Over the past month, GBB has profiled many prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft. We’ve profiled guys who would be available at 17, guys who could be had in a potential trade back as well as some guys who could be available if the Grizzlies moved up in the draft. The Grizzlies officially moved up to the #10 spot yesterday in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans and are rumored to be striving to move up even higher ahead of Thursday’s draft. The Grizzlies have been linked to Moses Moody, Franz Wagner, Josh Giddey and James Bouknight since yesterday’s trade.
There is one player the Grizzlies have been linked to that GBB has yet to cover until today, and that is Jonathan Kuminga of the G-League Ignite.
Jonathan Kuminga, Forward, G-League Ignite
- 6’8”, 210 lbs (6’11” wingspan), 18 years old, from Kinshasa, DR Congo
- One season with the Ignite - 32.8 minutes per game, 15.8 points per game on 38.7% shooting (24.6% from beyond the arc, 62.5% from the free throw line), 7.2 rebounds per game, 1 steal per game
- ADVANCED STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon) - Draft Age (18), Rebounds (7.2), Assists per 36 (3.0)
- ADVANCED STATS TO IMPROVE - Effective Field Goal Percentage (43%), Turnovers (2.9), Basically every shooting stat
- AWARDS AND ACCOLADES - 2020 5-Star recruit
- CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS - 9th Overall (Tankathon), 6th Overall (Ringer), 5th Overall (ESPN), 6th Overall (CBS Sports), 5th Overall (The Athletic)
Jonathan Kuminga is an interesting name for the Grizzlies to be linked to. Kuminga is certainly a raw prospect, but has all the physical tools to be a great player at the NBA level. He has great size and can be a solid two-way player at the 3 while also being able to play the 4 in small ball lineups.
The Grizzlies would almost certainly need to make another trade to move up even higher in the draft to select Kuminga but certainly seems like a possibility based on reports from The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor and ESPN’s Jonathon Givony. With Kuminga being a Grizzlies target, let’s take a deeper dive at Kuminga’s skills.
What he does well
Jonathan Kuminga is a freak athlete and has a great physical profile with the size to be a great wing in the NBA. He has some elite defensive potential thanks to his body, with all the tools to make some highlight plays and lock guys down. He is also solid at creating his own shot, using some solid change of pace to create open looks or by attacking the basket off the dribble. He is a good rebounder for his position, and would certainly help pick up some of the rebounding slack left by Jonas Valanciunas.
Kuminga can be a handful for defenses with his shot creation, but he’ll likely thrive early in his career in transition. He was great at making the right outlet passes to push the fast break, and was great at finishing fast break opportunities with the Ignite with some highlight dunks. Kuminga was also great at attacking the rim and not only absorbing but also initiating contact.
Where he can improve
Kuminga’s shot simply did not fall in the G-League bubble. From the 3-point line to the free throw line, Kuminga struggled to really put the ball through the hoop efficiently. The 13 games was a short sample size, and featured a few games that flashed his full potential with more efficient games, but his shot creation won’t mean much if he can’t knock down the shots he takes. The tools are there for Kuminga to be a solid shooter at the NBA level, so I’m personally in the boat that the bubble was just a cold stretch for him. That said, his shot selection was pretty terrible in the bubble, and he will certainly need to work on not getting frustrated and forcing things at the NBA level.
Kuminga also struggled to lock in defensively with the Ignite in the bubble. Defense is a bit of a lost art in the G-League, and Kuminga struggled with consistency on the defensive end. He could make plays to force some turnovers or poke the ball away, but he wasn’t mentally locked in on that side of the court on a possession-by-possession basis. Those physical tools mean nothing if he isn’t right mentally.
Kuminga is a really nice fit on the Grizzlies. He’s a great wing with size and speed who can play alongside Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., especially if he gets his shot to fall at the NBA level. Kuminga could help alleviate some of the concerns with Jaren Jackson Jr. and rebounding, while also being capable of being a microwave scorer when called upon.
The Grizzlies have been looking for a wing who can create their own shot pretty much since the Rudy Gay trade in 2013. Kuminga hasn’t proven he can be a great shot-maker, but he could arguably become one of the better shot-creating wings the Grizzlies have had in some time. He fits in with Ja and Jaren athletically, and at just 18-years old would figure to be a long term piece on the Grizzlies. At his best, Kuminga could be a player similar to Jaylen Brown. Even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling, the Danny Granger and Luol Deng comparisons are nothing to scoff at either.
A lot of Kuminga’s struggles are common for young players in the G-League, especially considering his age. Defense is rarely played in the G-League so it’s not entirely surprising Kuminga wasn’t locked in completely on that end. Offensively, Kuminga is smart enough of a player to know he can play second or third fiddle to Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. which should lead to less forced shots and more shots within the flow of the offense.
The difficulty would be if the Grizzlies can move up high enough to select Kuminga. In most mock’s, he’s projected to go 5th or 6th, so the Grizzlies will need to send Orlando and Oklahoma City an attractive trade package that makes trading back worth it.
Kuminga is off the board once the Grizzlies get on the clock, and they focus on one of the other players mentioned in the introduction.