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2021 NBA Draft Scouting: Jonathan Kuminga is not your average wing

As the NBA is moving towards a more position-less, pace and space brand of basketball, versatility has become one of the biggest qualities to cross off. GMs and scouts are always on the hunt for versatile pieces come draft day, and Jonathan Kuminga ranks right up there with the top candidates.

Hitting the 2020 recruiting class as a top 5 prospect across all major recruiting platforms, Jonathan Kuminga’s destiny had been left in his hands. Kuminga shocked the basketball world when in July of last year, he opted to tag team with five-star prospect Jalen Green for the inaugural season of the G-League Ignite.

Eleven months removed from Kuminga’s initial decision, he’s regarded as a surefire top 5 pick in the upcoming draft — and he’s able to back up why.

Measurables

Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Jonathon Kuminga enters the league as an 18-year-old forward who already has the build of a 23-year-old. Kuminga hits the NBA ranks at a clean 6-foot-8, which in small forward standards is fairly standard. What separates Kuminga from some of his other contemporaries in this class however is his wingspan as it clocks in a full four inches longer than his height at 7-feet flat. Launching even forward from the former five-star’s length arms his weight currently sits at 210-pounds, yet the tone of his muscles and overall upper-body strength puts him under the gaze of a 230-pound slasher. Overall, he’s one of the youngest players in the class, but his frame is miles ahead of his peers.

Strengths

+ Elite Athleticism

In terms of frontcourt pieces this draft class has to offer, no one even reaches Kuminga’s throne in terms of athleticism.

Kuminga shoots out like a rocket while playing in transition as his downhill speed combined with his supercharged vertical puts his head at rim-level when finishing off drives. Pivoting even further into his spring in transition, Kuminga became a staple of the Ignite’s alley-oop routine this season as he still showed the capability of rising up and hammering home dunks off the catch.

In the halfcourt, Kuminga’s athleticism also projects off the ball as he takes a rather sneaky approach to hound the glass, but as soon as the basketball pops hard off the rim — he changes gears rather quickly. Kuminga became synonymous with putback dunks with the G-League Ignite as he snuck around puzzled defenders and flew up for easy points. Even with the ball in his hands, if Kuminga saw daylight driving towards the basket, he not only took the gamble, but he also lacked zero confidence in getting physical meaning posterizers were on tap.

+ Good at Finding Angles

As a finisher, Jonathan Kuminga can tend to try and get flashy, but when maneuvering down low, he can start to get meticulous.

When Kuminga starts to slow down on drives he begins to use his back as a shield of sorts, allowing for him to get quick layups off the backboard. This also shows in his post game as he does an excellent job both faking shots under the rim and taking turnarounds in general. This tendency for Kuminga happens to be pretty situational as he rarely will try this when slashing head-on, but in driving on either the left or right side — he’s prone to try this.

If Kuminga is slashing in head-on, he still does have an extra kick in his bag, and it works practically everywhere. Kuminga hardly breaks away from defenders with his handle, but it can give him an extra step or so, with this defenders may brush up beside him or switch completely during plays. When Kuminga feels pressure from his side, he’ll go to a spin move to create some daylight before his shot.

Kuminga’s read on angles even makes him a threat off-ball too as he was a consistent piece cutting in for shots. When Kuminga received these passes he could do a little of everything, alley-oops, simple flushes, layups, and even post hooks, this is an aspect of his game that will project seamlessly in the NBA ranks.

+ Handling in Space

Jonathan Kuminga is far from a finished product in handling the basketball, but there are some seeds planted that make his play with the ball intriguing.

Kuminga’s dribble style is far from clean-cut as his overall speed with the ball isn’t extremely glamorous and his handling can be fairly loose, but he can still pave his own route to the basket at times. Kuminga has a promising crossover and behind-the-back pairing that allow him to create some creases for penetrating the rim.

Even when working in the mid-range, Kuminga has a steady pull-up jumper that gives him a shooting cushion.

+ Passing Inside

Jonathan Kuminga averaged 2.7 assists across his 13 G-League games this past season, though the main benefactors of his love came from interior scorers.

When running in transition Kuminga has his eyes up the entire way, if he sees a defender honed in on him driving, he’ll be in search of potential kick-outs across the floor or even to potential lob threats.

In reading the pick and roll, Kuminga had multiple reps operating with the ball. On those occasions he made some acute loft passes to his roll man when both defenders decided to collapse onto him.

When reading up top, Kuminga is always on the hunt for backdoor cuts throwing accurate overhead and bounce passes to find his teammates. As a bit of a nitpick, Kuminga could put a little more heat into his overhead passes as with an abundance of pass lurkers in the NBA his throws could lead to deflections, though it was never a true concern in Orlando.

+ Defensive Upside

For Jonathon Kuminga, a lot of his skillset is either chalked up as potential or inconclusive due to little run — but defensively, it’s hard to ignore his tools.

For starters, Kuminga’s frame fits the ideal body type for a defensive hazard. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan meets a threshold of both being lengths enough to guard players ranging into the fours but also with a 210-pound frame, having the room to cover guards.

Kuminga had defensive lapses that spluttered his resume, but those walls were also plastered with stints of clamping up smaller defenders.

Defending in the pick and roll, Kuminga showed upside switching onto guards during plays, while also being efficient dropping back as his quickness allowed him to both close out and hastily switch back to the big.

As a rim protector, Kuminga also proved to be effective. Kuminga averaged 1.0 blocks with the Ignite this season both spanning from traditional blocks inside to chasedowns that get the opposing bench off their seats. In terms of contesting, Kuminga’s lateral quickness is good for his position. He still needs touch-ups in this area but he had a whole reel of defensive stops on guards when they looked to penetrate.

Stealing the basketball, Kuminga also was a threat. Kuminga averaged 0.8 steals for the Ignite pestering defenders both in passing lanes and inside. In pick and roll defense, point guards often tried to lob passes over Kuminga for close shots, but he did a great job in elevating to snag the fifty-fifty balls.

Weaknesses

Inconsistent Shooting

As a player, Jonathan Kuminga’s shooting ability in many ways sets the bar on his potential, he showed a lot of promise with the Ignite this past year, but the inconsistency is too overbearing to leave in the dust.

Starting with the positives, Kuminga’s jumper is fluid both off the bounce and off the catch, and given the way he freely shoots the ball — you’d think he’s shooting well into the mid-thirties from distance. Kuminga was far from that, but in moments this year, he showed he could not only shoot outside, but also pull-up in the mid-range, and even hit turnarounds in the post. If he can hit these shots at an effective level, his mold of a slasher/defender turns into a potential all-around threat.

The problem with saying this is during the regular-season, Kuminga was spotty when shooting the ball. The forward shot a paltry 16-of-65 (24.6%) from distance this season taking 5.0 attempts a contest. Delving into Kuminga’s stats, however, his sweet spot heavily came from the left-wing as he shot 10-of-21 (47.6%) from that zone, but only 4-of-28 (14.3%) at the right-wing. Even at the foul line some of his chalky shooting showed as he went 62.5% on the season.

Make or miss, Kuminga showed confidence from all areas of the floor this season, meaning he’s pulling the trigger on any jumper. For comparison, his shooting is very reminiscent of rookie season Lu Dort as the Arizona State product hoisted blank threes throughout the year even to the point of never being routinely dared to shoot. Dort ended the season as Oklahoma City’s marksman hitting 7 threes in a Game 7 loss. This past year, Dort shot 34.3% from three on 6.3 attempts, he shot 29.7% in his rookie year. Lu Dort’s transition from ice-cold shooter to a legitimate two-way threat is nothing short of a Disney movie, as it’s fairly uncommon to see the strides he made in under a year. With that being said, Kuminga’s a project piece outside that will require reps to yield any sort of results. For a win-now team, watching Kuminga hoist blank threes may not be in their best interest, but for a rebuilding team looking to build for the long-term, Kuminga’s jumper is an investment given his confidence.

Settles on Drives/Can get Tunnel Vision

Jonathan Kuminga is a tick above the rest of his class in terms of elevating around the basket, but his setup into the big play can get flaky.

As mentioned earlier, Kuminga’s plethora of moves puts emphasizes finding angles and shrugging off defenders. If Kuminga gets caught in the lane, he’ll often go to a spin for potential layup opportunities — but if he gets stuffed, he’s in trouble. He can commit far too often on these drives causing errant spin layups, turnarounds, and charges.

When discussing Kuminga’s tunnel vision, the primary cause also stems from his slashing. When Kuminga takes the initiative to drive, he gets caught only focusing on his defender. This leads to a lot of help defenders picking his pocket, getting stripped on drives, or bulldozer drives where the play goes nowhere as this combination led to him averaging 2.6 turnovers this year.

Overall

Jonathon Kuminga is one of the most gifted athletes this class has to offer. His ability to soar up on drives, putbacks, and even on chasedowns gives him a unique aura given his measurables.

Kuminga may not bring the full package upon his entrance to the league, but his experience as a defender, finisher, and rebounder make him a player who should offer value right away, just maybe not from all three levels.

Kuminga’s a gifted downhill player, an off-ball threat, and a pick and roll defender who spawns the idea of switching 1-4 if he meets his full potential.

There are question marks as to how efficient Kuminga can be as a scorer at the next level, but his set-up is great for all areas — it really comes down to the perimeter shooting. Right now, Kuminga’s a plug-and-play three who can harness double-digit nights solely off his finishing ability.

Evaluation: Uber-Athletic OG Anunoby

When it comes to hunting down potential star-studded prospects, Jonathan Kuminga ranks high up on the totem pole, but he also ranks in as a project piece.

From day one, Jonathan Kuminga will be a contributor both attacking the basket and bringing defensive versatility from both forward positions. His ability to score downhill and pop-up for putbacks and alley-oops will make him a serious interior force from the get-go. Kuminga’s handling may see some up-and-downs especially playing in a large 30+ minute role, though if he’s able to find his way into the second level he should be a solid double-digit scorer on a nightly basis — right away.

Defensively, Kuminga’s palate should grow up fairly on his own. Playing current starting point guards, Kuminga can get burned with footwork, but his ability to defend well off screens should reap benefits early and truthfully could turn him into a power forward for the grander part of his minutes. Kuminga’s rebounding should be a solid of his game from the get-go as well, meaning he’s got a pretty solid archetype to branch off of.

Kuminga’s shooting really is the make-or-break factor for his development as sub-thirty three would allow defenders to completely sag off, and in turn — hurt his interior game. Kuminga with no jumpshot still rounds out to core veteran piece who will play his role well both in a starting or bench role.

If Kuminga suits up for a playoff contender day one, his growth from the perimeter will inevitably be stunted. Kuminga needs NBA reps from downtown to improve, if he’s shooting 30-percent for a team desperately scrapping for the playoffs, his three-point shot will be pushed to the side rather quickly as he’s a work in progress. However, if a rebuilding team takes in Kuminga, allows him to hoist five threes a game even if struggling, there could be light at the end of the tunnel — and it could give a franchise an ideal piece for their offense.

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