Nineteenth century French author Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr famously coined the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Upon embarking on one of the more critical off-seasons in recent franchise history, the Orlando Magic organization is once again finding itself in a familiar situation: change (and lots of it).
Orlando’s top executives, led by Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond, made franchise direction-altering moves this past March, trading All-Star center Nikola Vucevic (nine seasons with the Magic), starting forward Aaron Gordon (seven seasons with the Magic), and starting wing Evan Fournier (seven seasons with the Magic) prior to the league’s trade deadline. After appearing in the playoffs for two consecutive seasons from 2019-2020, Orlando’s front office decided to change the organization’s course - at least partly due to the significant knee injuries suffered by Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac (which caused the Magic to fall considerably in the Eastern Conference hierarchy).
If that wasn’t enough change (or maybe because it was too much), the Orlando Magic organization will also be searching this offseason for their sixth head coach in the last eight years (Editors note: the Magic have their man, hiring former Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley as the fourteenth head coach in franchise history) . On June 5th, an announcement was made that the team and former head coach Steve Clifford had “mutually agreed to part ways”. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando under Stan Van Gundy from 2007-2012, compiled a 96-131 record leading the Magic over the last three seasons. It is widely believed that the Orlando organization’s new blueprint- with so many young players on the roster - doesn’t align with a veteran coach such as Clifford’s timeline.
So here we are, with a turned-over roster full of 20-somethings, and a new head coach set to lead the organization into its next chapter. But with so much change, why do things in Orlando still feel the same?
The draft. Once again, the Magic organization is embarking on a critically important draft - and they have to get things right. The mainstays from recent Orlando past are gone, the team is in full rebuild mode, and much of what the franchise has done over the last year hinges on hitting a homerun during this draft process.
So I’m back for my fourth consecutive offseason, putting together a series of scouting reports on players the Magic will likely be targeting, either with their first round pick or Chicago’s pick (which Orlando acquired in the Vucevic deal). Some important dates in this process to keep in mind between now and the end of the summer are: June 21st-27th (the NBA Draft Combine), June 22nd (the NBA Draft Lottery), and July 29th (the NBA Draft).
In this series, I have compiled scouting reports that include film observations, loose player comparisons, talking points, Magic-specific potential fits/needs, and more. Last in this series is a very raw wing prospect - G-League Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga.
15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists
(32.8 minutes per game)
49.3% TS%, A/TO ratio: 1.03
Eye in the sky: Film study
-Handle is further along than many other aspects of his game, potential as an isolation scorer (due to NBA elite size/strength)
-Game seems best suited (right now) when he’s getting out in transition, using athleticism
-Has ability to gain secondary-break opportunities, especially when he grabs the rebound and leads the break; difficult to slow down when he gets downhill
-Stats in the G-League from last season don’t necessarily reflect his ability to make advanced passes; probably a little better in that area than given credit for
-Can make advanced passes, but has also struggled in the past with questionable shot-selection; part of the maturation process of gaining feel/awareness
-Shot mechanics were pretty inconsistent playing for the G-League Ignite; lower half wasn’t always balanced (leaning/fading away upon release)
-Ball release/wrist action is very clean on jump-shot, results have been inconsistent (at HS, EYBL, G-League levels), but potential is there
-Strength/shoulders should allow him to draw a decent amount of fouls in the NBA (as long as he stays aggressive)
-Pick-and-roll potential as an initiator (especially getting to the rim off the dribble); obviously, success in this area will be dependent on how much his perimeter shot develops
-Inconsistency plagues him on both sides of the ball, should develop into a plus-defender (but often falls asleep, drifts out of position, bites on pump fakes against inferior athletes, etc.)
-Can potentially provide supplemental value on the boards
His game resembles...
Luol Deng - I think Deng should be the model for Kuminga’s game; he wasn’t a player who went “iso” very often, but was able to get a bucket when his team needed it. Also contributed on defense, on the glass, with additional playmaking, etc. Kuminga is a little bouncier than Deng was; Deng’s game was all about consistency (which Kuminga could use a bit more of)
Jeff Green - Former fifth overall pick has a game that closely resembles Kuminga’s; can swing between both forward positions. Length, some rebounding, some play-making. Inconsistency has marked Green’s career, but he’s still found a way to play in the NBA for over 13 years.
Danny Granger - Scored over 18 points per game from 2007-2012; similar physical attributes to Kuminga. Granger was a much better shooter than Kuminga is (at the moment), but he certainly represents a solid ceiling for what the DRC-native can become.
Best games/films of the season...
February 12th vs. OKC Blue: 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
February 13th vs Raptors 905: 23 points, 13 rebounds
February 24th vs Memphis Hustle: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Video Credit: Frankie Vision
Video Credit: Swish
Video Credit: ESPN
Resume & By the numbers
- Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved to the United States when he was 16
- Played for three different high schools in three years (2017-2020), reclassified from the Class of 2021 to the ‘20 class (effectively skipping his senior season)
- Scored 43 points in an EYBL (AAU) showdown against Cade Cunningham in 2019
- Cousin of former NBA guard Emmanuel Mudiay
- Scored 18 or more points in a single contest in 7 of 13 games in G-League
1) Shooting struggles
I would assume that the most discussed (and possibly polarizing) part of Kuminga’s game among NBA executives is his jump-shot. There’s confidence that Kuminga will be able to use his strength, size, and athleticism to create advantages for himself at the next level, and his fluid ball-handlining ability should allow for him to develop into an ‘iso’ option for an NBA team. But none of that matters a whole bunch if he’s not consistently providing value (and efficiency) on those attempts.
According to his Synergy profile from the 13 games he played in the G-League last season, Kuminga excelled in two areas - as a pick & roll ball-handler (1.0 point per possession over 19 possessions, “excellent”) and as a ‘mid-range’ shooter (1.0 point per possession over 10 possessions, “excellent”). But in pretty much any other type of situation on the floor last season, Kuminga really struggled providing value (small sample-size, beware).
His three most common play-types in half-court settings playing for the G-League Ignite last season were ‘spotting-up’, in ‘isolation’, and ‘posting-up’. According to Synergy, Kuminga was “below average” in comparison to other G-League players in all three of those situations (55 spot up possessions, 39 points, 23rd percentile; 36 isolation possessions, 24 points, 23rd percentile; 30 post-up possessions, 21 points, 23rd percentile).
One of Kuminga’s main selling points is his perceived ability to create off the dribble, but he shot 25 percent from the floor (in the half-court) in those situations (32 possessions, 18 points, 20th percentile). In fact, he was actually slightly better in the half-court in catch-and-shoot situations last year (50 possessions, 38 points, 0.76 points per possession), but still not even close to where he needs to be.
Kuminga demonstrates excellent shot versatility for a player at his stage of development. But positives resulting from that versatility, not so much. Even at the free throw line, where Kuminga can get to frequently due to his physical profile, he only shot 62.5 percent last season - a telling indicator of where his shot is at this point (and where he needs to get to as he develops further).
I don’t envy NBA front offices that now have to navigate context when evaluating players from so many different backgrounds. Teams are charged with scouting college players, international players (in both Pro B and Pro A leagues), U.S. players that skip college and play in international leagues, and now players who go from high school to the G-League as well. It’s certainly not a situation anymore where you’re comparing players across the board in a vacuum. No, this is an apples to oranges conundrum that scouts and executives now find themselves a part of.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is, how does one compare Scottie Barnes’ play against North Florida, UCF, Gardner-Webb, and UNC-Greensboro to Kuminga’s against players much bigger, stronger, and further along in their professional development than opponents at the collegiate-level (FSU actually played a very strong schedule overall, but I hope you understand my point)?
For a lot of 18 year-olds who skipped their senior year of high school in favor of playing against grown men, size/strength/athleticism concerns would likely overwhelm their ability to share the same court. Unfortunately for Kuminga, it wasn’t really the physical aspect of jumping up a level (or two) in competition that slowed down his effectiveness - he absolutely looked like he belonged. It was the speed of the game, and reacting/adjusting/executing that plagued Kuminga in the G-League.
But for me, I’ve tried my best to keep some context throughout this process when evaluating and discussing Kuminga, because I just don’t think it can be ignored how difficult the jump must have been that he made. Yes, athletically (and physically) he was prepared to compete against G-League opponents, but we’re still talking about a teenager jumping from high school (three different high school teams in three years) to all of a sudden competing against professionals (trying to scratch their way into the NBA).
As one of jewels of the inaugural G-League Ignite program, Kuminga had a target on his back every time his team took the floor. And I’m sure it didn't help that he was playing through some knee soreness/tendinitis while in the Orlando bubble. I’m not making excuses for him at all, that’s not what I’m trying to do. But just because his physical profile screams “grown man”, doesn’t mean that Kuminga didn’t have some natural and understandable growing pains that he had to overcome throughout his first foray in professional basketball. Would he have enjoyed more success if he was playing in the Big 12?
Making a case for the Magic to draft Jonathan Kuminga in the ‘21 draft
|Does Kuminga fit the Weltman/Hammond archetype?||Somewhat, yes|
|Would taking Kuminga in the lottery be considered a BPA/value selection?||Yes|
|Would Kuminga provide the Magic with depth in a needed area?||Yes|
As soon as the results from the 2021 NBA Lottery were announced, Kuminga became one of the presumed favorites to be drafted by the Magic (if the team were to stay in their current position). Florida State forward Scottie Barnes also makes a lot of sense at number five overall, and seems to be the player whose stock is gaining a lot of momentum heading towards the end of this pre-draft process. But like Barnes, Kuminga checks a lot of boxes as far as what Orlando’s top executives in their front office value in prospects.
Kuminga has a +4 (7-0) wingspan, which of course has always been a measurement that the Orlando organization values. Kuminga’s length is above-average for a prospect that will be playing on the wing in the NBA, and will allow him to be able to get by later in his career should he shift to more of the traditional (outdated?) “power forward” position. At 6-8/215, Kuminga also possesses the plus-positional size (on the wing) that Hammond covets, and the potential positional versatility that intrigues Weltman.
Kuminga was the consensus number one player in his class (2021) before he reclassified to the ‘20 group, according to multiple mainstream industry ranking systems (ESPN, 247, Rivals). But while other top prospects in the 2020 class improved their draft stock this past season (Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs), Kuminga’s momentum has idled in neutral.
The Magic have shown in the past, whether it’s Isaac (from the 2017 draft), Bamba (2018), or Cole Anthony, that the organization values their overall board - and that they are more than willing to draft a player who was once highly ranked/regarded coming out of the high school/AAU setting (and has possibly fallen into their laps, creating value). I think it’s fair to conclude that the outcome I described above potentially relates to Kuminga’s current draft situation as well.
Here’s a young man that has been highly regarded as an up-and-coming blue-chip prospect in this sport for some time. He is extremely raw, and has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career. But Kuminga’s physical profile, the isolation offensive creation potential, the two-way possibilities, and lets just be honest - the overarching “what ifs” related to his perceived ceiling - may be just too much for the Orlando Magic to pass up on.
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.
Also, check out Aaron’s other scouting reports in this series: Scottie Barnes, Franz Wagner, Keon Johnson, Moses Moody, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley, James Bouknight, and Josh Giddey.