Jonathan Kuminga

Kerr explains how Kuminga must improve after ‘break-through year'

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At the conclusion of Jonathan Kuminga's third NBA season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr is pleased with the 21-year-old's progress but still sees some key areas where the talented young wing can improve heading into the 2024-25 campaign.

During Kerr's end-of-season exit interview Thursday, he detailed to reporters how Kuminga was able to unlock even more of his game after being inserted into the starting lineup in the middle of the 2023-24 NBA season.

"JK had a really good year, a break-through year, for sure," Kerr told reporters. "I think he got more and more confident with his play. I think one thing that was interesting for us is that when we made the shift in the starting lineup mid-season and had Draymond at the 5 and Wiggs and JK at the 4, or at the 3 and the 4 combined, it was very helpful for JK to get the ball with more space, get downhill.

"I think it unlocked some of the things he can do. Then he got hurt, and our defense was at its best with Trayce and Draymond. That meant it was more difficult to play JK at the 3 because you don't have the spacing, and he's not a natural 3 at this point -- decision-making, ball-handling."

Kerr then explained how the next step for Kuminga will be to identify how he can become more versatile to maximize his fit within different lineups.

"So, we, in the Sacramento game the other night, we went to both lineups," Kerr shared. "At the first sub, we went to that smaller lineup with JK, Wiggs, Draymond. So, we were looking at both. So, what I think what JK is looking at is how can he make himself more versatile to be available in different lineups, can he be a 3. That's a big question. And I don't know the answer to it."

The Warriors coach pointed to Kuminga's passing fundamentals as a key area of growth during the offseason, citing how critical it will be to not only get the most out of the 21-year-old wing, but also allow Golden State to deploy an athletic and versatile lineup that he didn't feel the team was ready for this past season

"I know that as we continue to help him, and he continues to learn how to create spacing and get his shot off a little quicker and be more comfortable catch-and-shooting but also making the right reads, because as a 3, you handle the ball more," Kerr said. "Can he become a better passer?

"I think he sees the floor pretty well, but his fundamentals in terms of passing have to improve if he's going to play the 3. We need him to play the 3 if we want to have Trayce out there at the 5 and Draymond -- I mean, that ideally would be a great defensive lineup, athletically and length. But we're not ready for that yet as a team. So, those are the areas that would really be helpful for JK, and we're going to work with him on that stuff all summer."

Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy echoed Kerr's sentiment on Kuminga, citing the importance of Golden State's young core taking a step forward next season.

"I think really good growth out of JK," Dunleavy told reporters. "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, was, you know, not only one of the best players on our team but in the league. And that's where we see the potential with him."

"Like with him and our other young guys, vitally important that these guys take another step because that's how we're going to balance this thing out with our more mature legacy players, with a younger core group that can push us forward and help us win. Like Moses, JK, those guys are extension eligible -- we'll get down the road with that -- but unequivocally we value them, we want them here, so we'll see how that goes."

Kuminga entered the league with lofty expectations after the Warriors selected him No. 7 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, serving as a critical piece of Golden State's 2022 championship run during his rookie campaign.

After averaging 9.6 points in 18.8 minutes per game over his first two seasons in the league, Kuminga logged career highs in points (16.1), assists (2.2), rebounds (3.6), field-goal percentage (52.9) and minutes per game (26.3) during his breakout 2023-24 campaign.

As the Warriors look to maximize the remaining window of it's decorated core, Kuminga's growth going forward serves as a critical catalyst for what Golden State's ceiling ultimately can be.

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