When the Golden State Warriors drafted Jonathan Kuminga 7th-overall in the 2021 NBA draft, the organization knew there was no direct path to minutes for the young forward.
Because of this, few would have criticized the Warriors had they packaged Kuminga for a win-now piece; however, the organization was able to successfully preserve their youth while winning another championship.
Despite not playing much last season, Kuminga flashed signs of high potential in his limited minutes. The expectation was that the first-round pick could learn under future Hall-of-Famers Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, while playing a small role.
This is a unique opportunity for a lottery pick, as most players drafted as high as Kuminga are entering a losing situation.
While some growth certainly occurred for Kuminga, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith recently revealed some attitude concerns that have emerged with the young forward.
“I’m worried about Kuminga. I’m hearing too many things about him off the court in terms of his head. The level of discipline he lacks,” Smith said during a television appearance. “Some of the foolishness. I’m not getting in his personal business. I’m not saying nothing like that. I’m talking attitude, I’m not talking actions. I’m saying that attitude, the level of focus, commitment, determination, just putting your head down, doing the work.”
How big is the concern?
In the 2021-22 season, the Warriors successfully navigated the near impossible task of preserving youth while winning a championship.
The reason why such a feat is so rare is because as fans saw during the postseason, rookies Kuminga and Moses Moody combined for just 16 minutes per game. Had the two been packaged during the offseason for an established veteran, Golden State’s path to a title would have likely been even smoother.
That said, the greatness of Steph Curry was able to mask what was a flawed roster, and the Warriors collected their fourth ring in eight seasons. While their recent success may create the perception of an infallible blueprint, things will not look the exact same next year.
With the departure of Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., along with the uncertainty surrounding Andre Iguodala’s future, the Warriors will almost certainly need more production in year two from Jonathan Kuminga than they required in his rookie season.
With this increased responsibility comes a decreased place for the reported attitude problems that Kuminga has shown. While his lack of a role last season made it primarily a non-story, the Warriors will be asking much more of their young forward in year two, and he will have to be ready for the challenge.
If he can follow the example set by his veterans, he will be in a good spot. If not, there will quickly become a legitimate level of concern for the Warriors.