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Warriors News: Steve Kerr Talks Jonathan Kuminga; Gary Payton II Injury Update

Philip LindseyContributor IIOctober 4, 2021

Golden State Warriors' Jonathan Kuminga poses for photos during the NBA basketball team's media day in San Francisco, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors are coming into the 2021-22 NBA season with something to prove after two disappointing outings in a row.

The former dynasty has experienced its share of bad luck since its unsuccessful attempt at a three-peat in 2019. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both sustained major injuries during that playoff run, and the team has been riddled with similar ailments ever since.

In fact, Thompson returned to the team last season after he underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL. However, he was forced to miss even more playing time after he tore his Achilles tendon last November.

Nevertheless, Steph Curry reemerged as the 2021-22 NBA scoring champion and miraculously led Golden State to a relatively successful year. As the ninth seed in the Western Conference, the young team was one shot away from defeating the Lakers to claw their way into the playoffs.

Although the Warriors overachieved last season, they have quite a task ahead of them as they battle to remain relevant in a competitive conference. There are some positives heading into the preseason, but there have still been a few obstacles.

Janie McCauley/Associated Press
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Jonathan Kuminga Could Have a Breakout Year

Golden State made an excellent decision in the first round of this year's NBA draft, selecting Jonathan Kuminga with the seventh overall pick.

The lack of a strong post presence was one of the Warriors' most glaring weaknesses last season. The Congolese forward immediately offers a solution to that problem as a strong and agile wing who can act as a playmaker and initiate fast breaks.

Steve Kerr spoke about his potential role on the team and his skill set during a recent press conference. The 2016 Coach of the Year already seems impressed with the rookie, but it will take time for him to get acclimated to his new surroundings.

"I think that's kind of the question going into the year. It's what we're going to have to figure out. He's an enormously talented young guy. He's got some great qualities right away that jump out. He's amazing in transition. You know, he's a physical specimen. He's a freight train coming downhill in transition, but he's got some nuance to his game, too. In the scrimmage yesterday, he made three or four drive-and-kick passes that maybe you don't necessarily expect to see from a young guy. So the fact that he's a willing and capable passer changes things in terms of his outlook. Key for him is going to be playing defense, picking up our schemes and coverages and tendencies of his opponents, all that kind of stuff. If we feel like we can count on him defensively, he's showing quite a bit offensively. That could earn him some minutes. But we'll see."

Kuminga may have some growing pains ahead of him but he has so much upside because he can operate in the post and excel on fast breaks. Being able to run the offense through the team's frontcourt and get the ball out to the shooter will be one of the keys to their success. The 18-year-old gives Golden State someone who can make those necessary passes when given the opportunity.

Although he's still so young, Kuminga is also used to the pace of NBA basketball due to his time in the G League. With time, the new addition to the roster could earn a prominent spot and blossom into an All-Star.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    

An Injury Could Cost Gary Payton II the Final Roster Spot

Ahead of this season, it seemed like Gary Payton II would be a good fit for Golden State.

The Mitten, a play off his father's famous nickname, signed two 10-day contracts in 2021 before he finally earned a place on the team. The 28-year-old didn't play many minutes or score a lot of points, but he shot the ball at career-high rate from the field and the free-throw line.

Unfortunately, a recent injury could hinder his progress and cost him the final roster spot. According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, the injury is "not a sports hernia, and it will be re-evaluated in a week. He's not too far away from a return, but the clock is ticking on the No. 15 roster spot decision. Avery Bradley has the best chance to win it in the preseason."

The Warriors signed Bradley in September. The veteran guard's defense made him Payton's stiffest competition at the position, but he still had an edge because he knows the personnel and the offense. Sadly, his struggles with injury could impact his hopes of securing the role as Golden State finalizes its roster.

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