TORONTO — With the Warriors chasing victory, his two lottery picks have mostly avoided the limelight. Instead the pair of 19-year-olds are able to work on their game in the privacy of practice and in the shadow of Santa Cruz.
On Saturday, Jonathan Cuminga and Moses Moody got a taste of the life of a typical top draft pick: all eyes on them and a supporting cast that featured no MVP, NBA champion, or any other accolades. Kuminga, a first-time starter and who played for 36 minutes, was waiting for the moment.
“I knew I would get a lot of minutes because we didn’t have many players,” Kuminga said after the 119-100 loss. “There are days when I come in and play and there are days when I don’t play, and that’s just a lesson to be learned. …with that said, I just got out of here and play as hard as I can. I have to work hard to get those minutes because if I was going to be there and I didn’t do what I needed to do, (coach Steve Kerr) was going to kick me out.
With a season-high 26 points to lead the Warriors, Kuminga became the youngest player in franchise history to score 20 or more and contribute at least 25 in his first career debut since Chris Wright in 2012 Became the first Golden State player to do so. But with six turnovers, he spiraled out of control several times and achieved only one rebound, despite his athleticism and 6-foot-11 wingspan.
Seeing action in thirty games – 20 of them, no more than 18 minutes before any Saturday – Kuminga said his rookie season had been full of ups and downs, and his performance on Saturday served as a microcosm of that. Did. But with some high-flying dunks and his best shooting night of his youthful career, he also showed off his immense potential.
“He showed how talented he is, how small he is, how high his ceilings are and how far he has to go in one night,” Kerr said. “JK is a dynamic athlete. He is powerful. That’s explosive. He can go down. So you see potential. ,
Moody made his debut on Friday against the Celtics in place of Jordan Poole, who had entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He missed 12 of his 16 attempts off the field between the two matches, but finished Saturday with a career-high 11 points with eight rebounds.
“I am able to shoot the ball. So looking at it, knowing that I am very good as a skill in my back pocket, I am going to demonstrate it,” said Moody. I’m sure next fall is about to happen. The coach trusts me, my teammates trust me, and that’s what I’m really pushing to do.”
Overall, it has been a different rookie experience than his Raptors counterpart, Scotty Barnes, who was selected three picks ahead of Cuminga and was Moody’s high-school teammate at Monteverde (Fla.) Academy.
While Cuminga and Moody shuttle between San Francisco and Santa Cruz and average less than 10 NBA minutes per game, Barnes is making the case for rookie of the year with 15.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 27 games — all starts — While the average 36 minutes. But the Raptors, despite their win on Saturday, are still scrambling to find the record of .500.
The Warriors’ corps of Steph Curry, Drummond Greene and Andrew Wiggins closed them for a 24-6 start, their best record through 30 games since 2017-18. Hopefully Cuminga, Moody, Jordan Poole and James Wiseman can build on their success for another decade to come.
Without seeing much of the court, Kuminga said he was left to “trust the process”.
“I feel like I’m in a good position because I’m learning every day,” he said. “The key is to just trust the process.”
Kuminga, who was shooting 2-for-17 from three-point range as he entered Saturday, said his shot has been the focus of practice. It is clear that opposing scouting reports call attention to his ability to reach the rim, but he also showed another aspect by keeping four of his six 3-point attempts at his face.
For Kuminga to maximize his offensive potential, he must have opponents respect him beyond the 3-point line. This opens up more opportunities for highlight-reel finishes on the rim, such as the dunk near Toronto’s Chris Boucher in the first quarter.
“In today’s game, to be a really top level player, almost without exception, you have to be able to knock down perimeter shots,” Kerr said. “But I want him to know when to shoot, when to drive, when to pass. They are all things that seem simple, but are not easy. The NBA game moves fast. The only way to find out is with lots of reps.”
Kerr said it’s important for young players to establish an identity, but Cuminga clearly knows what he’s about.
“Most of the time my game is running the hoop,” Kuminga said. “But if they give me too much space, it will lead me to shoot the ball. … Most of the time, a lot of teams expect me to drive and do things like that. Especially Joe The team we’ve got here, we play with a lot of gaps, so somebody hits you in the corner, you have to be prepared and hit that 3.
At only 19 years old, Cuminga convinced Gary Peyton II and many others about what he might eventually become.
“I can see him as an elite two-way player,” Peyton said. “It’ll just take time.”