Last week, Jonathan Kuminga, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the class of 2021, appeared as one of the graduates during The Patrick School’s digital graduation ceremony. As such, Kuminga, a 6’8 forward who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo but has lived in the U.S. since 2016, reclassified as a member of the class of 2020. The youngster previously put out a top-5, one which included Auburn, Duke, Kentucky, Texas Tech, and the NBA G League select team.
The real question here is what kind of player will one of those programs — or, possibly, the already stacked G League select team — get this fall? Putting it simply, they’re getting one of the best athletes in the recent history of American high school basketball and someone who oozes superstar potential. Kuminga is listed at 6’8 and 210 pounds with a 6’11 wingspan, but he plays bigger and stronger in every way. He’s the architect of some of the most brutal dunks of anyone on the high school or AAU circuit, and he did all of them before turning 18 (which he does in early October).
His defensive potential is obvious as a freight train shot blocker who plays well above the rim on the glass. As a shooter, Kuminga has good balance but questionable touch (he once shot in the 40s from the line for an entire AAU session), but his overall skill is solid enough to overcome some questionable shot selection. As a ball handler, Kuminga is very raw, often not having anything to go to if he’s unable to beat his opponent with sheer speed and strength. Like all 17 year olds, he has trouble switching hands, but like everyone his age, he’s likely to get better at it given time.
The real question with Kuminga as he goes forward is how his in-between game can develop. It’s hard to really evaluate him properly as a high school talent, because he either gets to the rim and scores or he doesn’t and shoots a questionable pull-up. Off ball, he’s a fairly capable shooter, but the difference between stars and role players in the NBA is often self-creation (i.e., the difference between Kawhi Leonard in 2012 and Kawhi Leonard in 2019). He’s not challenged enough by any single defender — unsurprising given he is bigger, stronger, and more athletic than everyone in his age group — to get a real feel for how skilled of an isolation player he is or could be.
The success of a player like O.G. Anunoby in Toronto, who developed as a dribbler and decision maker over his collegiate and NBA career, bodes very well for Kuminga, a player who is certainly farther along than Anunoby was at the same stage. Jimmy Butler is another, more high-end potential comp, another player who got by on overwhelming strength for a wing while slowly growing into a lead role. Whether or not Kuminga is the level of decision maker that has made Butler one of the most efficient players in NBA history is another question.
Kuminga could end up being the kind of player whose overwhelming physicality wins at the lower levels but fails to win out in the NBA — think Harrison Barnes or Michael Beasley — but it’s hard to imagine him not getting bigger, stronger, and smarter regardless of where he spends his last season before going off the to pros. Auburn would be a good stylistic fit for him, Duke and Kentucky are pro factories, Texas Tech is renowned for its physical development of its players, and it seems safe to assume that the G League select team would be given access to the best everything due to the NBA’s investment in the program.
As for where Kuminga fits into the 2020 class, that is tough to answer. He’s certainly a tier behind Cade Cunningham, but after that, things are wide open in this already great class. Players like Brandon Boston Jr., Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley are all vying for that second spot, and Kuminga is as good a bet to win out as any of them. He’s the kind of prospect NBA teams go absolutely crazy for: a young and athletic player with a sky-high trajectory who could find himself as one of those faces of a franchise-type dudes within three years of breaking into the league. His physical profile is something that cannot be taught, and with the refinement that should come with his next step, Kuminga should draw plenty of attention during 2020-21 en route to hearing his name called early in the 2021 NBA Draft.