Jonathan Kuminga NBA Draft Profile & Outlook: Is G League Ignite Forward a Top-Five Pick?

Jonathan Kuminga NBA Draft Profile & Outlook: Is G League Ignite Forward a Top-Five Pick? article feature image
Credit:

Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Kuminga.

Jonathan Kuminga NBA Draft Odds & Profile

Position Forward
School G League Ignite
Height 6’8″
Age 18.7
Class FR
Projected Pick (Odds) No. 5 (-105)
Odds as of Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

The 2021 NBA Draft is right around the corner, so we’re continuing to take a look at the draft’s top prospects.

For much of the season, scouts have spoken of a clear top five, with five prospects separating themselves at the top. We’ve already done in-depth scouting profiles on four of those five here at Action Network:

Jonathan Kuminga is the fifth member of that tier, and it’s notable that he’s almost always the last one mentioned. Some believe Kuminga is the last of that top tier; others think he’s the best of the rest, or perhaps even further behind. For now, Kuminga is still favored to be drafted No. 5 at -105 at DraftKings.

So who is Jonathan Kuminga, and is he actually the fifth best prospect in the 2021 draft?

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Kuminga Looks and Plays Like a Big Athletic Wing

Like Jalen Green, Kuminga skipped college and instead played with a new developmental team called the G League Ignite.

The team featured a mixture of young prospects including Kuminga, Green, and first-round hopefuls Daishen Nix and Isaiah Todd, along with NBA veterans like Amir Johnson and Jarrett Jack. Unlike his collegiate peers, Kuminga was paid for his play and coached in an NBA-like atmosphere. His entire season was just one condensed month, and that it came against NBA-caliber players. That’s important context to remember in evaluating Kuminga.

There’s one other key factor you should know — Kuminga is actually a full year younger than most of his peers. He reclassified up a year, so he should really have just finished his senior year of high school. He won’t even turn 19 until October. Kuminga will be finishing his NBA rookie contract the same time his actual peers are graduating from college.

Given the context of his age and situation, Kuminga’s numbers look pretty impressive. He averaged 15.8 points a game in the G League, adding 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Kuminga stands 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan, and he’s a clear NBA athlete with sizzle. He looks and plays like an NBA wing, and it says a lot that he fit in physically and athletically with grown men in the G League.

Still, those counting numbers obscure a really inefficient season. Kuminga finished at 38.7% from the field, a terrible number. That included 16-of-65 on 3s, a paltry 24.6%, as well as just 46% on 2s, maybe even more worrisome. The advanced metrics were rough, too. Kuminga finished under 50% True Shooting with a 90 Offensive Rating and a 110 Defensive Rating.

Kuminga looks and plays like an NBA wing, but the numbers below the surface paint a very different picture. So which picture should we believe? Do we trust the eye test or the numbers?

Jonathan Kuminga is the most publicly-disrespected Top 5 draft prospect I’ve seen in years.

Kuminga is truly a freak athlete. He’s only 18 years old & he can already do it all…

Anybody doubting this kid should really consider second-guessing their decision. It’s not too late. pic.twitter.com/9a9O90vOqL

— EVRYDAY Magic (@EVRYDAYMagic) July 20, 2021

Kuminga Passes the Eye Test

There’s no doubt Kuminga looks NBA-ready. He has the size and natural athleticism of a classic modern wing.

Kuminga is smooth. Everything about his game looks relaxed and easy. He has a steady handle and a natural smoothness to his game, and he’s a terrific athlete with a big two-footed leap. Kuminga’s shot looks clean out of his hand, and his size and physicality help him get the step on opponents and get downhill attacking the rim.

Kuminga is NBA Draft comfort food. He just looks familiar, like watching Paul George or Victor Oladipo with the ball. All the better that Kuminga is a bit bigger, and that he looked that smooth as an 18-year-old playing with professionals, some of whom played actual NBA minutes this season.

Kuminga looked like a star right out of the gates. He was the best player on the court in his debut and got immediate buzz as the potential No. 1 pick. He had a comfortable grab-and-go off the glass early and flashed skilled footwork on a step-back jumper. He also showed good vision with a few early passes, including a back-door bounce pass, a one-handed dime on the move, and another lead pass in transition.

On the eye test alone, Jonathan Kuminga passes with flying colors: A+.

The Numbers Test Is Another Story, Though

But as the season went on, Kuminga impressed less. Part of that was probably a young body wearing down over a grueling month, and he picked up an injury late too, but the real problem came once evaluators got past those initial flashes and saw some of the flaws.

The shooting numbers are worrisome. Kuminga was highly inefficient from almost everywhere on the court. He hit only 63% of his free throws, bricked a ton of 3s, and couldn’t convert well at the rim. The one good number was Kuminga’s 5.0 3-point attempts per game. Sometimes it’s important just knowing a player is willing to shoot — and that coaches allow him to let it fly.

It’s clear, though, that the shot is flawed. Kuminga’s form and results are all over the place. He has more of a set shot with a small hop, giving his shot a low arc and making it easier to block. That’s also a less successful shot from a physics stand point — see Steph Curry’s high arc, giving the ball a cleaner look through the rim on its way down.

The shot mechanics sometimes look good. Remember, that shot looks smooth! But Kuminga had some really bad misses and missed consistently from all over the court. Look at this disaster of a shot chart:

Jonathan Kuminga had an impressive draft year, averaging 15.8 points, 2.7 assists abs 7.2 rebounds per game, in 13 G-League games! pic.twitter.com/SpW1K2GHHI

— InStat Basketball (@InStatBasket) July 14, 2021

It’s not just the shooting and inefficient scoring that’s a problem, though that’s certainly a big problem for a player known as a scoring forward.

If you’re not an efficient scorer, you better be able to make up ground on defense or as a creator. Kuminga is comfortable with the ball but doesn’t show great decision making. He’s a slow processor, and while he made some nice passes, he also racked up turnovers, finishing with as many TOs as assists.

Against Memphis, Kuminga effectively ran point early, and it was more of the same. He looked smooth enough, and that athletic point forward profile shined through, but he was also ineffective. His handle was loose, his passing poor, and outside of an explosive dunk, it was mostly disappointing.

It was worse on the other end. Kuminga was spotty on D all season but terrible against the Hustle. He was a bull matador in one-on-one defense, with even small Memphis guards flying right past him. He was also consistently lost in team defense, seemingly always in the wrong spot and falling for fakes.

Kuminga was constantly out of position, giving up so many easy buckets I lost count. He does make occasional highlight blocks, but even there, he has just as many possessions where he goes for block but ends up out of position and gives up another easy bucket.

Kuminga hasn’t had a stable team situation for years, and you see that inexperience and youth. He just doesn’t have a natural feel for the game on either end of the court. When things pop, they really pop, but there are too many times when he’s just out of place.

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Are We Sure Kuminga is the #5 Prospect?

Remember how we started with the idea of a top-five tier, and now you’re wondering how in the world this guy is the fifth best player in the draft?

That’s called anchoring bias, and I think it’s weighing heavily with Kuminga. All year, evaluators talked about that top-five tier with Kuminga in it, and he was once considered a potential No. 1 pick in the 2022 class before reclassifying. He also looked awesome in that first Ignite game, and it’s really hard to get past that first great impression.

That’s an anchoring problem. Kuminga looked awesome at first, and we’ve always been told he is awesome, so it’s easy to chalk the bad stuff up to youth and focus on the good flashes. But in the end, Kuminga might just not be a particularly efficient or winning basketball player yet.

Yes, Kuminga put up big numbers, but he also had super high usage and was playing for a team built specifically to showcase its draft prospects. It was in everyone’s interest for the Ignite to play Kuminga a lot and make him look good. I wonder if he was being played out of position, too. He was barely used as a screener, and I think he might play best as a four in time.

Of course, it’s not fair to call Kuminga a bad prospect either. He’s still super young, and even if he’s a very raw prospect who’s nowhere near ready, he’s also starting with a clear NBA body and good athleticism. If things develop and Kuminga gets a better feel for the game, he could one day become what he already looks like — the next great NBA wing.

For now, I’m checking sportsbooks daily, waiting for that Kuminga draft prop of over pick No. 5.5. I don’t see any way he breaks into that true top four, and at this point, there’s little reason other than anchoring to think he’s locked in as the fifth best prospect on the board.

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