The GSoM community is ranking the Warriors' players, but we're doing it "Survivor" style, eliminating one player per poll, until we've decided who is the most valuable to the Warriors in 2017 and beyond.
We're referring to the players as "assets." As such, voters are reminded to consider age, salary, injuries, production, potential and overall value to the team (as either a player or trade piece) when making their selections. Basically, you're part of the front office, and it's time to cut the next player.
As we continue to move through the roster and ranking the assets, we still find ourselves in the "potential" category. How do you assess players on the roster that have not been healthy enough to play at 100% and show their true value to the roster? To go along with Damian Jones, Kevon Looney is a first-round talent, buried on the Warriors’ roster behind superstars, but one who could still find a place in Steve Kerr’s rotation because of this team’s "Strength by Numbers" mantra.
Looney represents some of the best young potential on this roster (behind Patrick McCaw of course). His pedigree is pretty impressive - recruited out of Milwaukee (known as the best rebounder the state has produced in years) to UCLA, where he made a huge impact in his one and only year. Looney was a double-double machine in college, averaging 11.6 Points Per Game (PPG) and 9.2 Rebounds Per Game (RPG) (also threw in 1.4 Assists Per Game (APG) with .9 blocks).
He earned Second Team All-Conference honors in the Pac-12, and seemed destined to be a top-15 pick. On draft night, he found himself falling to the end of the first round, and right into the lap of the Warriors who could take a chance on a raw prospect that the league had labeled with "health concerns."
Up until now, those same health concerns have driven the narrative for Looney. He developed a hip injury during his first few weeks with the Bruins in college, and played through the injury. On draft night, the Warriors claimed they were "aware of the injury," but after seeing him play in Summer League, immediately sent him under the knife to essentially end his rookie year.
He would make it back on the court for garbage time at the end of 2016. He entered the summer looking to push his development with with the team, but before the season started he would end up back on the surgery table to fix both hips.
Fast forward to this year’s training camp: Looney has been slowly working back into condition and proving he might just have a place on this team. While the stars were sitting during the last few preseason games, Looney found himself on the court making an impact as an offensive rebounder and powerful finisher around the rim.
Here in lies where this young star might find his purpose - as a disruptor who can develop his offensive game over time, but could make an immediate impact because of his length and his eventual shooting range (hit 41% on threes in college and featured a sufficient stroke when playing down in Santa Cruz).
This aspect of his game plays to Looney’s advantage - he was rarely the focus of his own offense in UCLA. He would score most of his points on the same putbacks, rebounds and fast breaks that the Warriors will ask him to score on now.
If Looney ended up on a team where they would ask him to play in isolation and create for himself, you could see him getting buried very easily. He now finds himself in the optimal role for his skill set: set good picks, roll to the basket and finish in the way that guys like Bogut and Ezeli struggled to do last year. His current issue is and will be his defense.
Looney still looks slow on his feet against quicker scorers and struggles with his skinny frame against larger bodies on the block. From watching his game, he has relied on his length for so long against lesser talent, but now must face mature ball handlers and will have to learn to take advantage of better technique in one-on-one situations.
Looney’s value as an asset is in his young age - only 20 years old-, his inexpensive salary - still on his rookie contract at $1.13M-, and the possibility that he could fill a Tristian Thompson-like role with this team. He can focus on being a dominant rebounder while surrounded by elite scorers. Looney himself has said that he feels back at "100% strength", though he must still get his conditioning to an NBA-level.
Whereas a guy like Damian Jones is a long-term "potential" talent, Looney finds himself with a real chance to make an impact in the months to come. Let’s hope he continues to dress on game nights, and work his way out of garbage time minutes to a real rotation spot.