snagged 7 rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench., while showing a fascinating talent for getting to the free throw line. He went 6-of-10 from the charity stripe
There’s been ten instances during the Steve Kerr-era where a GSW player came off the bench and attempted 10 or more free throws. Per Stat Head, Kuminga already has two of them:
And how he’s getting them is something that may replicable in the fiery cauldron of postseason play. Let’s take a look at how he drew some whistles last night.
Two the Hard Way
Kuminga starts backing down from the right wing, initiating the physicality and forcing the defender to muscle up. The refs notice the contact and punish Timberwolves #5 for trying to stand his ground against the bigger Kuminga.
This one drew an audible “HOW?!” from one of the T’Wolves (I’m guessing Big KAT). Kuminga catches the rock just outside the charge circle, creates a bump that momentarily dislodge #4, throws up a wild shot and then quick jumps through the T’Wolves for the offensive rebound. That is relentless, overwhelming athleticism, and the refs reward the rook with the friendly whistle.
Yooo check this one out. Andre Iguodala, Finals MVP, Olympian, and highly decorated floor general passes the ball to Kuminga on the wing and immediately points to Andrew Wiggins on the ring. It’s clear Iguodala wants the ball to swing Young Wiggy to activate either an isolation or some split cut out of Kerr’s blueprint.
The spacing here isn’t great but surely the Dubs can figure it out on the fly once Kuminga dumps the ball down to Wiggins and—waaaait OMG did Kuminga just take off and try to posterize the entire Minnesota team?!
Kuminga’s primary defender gets knocked backwards like a frustrated bowling pin, Iguodala’s defender misses a swipe from Kuminga’s speed, and Big KAT gets involved enough around the rim to keep Kuminga from completing a devastating slam dunk that would have shut the lights off in the arena.
This next one had the Timberwolves hopping mad. Literally.
Kuminga’s straight line drives are a barreling freight train and he has the freakish bounce to just go up-and-through the little guys in his way. When defenders are jumping up and down and howling at the refs after multiple mid-air collisions, you know they’re beginning to feel helpless.
This last one inspired a hilarious back-and-forth with #4 and the referee. The mics picked up a dejected “oh so that’s a foul?”, to which the ref snapped back “yep that’s a foul! Every day of the week!”.
Charles Barkley’s main objection with the Warriors as title contenders years ago was rooted in the idea that by relying on jumpshots and playing small they wouldn’t have the physicality to draw fouls and put their opponents in the penalty bonus, a staple of winning playoff basketball for millions of years.
Of course the Warriors superseded that wisdom by leveraging the threat of the threeball to get easy twos, but we’ve seen plenty of games where the Warriors can’t buy a jumper and Dub Nation pines for a physical presence to get easy buckets and free throws through physicality. Kevin Durant gave Golden State some of that during his time with the squad.
Athletic freaks like Kuminga and Wiseman (and to an extent Wiggins) can hypothetically deliver that kind force and help the Warriors add to their offensive toolkit. There’s a long time till the playoffs come and these are the type of nights to discover more about the kind of players they have and how their unique skillsets could come in handy later on down the road.