Between now and Halloween, the Golden State Warriors will pick up the fourth-year options for their 2021 lottery picks, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. So, unless they are traded, the two bright young players will stay in the Bay Area through the 2024–25 season. The first will get $7.6 million, and the second will get $5.8 million. Then, they will both become free agents with some restrictions.
In a perfect world, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody would be playing for the Golden State Warriors in 2025–26, their fifth season in the NBA. Because if they’re on the Warriors, it means that A) the Dubs think they’re good enough to keep, and B) they did. Both of those are why I’m here.
But history shows that there are more likely things to happen. By the end of Year 5, a lot of lottery picks are no longer with the team that picked them. There are many reasons for this:
- Some players get traded.
- Some need to play better and get cut before their four-year rookie scale contract is up.
- Some are outside the team’s plans by the time they reach free agency.
- Some play themselves out of the team’s plans by getting a contract from an outside suitor that the team isn’t willing to match.
As an example, players chosen in 2019 are in their fifth year. Eight of the 14 lottery picks (Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, De’Andre Hunter, Coby White, Darius Garland, PJ Washington, and Tyler Herro) are still under contract with the team that picked them. Rui Hachimura, Cameron Johnson, Romeo Langford, and Cam Reddish were all moved before the end of their rookie contracts. Jaxson Hayes signed with a different team this year as a free agent, and Jarrett Culver is no longer in the league. The previous year? There are also 8 players.
So, the odds are that the Warriors will only sign one of Kuminga or Moody to a contract after their rookie deals are up, even though they could sign both or neither. I’ll keep hope to keep both, but let’s look at who is most likely to play their fifth NBA season at Chase Center.
Case for Jonathan Kuminga
The 16 players from the 2018 and 2019 drafts who stayed on for a fifth year all have something in common. In 2019, there were All-Stars like Williamson, Morant, and Garland. Barrett, Hunter, and Herro also got contracts like those given to players expected to become All-Stars. It will be the same in 2018 when guys like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., and Deandre Ayton will be in the league.
Stars usually stick around, and you can bet that if Kuminga or Moody becomes an All-Star player, the Dubs will find a way to keep them, even if it means a few years of a big contract overlapping with their current, very expensive core. However, Jordan Poole shows that this is only sometimes the case.
I don’t think that Jonathan Kuminga becoming an All-Star is his most likely outcome, but it’s well within his range of possible outcomes, which is something I’m not sure we can say about Moses Moody. Kuminga has everything it takes to be a star in the NBA: he’s very athletic and very long; he’s tall enough and strong enough to guard bigs but quick enough and agile enough to defend guards; he’s a monster in transition; he has good court vision; he has a smooth jump shot; he can handle the ball and pass it; and he’s shown he can be a terror on the boards.
Will everything work out? Let’s see. Most people don’t think it does. Jonathan Kuminga will need to make better choices, work harder on defense and rebounds, and work on his skills.
Because of these skills, Kuminga is harder to replace than Moody. Even though he has yet to figure out the whole package, he can do things that few NBA players can. As Draymond Green gets older and needs to handle his load more, this could become more and more important. He is a hard player to find for the senior minimum in free agency.
Chris Paul’s arrival this year will help Kuminga a lot, and as a result, Kuminga could become a player that the Dubs can’t imagine a future without.
A Case for Moses Moody
Moses Moody has a higher floor, but Kuminga has a higher roof. Right now, he’s the better player. He finished the season in the rotation, while Kuminga did not, and he fits the system better right now.
There are still two years until free agency. During that time, we’ll see if Kuminga’s ceiling becomes more realistic or if Moody’s floor gets even higher, which will teach us a lot. But the Dubs are more hopeful that Moody will be able to help the team, which is very important.
There’s also the question of whether the player will even reach free agency. In the next two years, it seems more likely that Jonathan Kuminga will be moved than Moses Moody. He is due more money, a team that bets on his potential is more likely to give him a good return, and he has already hinted that he might ask for a trade.
Even if Moses Moody becomes a great player by the time he becomes a free agent, he will be a great player who isn’t too expensive since the top end of the three-and-D market usually settles between $12 million and $18 million per year.
Two players who have a lot in common and a lot that makes them different. It will be interesting to see what happens.