Jonathan Kuminga wore a suit to the NBA Draft that was a color that could easily be described as “Golden Gate Bridge orange.”
And by selecting the Congolese wing with the No. 7 overall pick on Thursday, the Warriors are hoping that Kuminga will be a bridge to the team’s future post-Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
I can’t imagine that triumvirate will be happy with Thursday’s pick. The 18-year-old Kuminga’s skills are raw, meaning he’s unlikely to do anything that will help the Warriors compete for a title this upcoming season. He’s more concept than contributor.
But Warriors’ CEO Joe Lacob appeared thrilled with the pick inside the Dubs’ draft war room.
There’s conflict here. The Warriors’ stars are on one timeline. Kuminga is, unquestionably, on another. It seems as if the Dubs’ shot-callers prefer the latter to the former.
Of course, in a few years, Kuminga could be the type of player — like Curry, Thompson, and Green before him — who has people asking “why was he drafted so late?”
He has that kind of talent.
But while Kuminga might be absurdly athletic at the most important position in the sport, his game is raw and unrefined. As such, an alternate possibility exists — folks might be asking why he was taken so high in the years to come.
Yes, Kuminga represents tremendous upside but also serious bust potential.
Only time — more time than this impatient basketball world will likely provide — will tell.
What we can say at this moment is that the Kuminga pick was the Warriors organization betting on itself.
One could even say they are doubling down on last year’s mistake.
In November, the Warriors selected James Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick under the conceit that the then-19-year-old big man could help Curry and company while developing. Reality bit hard. It’s clear after one season that Wiseman is a long-term project. A worthy project, but a project nevertheless.
And yet the Warriors used their top lottery pick this season on another project player.
Don’t get me wrong, I advocated for Kuminga to be the pick 24 hours before the draft. I love his potential. He was the best available player to the Dubs.
But I also thought other teams might love Kuminga, too, and the Warriors might be able to trade him for an established NBA player.
Alas, circumstances around No. 7 changed in the moments before the draft. That dream is dead.
Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal affirmed that he wants to stay in the nation’s capital following the Wizards’ trade of Russell Westbrook Thursday afternoon.
No other superstar is coming to town anytime soon to play with the Warriors’ big three. Not unless something dramatic and truly unforeseen happens in the coming days.
So the Warriors front office, which revamped the team’s coaching staff to better focus on player development this summer, decided that they’ll build their own superstar.
Yes, the Warriors went from trying to use their first-round picks to acquire an All-Star like Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, or Beal to selecting two players born in 2002. Golden State also selected Arkansas’ Moses Moody — who, while also young, projects as a more immediate contributor — with pick No. 14.
Golden State now has three lottery picks under the age of 21 on their roster.
The Warriors’ front office went all-in on themselves.
I’d ask if this team is about now or later, but I know the answer is neither. No, the Warriors’ decision-makers have long desired to become the big-market version of the San Antonio Spurs, who churned out title contenders through elite player development.
Well, now the Warriors have the opportunity to be just that.
If things work out — the Warriors’ three lottery selections, led by Wiseman and Kuminga, will be coming into their own in the NBA by the time the Warriors’ title-winning core is fading away. Chase Center will remain full. The organization’s coffers will keep overflowing.
It’s an enticing vision for any organization — a perpetual winning machine.
And it might just happen.
But it must happen now. Because if it doesn’t, the Warriors will have held three lottery picks — valuable assets — and provided no immediate help to a three-man core that built that beautiful stadium on the water and put three banners in the rafters.
And, folks, that would be malpractice.
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Author: Dieter Kurtenbach