It's Friday, and that means we have 10 more NBA things I like and dislike! This week we highlight the rapid ascension of 19-year-old Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga, the return of the Nets' secret weapon and issue a plea for Kyle Lowry and the Miami Heat.
1. Watch Jonathan Kuminga at all times -- and are the Warriors really doing this?
Stephen Curry's foot injury raises the possibility that one of the title favorites may enter the postseason with its presumptive starting five -- Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney -- having played one seven-second pseudo-possession together.
And yet: In the absences of key players, the Warriors have learned unexpected things. One is that Kuminga is way ahead of schedule, and may be ready (to these eyes, is ready) for playoff minutes. Ditto for Moses Moody.
The misguided (for this season) obsession with James Wiseman has focused on Wiseman's verticality and size as an ingredient these Warriors have never had.
Fine. But Wiseman was never going to play a major role this season. Kuminga is providing that ingredient, and then some, right now. He is 19, and somehow built like a tank -- with elite speed, power, and leaping ability. Blink, and he's on top of the rim.
As potent as the Warriors' beautiful game can be, to win four playoff series, they need players who can step outside of that system -- guys with the oomph and straight-line speed to create something from nothing. Kuminga and Jordan Poole bring that kind of jolt.
Kuminga is looking more at ease within that system. He's developing feel for all those snap reads it requires -- cuts, handoffs, flare screens. He's a natural fit playing off great shooters -- rampaging through all the space their gravity creates, and assaulting the tin.
He has the tools to guard anyone; the Warriors have used him on Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum -- stars of all types. Kuminga makes some typical rookie mistakes, but has not looked out of his depth.
At full health, the first three off the Warriors' bench will be Poole, Andre Iguodala, and Otto Porter Jr. That's an eight-man rotation. Some coaches leave it there. Kuminga and Moody have leapfrogged other veterans for that ninth spot -- barring an individual matchup (Ja Morant, Chris Paul) that may require an injection of Gary Payton II. The bet here is Golden State needs both rookies to get where it wants to go.
Kerr suddenly faces a lot of choices. How much will he play the Curry/Poole/Thompson three-guard lineup? The Warriors have been dominant for two seasons when Curry and Poole share the floor. They are plus-96 in 129 minutes (not a typo!) with the Curry/Poole/Thompson trio. Poole is like a knock-off Curry roving around. The Warriors are really hard to guard with all three running and cutting and screening in unpredictable patterns.
Will Golden State close games with those three, plus Wiggins and Green? Could Wiggins sometimes be the odd man out?
I can't wait to see answers.
By the way: I shudder to imagine what Joe Lacob might crow if the Warriors actually pull off the balancing act of winning big now while developing several prospects. If you thought "light years ahead" was braggadocious ...