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NBA Draft Scouting: Jonathan Kuminga

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Kuminga’s game is pretty intriguing

G League Ignite v Delaware Blue Coats Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Physicals:

Weight - 210 lbs

Height - 6’6

Wingspan - 7’0

Jonathan Kuminga has been regarded as a consensus top-five pick for a long time. Kuminga was a star in high school who more than matched contemporaries such as Cade Cunningham on the AAU circuit.

Kuminga represented The Patrick School in high school, a hotbed of talent in New Jersey. The Patrick School has produced two top-five picks in the Draft, Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kuminga will likely be the fifth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Although Kuminga did not impress to the same extent that Jalen Green did in the G League, he displayed a lot of encouraging, exciting potential. When you watch his film, Kuminga’s ceiling as a three-level scorer who can defend multiple positions is obvious. He is a tantalising prospect for the simple fact that multi-faceted wings are highly desirable in today’s NBA.

Kuminga took a bold decision to join Ignite and learn under Coach Brian Shaw. Kuminga had blue bloods such as Duke and Kentucky chasing after him and both schools have an extensive track record of churning out lottery picks.

However, Jonathan recognised that his education as a basketball would be best served learning under a head coach who had been as an assistant on the Lakers for years. It was a wise decision by Kuminga and we saw his game develop greatly in the G League Bubble. He certainly look to be an improved defender after spending time with veterans such as Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson.

Kuminga will almost certainly go fifth in the Draft given his struggles shooting the ball. Jalen Green’s potential as a scorer who can galvanise an offense and vaporise defenses with his athleticism puts him above Kuminga. Suggs and Mobley are both ahead of Kuminga due to their well-rounded games. Jonathan will have to develop his shooting for him to become a bonafide star.

It must be noted that Kuminga is only 18 and is one of the youngest players in this Draft. His reclassification in high school meant that he missed out on playing an entire season of high school basketball. It is difficult to determine how valuable this experience may be but it is experience playing competitive basketball nonetheless.

At this moment in time, I would say that Jonathan Kuminga projects to be a player who is comparable to Luol Deng. Deng, the British-Sudanese forward, carved out a career in the NBA as a high-level starter on contending teams. Deng’s blend of playmaking, gritty defense and inside scoring meant that he was a useful supplementary option for the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.

For the Thunder, Kuminga would slot in at the starting small forward spot. A front-court of Darius Bazley, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Brown is intriguing. The tandem of Bazley and Kuminga would provide Coach Mark Daigneault with two lengthy, versatile options in the front-court who can feasibly switch 1-4.

I will admit, the spacing would be terrible particularly if Luguentz Dort starts. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be the only above average shooter and he would also be the lead initiator on offense.

Kuminga’s strongest performance of the season came against the Erie Bayhawks, a team that finished third in the G League regular season. Jonathan had 21 points and scored inside effectively. His post game cut the Bayhawks’ defense apart and complemented Jalen Green’s perimeter scoring nicely.

Kuminga’s production was impressive; Jonathan was able to accumulate points and rebounds every single night in one of the toughest leagues in the world. Jonathan Kuminga averaged 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists per game with one steal. At face value, his numbers are great but here’s the kicker; Kuminga was an inefficient scorer from the field.

Kuminga shot just 38.7% from the field and 62.5% from the stripe. He also shot 24.6% from beyond the arc which is putrid. There is no beating around the bush; Kuminga is not an efficient scorer right now and it will take time for him to develop this aspect of his game. Kuminga has shown glimpses of being a three-level scorer but it takes time to develop consistency.

His shot chart is very interesting to look and provides insight into Kuminga’s strengths as a scorer.

It is fair to say that Kuminga struggled from downtown but his numbers from the left break are encouraging. It must be said that the volume of attempts is pretty small and therefore all conclusions have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

His shot does looks to be more fluid and sound than it did in high school. There has been a tangible improvement in his jumper. With more time, Kuminga’s shot might come around to a level where he is guarded at the 3-point line.

I do not ever expect Jonathan to be a 3-point marksman; it is a huge leap to go from shooting 24.6% to 38% from downtown. Luguentz Dort for the early portion of the season shot around 40% from deep before eventually regressing to around league average. It is insanely difficult to go from being a poor shooter to being a great shooter.

Kuminga’s finishing inside is also pretty positive. I am aware that he only shot 54.8% within three feet but the film suggests that Kuminga is a competent and aggressive finisher inside. Jonathan is more than willing to take contact and is undisturbed by physicality. Kuminga’s efficiency at the hoop will improve as he becomes stronger.

Jonathan Kuminga is still thin and wiry. When he eventually fills out and packs on muscle, Kuminga will gain the ability to bully the opposing team out of the way and get easy looks at the rim.

We saw the same growth with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this season. In his first two years in the league, Shai relied on his unorthodox footwork to get to the rim. Last year, Gilgeous-Alexander got stronger and it became so much easier for him to get to the rim.

One of Kuminga’s key strengths is his defensive ability. Kuminga’s lateral quickness and stride length means that he is able to cover ground quickly and contest shots. His physical traits means that Kuminga is valuable in a team and individual setting.

Jonathan will be able to make timely help rotations that will disrupt the opposing team’s rhythm. Disruptive defense of this sort leads to transition scoring opportunities which are statistically some of the most efficient looks in basketball.

In his man to man match-up, Jonathan Kuminga has the size and speed to guard four positions. Multi-positional defenders are rare in the NBA but Kuminga is well-positioned to realise that potential. In his time with Ignite, Kuminga noticeably improved on the defensive end of the floor as he learned the fundamentals that the majority of NBA teams use.

There are issues with Kuminga’s game, the first of which being his free throws. Kuminga shot just 62.5% on 3.7 FTA per game. Kuminga will need to improve on his volume and efficiency to have a decent scoring output in the NBA. It is difficult to say whether his shot will come around so it is important for Jonathan to learn how to drain freebies at the line.

We have seen guys like Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook be effective as scorers in a shooting-oriented NBA by taking eight free throws a game. Butler is a great player due to his passing and defense but he is an elite player because he has found a way to score the ball efficiently.

Kuminga becoming an efficient free throw shooter is a necessary and easy developmental step. The Thunder need to get in the gym with Kuminga and have him shoot 1000 free throws a day. He will only get better with reps.

The other issue with Kuminga is that he is not entirely comfortable with the team concept yet. In his youth career, Kuminga was the No.1 option for his high school and AAU team. On the Thunder, Kuminga will likely be the third or fourth option, he will certainly not be the first option.

In the G League, Kuminga showed real strides when it came to his tendency to stop the offense and take bad shots but those tendencies still reared their head whenever he did not share the court with Jalen Green. Kuminga would slow the offense down unnecessarily and start jacking questionable jumpers.

He will need to learn how to take shots in the flow of offense and keep the ball moving. The Thunder run a motion-offense that is dependent on guys moving the ball and playing unselfishly. A ball-stopper does not entirely fit into that sort of structure.

Jonathan Kuminga is such an interesting young player; his ceiling could genuinely be a high-level starter on a contending team. We have seen guys such as Luol Deng and Shawn Marion make meaningful contributions to contending teams through their defense, passing and supplementary scoring. Jonathan Kuminga could be that calibre of player if he reaches his ceiling.

The process with Jonathan Kuminga will not be easy, it will take time for him to learn how to be effective in the NBA. Kuminga will not be a short-term project but it is pretty clear that the Thunder will be engaged in a slow rebuild. Sam Presti spoke very publicly about taking the hard road and being bad for multiple seasons if it means long-term success.