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Physical Young Forward Looks to Crack the Draft's Top 5
When it comes to backcourt defenders, Baylor’s Davion Mitchell comes into the Association as the Draft’s top dog. In the frontcourt, experts agree that the player with the most potential at the next level is Jonathan Kuminga.
Between Kuminga – who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before moving to the U.S. at age 16 – and Jalen Green, Brian Shaw’s Ignite might see two players be selected in the top 5 of this year’s Draft.
Kuminga is already a physically dominant, freakish athlete who averaged nearly 16 points in his single season in the G-League, and he doesn’t turn 19 until early October. Most experts agree that he’s still a work in progress – especially as a shooter – but that his physical talent is simply too tantalizing to pass up. He’ll hear his name called early in the night on July 29.
The 6-7, 220-pounder has an NBA-ready frame, and he uses it to full advantage on both ends of the floor. On the offensive end, he’s a dynamic, aggressive slasher who has a fluid handle and excels in transition. Defensively, he’s got the combination of strength, speed, length and footwork to guard 1-through-4.
Kuminga bounced between forward spots last year, showing off his versatility on both ends and leading the Ignite to a postseason berth in the Bubble. In his single G-League campaign, Kuminga averaged 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per.
The word most associated with both players from that squad – Kuminga and Jalen Green – is “upside.” Neither are even close to finished products. But NBA teams are clamoring to get their hands on these young guns to see what they become.
STRENGTHS What scouts love about Kuminga is his potential to be a two-way star – combining all the natural talent with great instincts at such a young age. His offensive game is very well-rounded and while he’s not yet a great passer, has shown flashes of becoming a playmaker as his game matures.
Kuminga is already almost unstoppable at the rim – fighting through contact and with the ability to finish strong with either hand. He’s shown that he can create his own shot, has above-average ballhandling skills for his size and likes to do work in the post – especially against smaller mismatches. He plays downhill.
On the defensive end, Kuminga has shown that he can be a lockdown-type player. When he’s focused, he’s a tenacious on-ball defender. And he’s also drawn rave reviews as a team defender, recovering to block shots, switching on the perimeter or competing for rebounds.
WEAKNESSES Offensively, Kuminga can be a load around the basket and in transition, using his mature frame and physical skills to score. But he’ll have to develop his shooting at the pro level before some of that other stuff opens up.
In his 13 G-League appearances, Kuminga shot just under 39 percent from the floor, 25 percent from long-range and 65 percent from the stripe. He was younger than the competition and is still very raw, but those numbers will all have to come up.
Offensively, he has some blemishes. On the defensive end, he has occasion lapses. But overall, it’s a matter of a team having the patience for him to develop.
HOW HE'D FIT The Cavaliers have been in a youth movement for a few years now, and they’re about to get younger before the month is up.
Last year, they drafted Isaac Okoro – who started 41 games at forward and 26 games at guard. Could Kuminga sneak up into the top 3 and join Okoro in the frontcourt? The Cavs have shown – after taking Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in back-to-back years – that they’re not afraid to grab the player they like best, regardless of position.
One of the youngest players in this year’s Draft, the 18-year-old has already tangled with high-level competition. Kuminga has All-Star potential for the team that’s willing to wait for him. The wait might not be that long, and it could pay dividends for years to come.
Will it be in Cleveland? We’ll know soon enough.