The Golden State Warriors advanced to their sixth Western Conference Finals in eight seasons with their 4-2 series win over the young, energetic and very vocal Memphis Grizzlies.
In a series dubbed “The Code,” it was the Warriors’ experience and the Grizzlies’ inexperience which proved to be the decisive factor. The Warriors were led by their trio of homegrown stars in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But it was an infusion of youth that provided athleticism, something the Warriors lacked in the past.
That group was led by former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and rookie Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Kuminga played a vital role for the Warriors this season when Green missed 30 games due to injury.
Jonathan Kuminga is a Golden State Warrior at No. 7️⃣ pic.twitter.com/HSpNdHiNc2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 30, 2021
The rook filled in admirably, routinely displaying all-world leaping ability. The rookie mistakes were also prevalent. Fortunately for the Warriors, Kuminga is blessed to have a mentor like Draymond Green, who’s seen it all and done it all in the league. At 19, “JK” is 13 years younger than the three-time NBA champion, and, because of the age disparity, Dray reportedly plays more of a father role than that of a brother.
In a recent interview with Andscape, Green had this to say about his relationship with Kuminga.
“In the most respectful way, I had to look at him more like my son than my brother. The reality is he is just as close to my son in age as me in age. You start looking at the guy and you expect him to be this, speak like this, you expect him to do this thing and that thing. But then you realize, “Why am I expecting that out of him?’ What would be the reason behind expecting certain things from him when I don’t expect that from D.J.? (Dray’s son). I can’t expect that same thing from him I expect from Klay and Andre Iguodala.”
You often see Green mentoring the younger Warriors players and even blasting them in the media to motivate them if he has to. Draymond’s ability to decipher the best way to treat Kuminga so that the rookie can be successful, is similar to how the defensive stalwart analyzes opposing teams on the court.
“The way you view a guy and speak to that guy, is that connection going to be better with me treating him like a brother and him not understanding anything at all, or is it going to be better with me treating him like a son, explaining things to him thoroughly and helping him along? Is that connection going to be better that way? That is night and day,” explained Green.
SHEESH KUMINGA 😱pic.twitter.com/r2ht83Qa2U
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 13, 2022
Lessons From Draymond Will Prove Invaluable For Kuminga
With the ceiling that Kuminga possesses, being able to learn from someone like Green could prove invaluable. While Green has never been the athletic specimen that Kuminga is, his IQ for the game is on par with the likes of LeBron James and Chris Paul. So the sky’s the limit for Kuminga, who scored 18 key points in a Game 3 win over Memphis in the conference semifinals, if he can absorb that mental aspect of the game and combine it with his elite athleticism. Green believes Kuminga could be a perennial All-Star, and he even told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears just that.
“He’s going to be really good. He can be a perennial All-Star in this league. That’s up to him and the work he puts in,” Green said. “But he has the skills, the tools, he can see the floor, he has the opportunity if he puts the work in to be a perennial All-Star.”
Jonathan Kuminga is the 4th teenager to score 18 points in a playoff game.
Kuminga joins Kobe Bryant (3x), Tony Parker (3x), and Carmelo Anthony (2x). pic.twitter.com/RrM0NtwXpN
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 8, 2022
Kuminga Will Eventually Replace Wiggins
Kuminga’s development, while vital for the Warriors now, will become even more important in the summer of 2023. That’s when All-Star Andrew Wiggins’ contract expires, and unless he’s willing to take a massive pay cut he won’t be in San Francisco. That will thrust Kuminga into that athletic wing role, something an aging Curry, Klay and Green will need to stay in the title hunt.