Like many NBA rookies, Kevon Looney's professional career is built on promising potential. The McDonald's All-American entered UCLA as a highly touted draft prospect and future lottery pick. After leading all Division-I Freshman with 15 double-doubles, the six-foot nine-inch small forward saw his draft stock plummet once news broke of his problematic health issues.
According to DraftExpress, an NBA executive described Looney being red-flagged with a "degenerative back as well as a hip issue" that may require future surgery. This immediately took Looney out of the conversation of being a contribute now type of player and into the category of developmental project with injury concerns.
Come draft night, only a handful of NBA teams possessed the resources to take on such a high-risk, high-reward player. The Golden State Warriors were one of those teams and selected Looney in the first round with the 30th overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft.
Coming of a historically great NBA season and their first championship in 40 years, the Warriors main off-season goal was to keep as much of their roster intact as possible. With 12 of 15 players from their title squad returning for the 2015-16 season, Golden State did not necessarily need a rookie to produce right away.
As Tim Kawakami of San Jose Mercury News reports:
"The Warriors love mid-sized, versatile, mobile forwards-Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, James Michael McAdoo-and Looney fits right in there with a decent three-point shot and ability to run the floor, rebound, dribble, and defend multiple positions."
Warriors' General Manager Bob Myers spoke highly of Looney in his draft press conference, but noted how Golden State's roster is currently constructed that it would be difficult for any rookie to earn a spot in the rotation. Regardless, many consider Looney at the 30th overall selection to be the steal of the draft and a perfect fit for the Dubs' style of play.
On August 20th, 2015, Looney underwent a successful surgery to to repair a torn labrum in his right hip. Myers said of the surgery that the Warriors will need Looney's production in years to come and that it is best to address his injury now, rather than later.
After sitting out the first four months of the season to recover from surgery, the Warriors assigned Looney to their D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors on January 4th, 2016. His averages of 9.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in nine D-League appearances are solid but far from spectacular.
Looney was recalled from the D-League on January 24th and made his NBA debut four days later against the Dallas Mavericks. He scored two points, grabbed two rebounds, dished out two assists and recorded one steal in just six minutes of action.
Looney has since been assigned to the D-League twice, with Golden State most recently recalling the rookie on March 7th. He has recorded a total of 21 minutes thus far this season and has yet to truly make an impact at the NBA level. But as the season continues and the Warriors prepare for another deep playoff run, there is a possibility that Looney can earn more minutes if the Dubs choose to rest players down the stretch.
Golden State has essentially labeled any production from Looney at the NBA level this season as a bonus. However the Warriors' current crop of bigs have been in flux as of late. Reserve big men Festus Ezeli and James Michael McAdoo have both missed considerable amounts of time this season due to injury, prompting Golden State to sign veteran center Anderson Varejao.
"Looney's presence could affect how much the Warriors are willing to go to pay Harrison Barnes, who in July becomes a restricted free agent.
And Looney's presence -- along with that of Barnes -- certainly would affect the maneuvering required for the Warriors to lure Kevin Durant to the Bay Area."