Jonathan Kuminga

Warriors spiraling toward Kuminga trade decision with latest loss

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SAN FRANCISCO – As the leader of a group that bought the Warriors 13 years ago, Joe Lacob made loud vows that have been delivered at a high rate. They climbed from the NBA’s subfloor to win multiple championships and become a global phenomenon.

But after a spiritless 133-118 tip-to-buzzer beatdown by the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Chase Center, the Warriors are plummeting at a rapid rate. They’re 17-19 after losing five of their last seven games, with four losses at home.

“We got punched in the mouth right away,” coach Steve Kerr said.

“We didn’t play up to our capabilities to start the game,” rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “We settled in when the second half started, but it was a little bit too late. Guys are upset. We’re a better team than that.”

The Warriors are discovering that getting to the top was easier, courtesy of Stephen Curry, than finding ways to stay on top.

Any chance of staying there, at least for now, is Jonathan Kuminga. And nobody knows that better than the Lacob, the team’s CEO.

If the Warriors keep Kuminga, it’s because he’s the most athletic member of one of the NBA’s least athletic rosters and they still believe the power forward is a future cornerstone. If they package him in trade, it’s because they believe the return will bring a player with a better chance to fill that role.

This is certain: Kuminga has higher trade-market value than most Warriors. He’s 21 years old, an eager defender, an electrifying athlete and still has another season, at $7.6 million, on his rookie contract.

Lacob and general manager Mike Dunleavy have until the Feb. 8 trade deadline to decide how to proceed.

One potential target is Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, the subject of considerable window shopping by the Warriors and several other teams. He produced 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Toronto on Sunday.

Siakam is 29 years old and a two-time NBA All-Star. He’s a very good two-way player, but doesn’t reach the level of a No. 1 on a championship team. He’s making $37.9 million in the final season of his contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

There is another potentially influential factor connected to moving Kuminga or even Andrew Wiggins: Draymond Green. Green was cleared from suspension by the NBA on Saturday and went through a walkthrough with his teammates three hours before tipoff against the Raptors.

The Warriors remain committed to Green, who along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, compose the team’s veteran core. Though multiple league sources tell NBC Sports Bay Area that Golden State will be active approaching the deadline, there has been nothing to indicate a move that would break up that decorated trio.

All signs point to Green returning to the team in the next 10 days or so and rejoining the starting lineup. The logical assumption is that he will replace Kuminga, who has started every game since Green was suspended.

So, where does leave Kuminga? Back to the bench? Slide over to small forward, a move coach Steve Kerr has been reluctant to make? Could Green and Kuminga play together, with Wiggins being squeezed out?

The limited available data indicates Kuminga and Wiggins are not good together.

“It hasn’t connected, really,” Kerr said of pairing Kuminga and Wiggins. “It hasn’t been good all season. But we’re experimenting.”

Green and Wiggins won a championship 19 months ago, but Kuminga and Green offers an element of mystery.

“I don’t see it as a challenge of those two being on the court together,” Kerr said of Green and Kuminga before Sunday's game. “I think they can coexist well. The challenge means that if those two are on the court, then you’ve got a lot of other guys who aren’t on the court.

“What it looks like is a logjam once Draymond comes back.”

Wiggins on Sunday made his first start since Dec. 12, scoring three points on 1-of-6 shooting, and grabbing two rebounds in 17 uneventful minutes. His season of struggle continues.

Kuminga played 25 minutes and finished with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, including 1-of-4 from deep, with three rebounds. His season of emergence continues.

Lacob desperately wants Kuminga to become a star, just as he wanted James Wiseman to develop into a foundational big man. Those in the front office feel obligated to give Kuminga every opportunity, largely to discontinue their troubling trend of cycling out first-round draft picks.

James Wiseman, selected No. 2 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, traded 60 games into his Warriors career. Jordan Poole, first-round pick in 2019, traded after his promising third season was followed by being subjected to violence in video that went viral. Patrick Baldwin Jr., the 2022 first-rounder, traded in the deal that sent Poole to the Washington Wizards.

Of the 12 players Golden State selected in the five drafts from 2018 to 2022, only lottery picks Moses Moody (No. 14 overall in 2021) and Kuminga (No. 7 overall in ’21) remain on the roster.

Whether the culprit is impatience, poor scouting or poor development – or a combination of all three – the lack of positive outcomes have resulted in a high percentage of failed investments.

CEOs hate failed investments. As they should.

When Kuminga was benched for the final 18 minutes last Thursday as the Denver Nuggets erased an 18-point deficit to beat the Warriors at the buzzer, Lacob did something unusual. He came to Kerr’s postgame news conference.

The CEO wanted to hear Kerr’s responses, with reason to be particularly curious regarding Kuminga. The days since have been intriguing, with Kuminga’s frustration spilling out, leading to a conversation with Kerr, resulting in increased minutes on Friday.

The weeks to come will be considerably more intriguing. And the decisions will be more dramatic.

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