Kevon Looney was drafted by the Warriors with the final pick in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft. The Warriors, fresh off winning the championship—fresh off a glorious round of Nope and Yup—didn’t need to add an impact player. Instead, they took a gamble on a player who, if he had been completely healthy, would have been drafted in the top fifteen slots. Perhaps even drafted in the top ten.
Six foot nine—with a tenacious nose for the ball and a sweet stroke—Kevon Looney is everything you’d want from a stretch four in today’s NBA. He seems to always be in position for the rebound. He seems to work harder beneath the basket than should be possible for a player with his thin frame. His strength is wiry and razor-snappy. His long arms (Kevon’s wingspan is a preposterous 7’-3.5”, or 7.5 inches longer than his height w/o shoes) creates nightmares for his opponents, and his shooting form is as cool as the other side of the pillow.
However, there were fears around the NBA that Kevon would not be physically fit to play. Looney fell to the Warriors in the draft entirely because of concerns about his long term health. Even though he never missed a game in his lone season at UCLA, he was red flagged by a few team physicians with "degenerative back as well as a hip issue" that could require surgery in the future. But, with nothing to lose, the Warriors took a gamble on a high risk, high reward guy.
After being drafted, Kevon arrived in Vegas for 2015 Summer League and immediately impressed. The rookie put up 56 points and 43 rebounds total in 19.7 minutes per game over the course of his six games in action (9.3 pts / 7.2 rbs per game).
Things seemed to be going swimmingly for the talented rookie. Perhaps he wouldn’t need surgery. Perhaps those concerns about his health were premature and unfounded.
On August 20th, 2015—more than month after he had played so well in Summer League—Kevon underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip.
The Warriors’ GM, Bob Myers, had this to say at the time:
“Kevon has his entire NBA career ahead of him and we felt that, in consultation with our medical staff, Kevon and his representatives, it was best to address the issue now. He will have our complete support throughout the rehabilitation process and we are confident he will make a full recovery.”
After sitting out the first four months of the season to recover from surgery, the Warriors assigned Looney to their D League affiliate in Santa Cruz, where, over the course of 12 games, he posted averages of 9.8 points and 7.4 rebounds in 19.1 minutes of action per game.
He bounced back and forth between the D League and the NBA, where over the course of five games for the Warriors (a paltry 21 minutes played) he scored a total of nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
But...CHECK OUT THESE DOPE ASS PER 36 NUMBERS!!!
17.1 total rebounds per 36 minutes??? YESSSSS. HAHAHA, he’s gonna be a star. A STAR I TELL YA!
But then, just eight months after his initial surgery—just when things seemed to be finally coalescing for the young man—Looney was forced to undergo a second arthroscopic surgery, this time on his left hip. The original diagnosis was that he would miss a minimum of four to six months, which would seemingly have him returning to the court at the latest by late October (just in time for the Warriors’ opening night match at Oracle vs. the San Antonio Spurs).
Kevon has been working hard towards making a full recovery. He is dedicated to his body, he is dedicated to having an eventually successful NBA career, and he is seeking inspiration and motivation from every single available source.
Though he has only scored a measly nine total points to this date in the NBA, the sky is the limit for Kevon Looney. If he can put these hip issues behind him, and if he can remain healthy enough to stick around with the Warriors (even if he doesn’t see a heck of a lot of playing time), he’ll find himself once again surrounded by a wealth of talent. Imagine what an entire season spent practicing with Kevin Durant (similar in terms of length and body-type) could do for Looney! Imagine how grateful he’ll be when he (hopefully) regains his full health.
Remember, we once thought Stephen Curry would never make a meaningful impact in the NBA. We once shivered and cowered in fear every time Curry would make a hard cut on one of his ankles (okay, full disclosure, I still do that).
Here’s to hoping that—at the very least—Kevon Looney can stay healthy. Here’s to hoping that he reaches his potential, whatever that may be.