Jonathan Kuminga

Why Kuminga wasn't eligible for NBA's Most Improved Player Award

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Philadelphia 76ers star shooting guard Tyrese Maxey on Tuesday was named the NBA’s 2023-24 Most Improved Player, edging Chicago Bulls guard Coby White by 14 total points. 

The award was expected to come down to Maxey and White, with a handful of others behind them. But there seemed to be a name missing when the official votes were released: What about Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga?

Well, the 21-year-old who took a major leap forward in Year 3 actually wasn’t eligible for voters to consider. It has been well known since last offseason that candidates for the league’s major awards have to appear in at least 65 games for eligibility, in hopes of big names not missing games solely for rest. Kuminga played 74 regular-season games. 

However, a special caveat kept him off the ballot.

For a game to count towards those 65 games, a player must receive 20 minutes or more of action. Kuminga checked that box 61 times, four shy of MIP consideration. He fell 40 seconds short of 20 minutes once, and 27 seconds short another time. Kuminga played eight games where he was within two minutes of the 20-minute mark. 

If voters were able to include Kuminga, he undoubtedly would have been near the top of their list. Maxey made his first All-Star Game this season, but he also finished sixth in voting two seasons ago and averaged 20.3 points per game last season. 

Kuminga met what the original intentions of the award were all about. His minutes per game went from 20.8 the previous season to 26.3. He started only 16 games the previous season before starting 46 this season. Kuminga was the Warriors’ second-leading scorer, raising his average 6.2 points, from 9.9 points to 16.1 points per game. 

As Klay Thompson transitions into the next phase of his career, Kuminga showcased his ability to be a go-to scorer and secondary option for the Warriors – behind only Steph Curry. Kuminga set a streak of double-digit points in 34 consecutive games, and also had a streak of eight straight games scoring 20 or more points within that span. 

“JK had a really good year, a breakthrough year, for sure,” Steve Kerr said to reporters Thursday as part of his end-of-the-season press conference. “I think he got more and more confident with his play.” 

Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. echoed that assessment later the same day. 

“I think really good growth out of JK,” Dunleavy said. “Frankly put a ton of time in this past offseason, came in, had a great preseason and got off to a little bit of slow start, but found his way and had a stretch there in the middle of the season where not only was he one of the best players on our team, but in the league. And that's where we see the potential with him.” 

Along with minutes played, games started and points per game, Kuminga also set single-season career highs in rebounding (4.8 per game), field-goal percentage (52.9 percent), free-throw percentage (74.6 percent), total steals (55), total blocks (36) and a handful more.

Though it would have been interesting to see where Kuminga would have landed in Most Improved Player voting, he and the Warriors have even bigger goals for their former top draft pick who is extension eligible this offseason.

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