Jonathan Kuminga puts the NBA on notice with an extremely bold take

Jonathan Kuminga has already established himself as a Pivotal cog for the Golden State Warriors on their arduous quest for back-to-back titles. Long-term, though, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft has much broader and brighter ambitions for his Ultimate role in the NBA than the one he’s carved out with the Defending Champions this season as a defense-first, play-finishing spark plug off the bench.

Asked where his game will be in five years’ time, Kuminga revealed that he has plans to become the best two-way player not just in Golden State, but the entire league at large.

“In five years, the way I look at myself is being the best player in the league, being the best defender in the league. With the way I play, I play both ways, I play defense and offense. So hopefully, being the best player both ways,” he told Shams Charania of The Athletic and STADIUM.

Those sky-high personal expectations would be outlandish for pretty much any player in basketball. Even at a time like the present day when the title of world’s best player is ripe for debate, only a few players in the discussion—Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid among them—actually count as game-changing defenders. If Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic or Steph Curry made the rippling defensive impact those guys do, they’d have fool-proof claims as the top player in the league.

Defense won’t be what keeps Kuminga from reaching his lofty individual goals. He’s a clear plus on that end in his second season, with the strength and lateral quickness to check opposing stars of nearly all sizes one-on-one and still-evolving ability to disrupt plays away from the ball. All-Defense Nods could very well be in his future.

It’s the Offensive side of the ball where Kuminga still needs refinement to emerge as a positive nightly presence for Golden State, let alone the ball-dominant wing superstar they envision. The 20-year-old is basically a non-shooter at this point, taking even fewer three-pointers than he did as a rookie and hitting 65.3% of his free throws in 2022-23. While he’s shown a natural propensity for quick-hitting interior passes, Kuminga’s chances to develop into an alpha-dog playmaker seem slim to none given his iffy overall feel on the ball and high turnover rate despite low usage.

Jonathan Kuminga has separated himself from Moses Moody and James Wiseman this season, settling in alongside Jordan Poole as a fixture of Golden State’s post-dynasty core. Could he soar to MVP-type heights once the Steph Curry era finally ends? Both natural odds and Kuminga’s numbers and tape to date suggest it’s a long shot. But he certainly has the physical tools and early-career defensive aptitude befitting a star, not to mention the unflinching confidence needed to reach his full potential—even if it falls a bit short of the future Kuminga envisions.

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