SAN FRANCISCO — Heading into the playoffs, Jonathan Kuminga seemed primed to have a big role after shoring up the wing while Andrew Wiggins missed the final 25 games of the regular season.
Even when Kuminga didn’t play much against the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the playoffs, most figured he would get some run against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Alas, Kuminga never sniffed the floor unless it was garbage time.
During his season-end press conference with reporters Tuesday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr explained why Kuminga wasn’t able to crack his postseason rotation.
“I think the biggest thing was with Wiggs and Gary (Payton II) in place again, it lessened the need for what JK's strength is right now, which is on-ball defense,” Kerr said. “The best way for Jonathan -- and I told him this, best way for him to get more playing time is to become a more versatile player. I look at every combination that we put out there as a puzzle. The puzzle has to fit. The more things you can do, the more easy it is to fit into a five-man lineup.”
Ultimately, the Warriors were outmuscled by the Lakers in the second round, but perhaps Kuminga’s lack of rebounding hurt his chances of getting on the floor.
We know about his dunk ability, his defensive versatility and his improving shooting, but Kerr and the staff probably want to see JK do more of the dirty work. He can create his own shot or get easy looks off cuts, but Kuminga's passing ability can still be improved as well. At least Kuminga told reporters that he’d like to be more like Kevon Looney and improve his rebounding this offseason.
Kuminga played about 27 minutes in the first three games against the Kings, but pulled down just three rebounds in that span. His final straw was a three-minute stint in Game 4 when he recorded a minus-8 in plus/minus, as he also failed to crash the boards for an easy put-back during the run on the floor.
Afterwards, Andre Iguodala spoke to Kuminga on the bench. He never really was a factor in non-garbage time the rest of the way.
“Rebounding is a huge thing for JK,” Kerr said. “If he's going to be a great player in this league, he's got to rebound. A four-man with that kind of size and athleticism, that's the next step, and continuing to work on all the things that he's working on already, the shooting and the ball handling and the court vision, understanding what's happening on the floor. It's all going to get better because he's so young and because he's willing to work. You put all that together, and there's no reason why he can't come in and have a great season next year.”
It’s also worth noting that Kerr elected to play two-way wing Anthony Lamb ahead of Kuminga and Moses Moody for most of the season, before Moody leapfrogged both of them in the playoff rotation. Still, Kerr thinks Kuminga can be a high-impact player for the Dubs next season.
“I do. I think, of course, people are going to be focused on the Playoffs because that's the most important time of the year, but if you look at Jonathan's regular season, he did some great things,” Kerr said. “I think the biggest thing for him is to continue to grow. I tell him all the time, he's got 15 years ahead of him. He's got such a long career ahead. He's got a lot of ability, and he's just in the process of learning the NBA game. He's two years in, and he's accumulated a lot of knowledge, but he's got a lot more to accumulate.”