This season, some of the New York Knicks’ defensive issues stem from being too small. This diminutive problem results in ineffective closeouts on the perimeter and insufficient protection at the rim when their center is drawn away by stretch bigs. The frontcourt gets even smaller when six-foot-eight Julius Randle subs out and six-foot-four Josh Hart covers for him, causing more mismatches.
The Knicks need a solid backup power forward to fill in behind Randle for 15-20 minutes per game. With the trade window opening on December 15, we are scanning the rosters for trade candidates. The Golden State Warriors have a guy who might fit the backup power forward role nicely. Nope, not Draymond Green, who is too expensive for our purposes. No, this dude’s name rhymes with Blonathan Froominga. Any guesses?
Indeed, Jonathan Kuminga is a 6’8”, 210 lb big who is 21 years old and already owns a championship ring (not purchased on eBay). In San Francisco this season, he has been playing about 20 minutes per game, almost entirely from the bench, and has filled the role of power forward 86% of the time.
Sure, his true shooting percentage has declined this year, from 60% to 54%, but he is averaging 11.7 points per game, the highest of his young career and fourth-best on the team. Kuminga grabs a steady diet of between three to four rebounds per game and coughs up the ball one to two times an outing. He’s not quite full-time starter material but is better than most hot dog vendors.
Kuminga has the team’s second highest usage rate (25.1%) after Steph Curry, has a slightly below average 12.1 PER—a number that has trended downward since being selected seventh in the 2021 Draft—and is probably not the guy you want stepping to the charity stripe with the game on the line.
His highlights are intriguing, though. See the night this season that he went 24 and 12 in 28 minutes while making three of six from deep against the Thunder. In 2021-22, Golden State’s last championship season, the then-rookie was an important player and started 12 games. He’s a weird cat, though; for example, see that season’s game against the Raptors in which he scored 26 points and one rebound in 36 minutes (as a starter no less). One?! Ben Stiller averages one rebound a game from courtside. . . . Still, Kuminga is the youngest Warrior to ever reach 1,000 points, which is noteworthy.
Jonathan is a valuable paint-pressure threat in the team’s rotation. Despite attempting a lower rate of shots at the iron this season, he maintains a high conversion rate of 73%, scoring effectively on post-ups and rim runs. With speed and athleticism, Kuminga has versatility as a defender, passer, post-up scorer, and transition player—especially the latter, where he is a dangerous transition weapon. As a cutter, he can quickly exploit a sleepy defense.
In a stagnant offense, he can sometimes become a befuddled onlooker. And despite his strengths, Kuminga is occasionally the odd man out in a crowded Warriors rotation. Backing up Julius Randle, he wouldn’t break the bank and would feast with Immanuel Quickley feeding him passes on sprints to the hoop. He’s also capable of playing small ball center, which would be handy while Mitchell Robinson recovers from surgery.
Steve Kerr still believes that Golden State (10-13) is a championship-level team, so prying Kuminga from a team that needs all the height it can get will be a true act of surrender. Nonetheless, Golden State seems unlikely to tailor their future plans around Kuminga. When Kerr and the Gang ultimately conclude they won’t reach the Finals, Kuminga could net them nice assets to help with a rebuild / retool.
Jonathan is under contract through 2025, earning $6 million this season and $7.6M next. What would it take to get him? At ESPN’s trade machine, I made one exchange work with Quentin Grimes, Jericho Sims, and Deuce McBride. Relax, that’s merely the assortment of players I found to match the money—and certainly how you feel about Grimes’ ceiling will affect your opinion of that proposal.
If that were to happen . . . for Golden State, Quentin actually could be Klay 2.0; Sims could be developed into a reliable rotational center; and Deuce might find a coach who can capitalize on his skillset. I’d hate to see them go, but at least two of those three players are unlikely to reach their highest potential under the current Knicks leadership. On the returning end, the Knicks would receive a young, athletic power forward who could bolster the second unit, and even start if Randle suffers an injury.
The Knicks need 15-20 minutes from a backup big who can rebound and drop a few buckets. (Do I get a no-prize for not mentioning a certain ex-Knick, current Indiana Pacer?) My mock trade begs the question: would adding Kuminga improve the Knicks’ chance of winning a championship enough to warrant abandoning Grimes’ potential? Personally, I would not include Quentin in a trade for Kuminga. I still harbor hope and, since QDot has moved back to the second unit, he’s been Johnny Blaze reborn! (Wrote that prior to the Utah loss, so false alarm?)
But if we could land Kuminga without surrendering Grimes, then welcome to New York, Jonathan! There’s Thibs, here’s the bench—enjoy!