If you’ve been paying any attention to the Golden State Warriors lately, then you know one unassailable truth. More truthful than the fact that the team is injured and struggling. More clear than the fact that the Dubs need to make a change if they want to course correct their season. One truth more truthful than all other truths.
Jonathan Kuminga has arrived.
Here are Kuminga’s last five games:
31 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 12-for-19 shooting
25 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 11-for-11 shooting
20 points, 11 rebounds, 9-for-18 shooting
28 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 10-for-18 shooting
24 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 9-for-12 shooting
He’s totaled those 127 points in just 142 minutes, during which time the Dubs have outscored their opponents by 13 points. In the 98 minutes when he’s been on the bench, they’ve been outscored by three points, despite Kuminga not being in the Steph Curry-led starting lineup.
Stats are great, and those stats in particular are great. But what’s really great is something that can’t be as easy quantified with a metric.
Kuminga is the team’s second-best player right now.
Mind you, that might change as Draymond Green works his way back into form, or when Chris Paul’s fractured hand heals. But where Kuminga sits on the Warriors totem pole isn’t nearly as important as what he’s done to get there: emerge as a high-quality NBA player. A really high-quality NBA player.
Kuminga has risen to No. 126 on EPM’s ranks, with a solidly above-average rating on both offense and defense. That number underscores just how good he’s gotten, since it includes the whole season; given where he was in November and even December, it’s safe to say his advanced metrics have been glistening in the last month.
And the result has been something that should be soothing to Warriors fans, who have long rated Kuminga optimistically: he ain’t going anywhere.
When the season first started to go sideways, the topic of trading Kuminga became a big talking point surrounding the Warriors. It was a pretty clear-cut situation: you risk losing out long term by giving up someone with a sky-high ceiling; but in return, you get better immediately, and increase the chances of winning a title in 2024 or 2025.
Kuminga has flipped the script. Now he is the player who is key to increasing the team’s chances of short-term success ... while still holding the keys to being a long-term answer for the Dubs. And because of that, he seems to have a permanent home in the Bay Area.
While rumors still swirl about Golden State’s openness to trade nearly anyone ahead of the February 8 deadline, but on Friday The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson — quite arguably the most reliable source in Warriors beat reporting — made Golden State’s stance clear, saying in the wake of JK’s latest star performance that, “This is why the Warriors can’t trade him. Multiple team sources said the Warriors have no plans to do so and never did.”
Aaaand breathe out, Dub Nation.
It’s been well short of a year since rumors swirled that Kuminga would ask for a trade if he didn’t receive more serious playing time. It’s been a mere three weeks since Kuminga reportedly lost faith in Steve Kerr’s ability to play and develop him properly.
And now here we are. Kuminga and Kerr appear — from the outside, at least — to have a fully repaired relationship. The Warriors play their best when he’s on the court. The third-year forward is playing like a star on both ends of the court.
And he’s untouchable.