Golden State Warriors: Evaluating the Next Step for Kevin Looney

Warriors big man, Kevon Looney signed a one-year, million dollar contract to stay with the team for the upcoming season. Looney was a key contributor to the Warriors successful playoff run, especially against the Houston Rockets and in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was the first season he could just think about playing the game and not have to worry about the two hip surgeries he had the previous two years.

Now, this begs the question: What is the next step for Looney this upcoming season?

Already, Looney is a solid defender with a 7’5″ wingspan, despite being only 6’9″. He has the ability to block and alter shots and passes. His defense will often help ignite fast breaks for the Warriors. Not only can Looney block shots, but with his new nimbleness, he can now defend small players, making him more versatile on the defensive side of the ball.

In the above video, Looney stays with Chris Paul, one of the game’s most elite point guards to play the game. His hips stay level in a crouched defensive stance. He doesn’t look at the ball when he’s defending him. He looks at Paul, not at the ball. Looney uses his length to contest the Paul shot attempt and makes him miss badly.

It is also worth noting that Looney lost weight going into his third season in the league. This is one of the main reasons why he was able to play defense at a high level in the minutes he received last season. It is why he’s able to guard players such as James Harden and Chris Paul in the Western Conference Finals.

Last season, Looney averaged 4.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, and 0.8 bpg in 13.8 minutes per game. The numbers may not jump off the page, but he was a key contributor off the bench for the Warriors. In wins, he had a +4.3 +/-, but in losses his +/- dropped down to -3.5.

If there is one true skill Looney could improve on for next season, it’s on the offensive end with a couple of post-up moves or a 12-foot jumper like what David West has at the elbow or the foul line. If Looney were to develop either of these offensive skills effectively, not only would it speed up his development for his career, but it would also unload some of the pressure off the four all-stars having to create the offense.

One of the solid offensive games Looney had last year was at home against the Washington Wizards. He came in and had an immediate impact with his defense and availability on the interior for wide-open dunks.

In the video above, Looney uses his basketball fundamentals for a step-through finish over then-Wizards center Marcin Gortat. He also hustles down the court to get a couple of wide-open dunks. These are all traits that coaches love from players.

The first score Looney gets is a prime example of what he could potentially do on the block. Because he might be undersized and not as athletic against some centers, he’s going to have to use some of his basketball IQ and fundamentals to get a bucket like what he did against Gortat. If he is able to develop a few post-up moves in his offensive repertoire, then it will go a long way in his career and he won’t have to rely on created offense by his teammates.

Assuming new free agent signee DeMarcus Cousins is not recovered from his Achilles injury by the time the season rolls around, expect coach Steve Kerr to go to Kevon Looney to start at center before Cousins comes back with Jordan Bell getting some spot starts and significant time at the center position as well. Potentially starting at center would help his offensive development playing with the four All-Stars and it would help his game become more consistent. Consistency is a trait that helps players have a long career in the league.

Not once since Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, has Looney started with the four All-Stars. This should change with the departure of big men, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee. Should Kerr decide to start Looney, it would help his confidence and consistency on the offensive end needed to turn into a solid player in the NBA.

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