Prelude by Poor Man’s Commish
NBA media is at it again. Par for the course, a reporter with sources is saying that a team in the Top 5 of the Lottery is falling in love with a player not in the Top 5, and the team at No. 6 is enamored with a player also not in the Top 6.
This happens all the time, every Draft, every year. Last year it was the Warriors trading away their No. 2 for Wendell Carter, Jr. or some combination of that. Didn’t happen.
But I don’t blame these reporters. They’re just doing their jobs, looking after their careers, reacting to the pressures of coming up with potentially viral content, amplifying what was told to them by an insider. I’m pretty sure journalists are not making stuff up. They’re still the messengers.
As Doc Martin of Babcock Hoops, who has hopped on a couple of our Draft-related livestreams told me, “That’s the tricky part about draft projections. So many potential smoke screens out there, it’s hard to say what teams are thinking. I would be curious to know how well he has worked out for teams.”
That’s the NBA Draft for you. That’s what makes it fun, what brings the entertainment. You might call it “infotainment”, where there’s a legitimate chance that something is true because we’ve seen crazier things happen before. Jason Richardson for the 8th pick that became Brandan Wright, without the knowledge that Kevin Garnett was supposed to be the key piece, is a good example.
While I’d argue that NBA GMs keep getting better and better, therefore fewer weird things like that failed Garnett deal happen anymore in this era of generally fair trades, we have to take into account the possibility that a “consensus” Top 5 pick could drop to the Dubs.
And so we have here our Jonathan Kuminga Draft profile. Out of the Top Five of Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs, Kuminga is the most likely to drop, and past Scottie Barnes, who had an impressive Combine, as well. Read on for why (“Weaknesses”, below).
Dulow Twist’s Draft profile on Kuminga
Strengths: Potential scoring wing with powerful body. Legit 6’6” which increased to 6’8” after Combine measurements, with a near 7-foot wingspan. Has legit playing strength. Explosive vertical athlete with quick leaping ability. Makes some crisp passes on occasion. Wired to score and plays with confidence. Really good handles for a wing player and shot-making skill. Displays a developed post game and searches out mismatches. Congo native’s listed age is 19, which suggests a longer runway for player development. Sturdy defensively and slides his feet well. Attacks boards with ease. Uses length very well on closeouts.
Weaknesses: Below-average shooter. Needs to greatly improve on threes and free throws. Shot just 25% on threes with some very bad misses. A ball-stopper on offense and immediately looks to go one-on-one whenever he gets the ball. Not always dialed in on defense despite his great tools.
Warriors’ fit: Very talented, but not ready to play a big role on a team with championship aspirations. Would add some bench athleticism. Strong rebounding instincts, but lacks shooting and passing. A motion offense wouldn’t be the best fit because of instincts to duck head and charge to rim each time he gets the ball, much like Kelly Oubre last season. Tantalizing skill set, but may not have the playing time to develop. A young Aaron Gordon seems to be the most similar comparable. Would add depth behind Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green.
Gabe Johnson’s take
Kuminga is a big boom-bust prospect. While he’s likely not to even be available to the Warriors at No. 7, there has been some whispers of him potentially falling and someone like James Bouknight jumping into the Top 6 above him. If Kuminga is there at 7, the Warriors have to take him, though I also have a lot of worries about his fit on offense.
He does however have maybe the highest or second-highest ceiling of these prospects, because if he really maximizes his skills, he could be on the level of a Jayson Tatum type, which would be insane value at 7.
I think his offense is too raw to be useful to the Warriors immediately, but remember, Bob Myers is looking at trades too, and Kuminga would easily be the best asset we could have at 7, due to his immense upside. I do have hopes that if we did keep him, he could develop in a few years into a high-level two-way wing, but we’d have to be patient with him.
Let’s not overthink it. First off, I have to point to the ESPN Mike Schmitz one-on-one sit-downs, and there are some eye-popping flashes:
He may make some wrong decisions, but he makes up for them with his extraordinary athleticism. In particular, there was one play where he should have used his size to keep driving, but rose for what seemed to be an ill-fated jumper against two defenders, yet managed to draw a foul because of his hang time and strength.
Plays like that remind me of Kawhi Leonard, as do his powerful post moves. On defense, he’s already touted as one of the best individual defenders in the Draft. I don’t think we need to peel the onion further there, as even the critical Dulow praised it above.
But more importantly, Kuminga has been in the Top 5 on every relevant, decades-tenured Draft board (namely DraftExpress, NBADraft.net and Babcock/BBN) since at least the end of the G League Bubble season. He’s considered Top-Five for a reason. If a long-time Top-Fiver drops to the Warriors at No. 7, it should be a no-brainer to pick him.
The names that get tossed into cracking the Top Five or Six are Jalen Johnson and Bouknight. Our own Draft profiler Dulow tells me he’s had Johnson in his Top 5 for quite some time now, especially noticing Kuminga’s woes with shooting the ball.
I understand the draw of Johnson as potentially a big point guard in the mold of Ben Simmons with a three-point shot, plus Johnson’s lack of game film. I also understand Bouknight’s “bucket-getter” draw and perhaps having some good workouts of late. So if there are teams drafting before the Warriors and looking for that specific role or just plain more offense, they might nab Johnson or Bouknight, which means Kuminga could drop.
The other thing of concern for Kuminga could be what the aforementioned BabcockHoops expert Martin calls a “Jeff Green feel”: “Physically, he looks every bit the part, but you hope he doesn’t end up a player you always felt there was more to give early on in his career. With all due respect, Green’s been a great vet during his tenure in the league but scouting him while at Georgetown, he always made me feel that I should be seeing more productivity.”
One thing I like to do is complement what I see on the court with these Draftees’ demeanors off-the-court. Kuminga has a strong Congolese accent, so he’s not as articulate, but he does seem to understand and acknowledge what he needs to work on, and he does seem driven, plus a team player.
Below is his last available interview (other than the one with Schmitz), which was late January before the start of the Bubble. I’m sure there were more Q&As as Team Ignite played plenty of games in the G League Bubble, but I could not find them in the NBA media archives or on YouTube. Timestamps of topics are listed below, so scroll down for those:
KUMINGA INTERVIEW FROM BUBBLE
0:30 playing with Jalen Green
1:00 added stuff to his game before Bubble
2:00 improved defense, moving w/o ball
2:30 two-way: trust in myself
3:30 wants to win G League championship and show other things
4:00 doesn’t check mock Drafts
4:30 Spurs blogger asks about Gregg Popovich
5:30 increase Draft stock: just do what I’m supposed to do, work that I put in
6:00 G League Bubble goals: team wins
6:45 work more on skills, making open shots
7:15 off-ball work: “pretty much what we’ve been working on…not always gonna get the ball and dunk it…running and cutting…”
8:00 what makes him different: “I work harder than most other people…passion”
8:30 pressure with Green on the team? “Just work hard”
9:15 any veteran on Ignite most advice? “Everybody…everybody sees you, you don’t see yourself…I always ask questions…”
10:00 dealing with Bubble: having classes on health and sleep
10:15 bring puppy? “Definitely not, they won’t let me do it.”
11:30 “ready to leave it all on the table” in Bubble
12:00 taking classes in G League
12:45 film study