Warriors should pounce if Jonathan Kuminga drops

If Kuminga drops to 7th pick, Warriors should pounce originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Jonathan Kuminga’s stock has been falling over the last several months, and it’s looking like he might still be on the board when the Warriors are on the clock at the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

If that’s how it plays out, Golden State should be ready to pounce.

It wasn’t that long ago that Kuminga’s name reportedly was being thrown around in consideration for the first overall pick in one of the most highly regarded draft classes of the last 20 years. His play in the G League bubble drew rave reviews, and he looked like as good of a prospect as any to bank on.

But in the time since, he reportedly has dropped down the board, while a handful of other top prospects have separated themselves from him and the rest. His poor shooting last season has been endlessly harped on, and the prevailing sentiment is that he is a project who is multiple seasons away from being a significant contributor on a playoff team.

That criticism, though, seemingly has been way overblown. And even if it hasn’t, he’d still be an absolute steal for the Warriors.

Look, there’s no ignoring that he shot 24.6 percent from beyond the arc with the G League Ignite last season, and yes, while he possesses elite physical tools, they will require refinement. Given that the Warriors have stated their intention to compete for a championship next season, many have argued that they’re better off selecting a more finished product with their first of two lottery picks. But passing on Kuminga at seven — if he actually falls that far — would be a big mistake.

Kuminga, at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, is built like an adonis. He already has an NBA body, but won’t turn 19 years old until October. He is an elite athlete who can play both forward positions and is an active rebounder. He can create his own shot, get to the rim, and fits the prototype of the modern All-NBA wing defender. The Warriors would be incredibly lucky to add a prospect like that, no matter when his potential can be fully realized.

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If we assume that this is the last time the Warriors will be picking in the lottery for the next several years — which is definitely their current mindset and expectation — then it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll ever have a chance to draft a prospect with as high of a ceiling as Kuminga’s over that span. This is it. This is their chance. If they want to add a future star through the draft, it almost certainly has to be now.

Of the prospects that conceivably could drop to seven, not one has as much star potential as Kuminga. And relatedly, he arguably will have the most trade value moving forward. Even if he doesn’t become a star for Golden State, he could still be very useful in acquiring one.

The Warriors are always big-game hunting. If there’s a big name available, they will be involved. That includes this offseason, in which the Warriors will do everything in their power to surround Steph Curry with more talent. But a quick look around the league doesn’t reveal an obvious and realistic way for the Warriors to add another star. It’s quite possible — and perhaps likely — that they will have to remain patient and lay in the weeds until in-season developments alter the landscape.

RELATED: Chad Ford hot take: Warriors shouldn’t draft these two players

If that’s how it works out, Kuminga would be a phenomenal trade chip to have. His readiness to immediately contribute to the Warriors would be irrelevant. If he struggled out of the gate, he would still have immense value due to his potential. And, if he turned out to be much more ready to contribute than has been commonly argued, then that’s the ideal outcome for Golden State. Either the Warriors will have found another star, or they’ll have a tremendous arsenal of assets with which to go out and get one.

The draft, above all, is about maximizing value. Teams get themselves into trouble when they forget that, and usually come to regret it. Kuminga might not be the perfect fit for the Warriors’ next season, but if he’s available at seven, he’d be the perfect pick.

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