“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Jonathan Kuminga is an 18-year-old wing from the Congo who averaged 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in his rookie season for the NBA G League Ignite. He is expected to be selected among the top-5 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and as high as No. 2 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 5.
Every draft has a lottery prospect I like to call the “Rorschach test.”
Opinions tend to vary wildly on these prospects. They tend to be physical marvels with “jaw-dropping length” or “otherworldly athleticism” or “incredible untapped potential.” They’re either bouncy 7-footers or prototypical wings with similar physical dimensions to Kawhi/PG/Butler/Siakam/etc. They’re usually one of the youngest prospects in their draft class. They all have at least one major flaw in their games.
Some scouts would take these players first overall and trust their coaching staffs to bring out the best version of the Rorschach. Other scouts loudly proclaim that they wouldn’t take the Rorschach if the draft lasted three rounds.
So: What do you see when you evaluate Jonathan Kuminga?
Catch him on the right night or click on the right YouTube mixtape and you might see the next Kawhi Leonard. It’s rare to see wing players his size explode off the floor the way Kuminga does, while also handling the ball as well as he does. The handle is usually one of the last pieces of the puzzle, but Kuminga already shows flashes of being a high-level secondary playmaker with the door open to run some pick-and-roll as the lead option.
On the other side of the floor, Kuminga’s ceiling is First Team All-Defense. He is so long, strong and quick. He is also willing to do the dirty work – slide his feet, dig into a stance, help and recover.
The scary part? He doesn’t turn 19 until Oct. 6.
On a scale from 1-10, Kuminga’s potential rates at a 9.5.
Kuminga can’t shoot. At least not yet.
This is often the case with these Rorschach players. You’ll talk yourself into all the incredible tremendous upside potential, but then catch a glance at something that snaps you right back to reality.
In Kuminga’s case, it’s these two numbers: 24.6% and 62.5%. Those are his shooting splits from 3-point range and the free-throw line, respectively. These aren’t weird blips, either. Kuminga couldn’t shoot in high school, either.
Give him credit for one thing – Kuminga isn’t shy. Despite connecting on less than a quarter of his long-range attempts, he still put up five 3s per game. The real concern for me is that Ben Simmons-esque performance at the charity stripe. Poor performance at the line can make an aggressive player hesitant and often foreshadows an inability to develop consistent shooting range.
Everything we discussed in the previous section is borderline irrelevant if those two numbers don’t trend in a positive direction. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but it turns out that shooting is an important skill in today’s NBA – particularly for perimeter players.
It’s incredible that Kuminga was able to average a hair under 16 points a game with such poor shooting stats. It’s a testament to his raw ability. But he won’t have the opportunity to showcase his other skills if teams don’t respect his jump shot.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Kuminga’s shooting woes rates at a 9.5.
Kuminga took to the game early as a youngster in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By the time he moved to the United States in 2016, Kuminga was already one of the world’s most intriguing young players. His sophomore year likely belongs on a shortlist of “best extended hoops stretches from any 10th grader.”
He played at several high schools – which can often be a red flag for NBA executives – but he was always one of the best players on the team no matter where he went, even though he was often one of the youngest.
Kuminga could have gone to any college he wanted, but he elected to go the G League route and ended up on the same squad as fellow lottery prospect Jalen Green.
In 13 games for the G League Ignite, Kuminga showed scouts everything about his game – good and bad. The highlights were loud and abundant. The jumpers were, let’s say, adrift.
On a scale from 1-10, Kuminga’s pre-NBA career rates at a 6 in terms of personal accolades or team success, but a 9 in terms of “showing the NBA what he can do.”
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Athletically, Kuminga is ready right now. Skill-wise, it might take him a little longer to catch on compared to his fellow lottery contemporaries.
It’s entirely possible that a team picking above No. 5 falls in love with Kuminga’s measurables and potential. The Houston Rockets would not be an ideal spot for Kuminga to cut his teeth in the NBA, but it is not out of the realm of possibility to see the Rockets’ braintrust talk themselves into Kuminga as the draft’s best prospect.
The far likelier scenario is to see Kuminga hear his name called in the 4-8 range. We’ve talked about how the Toronto Raptors would be an ideal landing spot for other lottery picks, but that applies to Kuminga even more. Look no further than what this organization has done for Pascal Siakam. Kuminga is a significantly better prospect than Siakam was in 2016, when he went No. 27 overall. Imagine what Kuminga could become if he works as hard as Siakam did with this coaching staff.
Many mock drafts have Kuminga going to the Orlando Magic. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Orlando Magic are interested in taking an athletic marvel who can’t shoot.
On a scale from 1-10, Kuminga’s situational dependence rates at an 8. He needs to go to a team that invests in a top-tier shooting coach to reach his immense potential.