The Golden State Warriors are still explosive, but the first game of the season showed a glimpse of how much they are going to need Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody if they want to contend for a fifth title.
The Phoenix Suns were too much for the Golden State on opening night. At halftime the Warriors were down 15 points, and it took them less than four minutes of third-quarter action to cut that deficit to one possession. They ended up losing the game, 108-104.
Kuminga was first off the bench for the Warriors. He subbed in for Chris Paul just under five minutes into the game. His first contribution was a personal foul. Kuminga was pulled out before the end of the quarter after recording his third foul.
Moody, however, came off the bench red hot. He went 3-for-4 from the field and recorded a block and a steal. His shot looked fluid and he was consistently in good position on the floor. If NBA awards were decided after the first quarter of opening night’s second game, Moody would win Sixth Man of the Year.
Kuminga did not touch the floor at all in the second quarter. Moody continued his strong play, and the Warriors were down by only five points when he was subbed out with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
During the second half it was Kuminga who consistently scratched tally marks into the stat sheet while Moody’s game sunk into the abyss. Of the 12 points Kuminga scored, 10 of them came in the third quarter, while Moody only played a few minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Moody recorded his only second-half stat — a turnover. He was yanked early in the quarter and would not return until the final 10 seconds.
The opening minutes of the fourth were golden for Kuminga. He scored the first points of the quarter and blocked a Kevin Durant jump shot. Kuminga was feisty, but also committed two more fouls. One of those was his second offensive foul of the game. Coach Steve Kerr deciding to end the game with Kuminga on the floor instead of Andrew Wiggins.
With no Draymond Green on the court, both Kuminga and Moody played around 20 minutes on Tuesday. The fact that they even recorded that many minutes is a huge step up from the Warriors’ opener last season. James Wiseman played more minutes than both of them, and he didn’t even finish the season on the team.
Not only did Kuminga and Moody spend significant time on the court, their contributions were necessary to keep the game close. A good start, but they have to be even better as the season progresses if the Warriors want to be championship contenders.
The Warriors cannot depend on 34 minutes from Paul on a regular basis. He played more minutes than Stephen Curry. Even though Paul shot 26.7 percent from the field, his nine assists to one turnover helped keep them in the game.
Certain nights, the Warriors can call on that effort from Paul. But most games, they are going to need their two 2021, top-15 picks to carry a significant portion of the load. Tuesday was a positive, but that had better not be anywhere close to Kuminga and Moody’s peaks for this season.
When they enter the game, the Warriors need to know those two will produce more than simply good minutes. Kuminga and Moody have to become players that the opposing coaches highlight on scouting reports.
If in their third season they can play that well, the Warriors have as good a shot as any NBA team to win the championship. If foul trouble, turnovers, poor shooting, weak defense, or any combination of the four plague those two throughout the season, the Warriors are headed for another first-round exit.