The Golden State Warriors entered the preseason with a few decisions to make. Following the signing of Quinn Cook to a two-way contract, the roster has shaped up nicely.
But the biggest decision on their list is still to be made. As outlined previously, the Warriors need to make a call on whether to pick up Kevon Looney’s final year option for the 2018-19 season by October 31.
So Looney entered the preseason needing to impress. He certainly got lots of praise initially from Kerr.
Looney had a couple of decent stints in the preseason, in particular putting up 8 rebounds and 9 points in 18 minutes in the final game against the Sacramento Kings.
That rolled over into a somewhat surprising appearance against the Rockets on ring night to open the regular season. He found himself thrown into the fourth quarter lineup as the Warriors coughed up a 13-point lead. Without the footspeed to keep up with the Rockets, in truth, he struggled a bit.
Since that time it’s all gone a bit quiet. Looney was inactive for three games, before being activated last night in place of Javale McGee. So what’s going on?
Ask not for whom the Bell tolls
Well there are three potential reasons for Looney’s court time early on. They could just have been showcasing him for a trade, trying to work out what they have, or genuinely think he deserved to play. Or of course it could be a combination of any, or all, of the three.
The bigger challenge for Looney has been the emergence of Jordan Bell. I mean look at the balls on this kid!
Jordan Bell Bringing back the old school T-Mac pic.twitter.com/idl2FZvWks— NBCS Warriors News (@NBCSWarriors) October 24, 2017
Jordan Bell has clearly jumped over him and Damian Jones (dunk contest idea!) in the rotation.
For Looney to persuade the Warriors to pick up that option they’d have to see a future role for him.
It’s certainly the case that none of the Warriors’ center rotation of Zaza Pachulia, David West, and McGee are guaranteed to be here beyond this year. They’re all on one-year deals and aren’t getting any younger.
While Jones may be a ways away, it’s easy to see him earmarked as an athletic big in the Javale role.
Bell, meanwhile, is creating his own role, but right away it’s clear he can provide some of the switchy, mobile big man play former Kerr favourite James Michael McAdoo used to. Except he looks like he’s going to be a lot better.
A future role for Looney?
So where does Looney fit? On the plus side he is clearly a strong rebounder, and seems to have a decent basketball IQ, often finding the right spots on the floor. He’s young too - despite this being his third year in the league he is only 21.
Unfortunately he lacks some quickness, which is why he got a little exposed against Houston’s firepower.
Not all the Warriors big men are switchy, quick, athletic guys. Indeed Zaza Pachulia, and at this point West, are somewhat more plodding. But Looney doesn’t have the bulk of Zaza, and when Looney bulked up last year he looked even slower.
Could he be a future replacement for David West? Aside from West’s crucial veteran leadership, he’s an important hub on the offense in the second unit, and has been making mid-range jumpers for 15 years in the NBA.
Interestingly, Looney played point guard in high school, and his inside-outside game was touted as he went to UCLA.
It’s part of what makes Looney such an effective weapon at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds. He’s an elite rebounder — 13 per game as a high school senior — and rim protector — eight blocks per game. But he’s most comfortable on the wing, handling the ball, coming off screens, and slashing into the paint. As the best player on his team in high school, Looney actually played mostly point guard, just because he happened to be the tallest and the best passer.
In college too he was a capable outside shooter, hitting 41.5% from the college three point line.
However, he has yet to really demonstrate these skills in the NBA. Having spent the first two years of his NBA career struggling with injuries this is understandable.
But if he can rediscover his playmaking ability and outside shot there may yet be a role for him, especially with West saying this is his last season.
He’s got to get on the court first though, and that in itself is a challenge with a bevy of big men fighting for time. In the end Looney may be the odd man out. But at only 21 he may still be worth the gamble.
What do you think Looney’s future with the Warriors will be?
This poll is closed
None - the Warriors will decline his option
None - he will be traded or cut mid-season
A David West-style replacement
I don’t care as long as Jordan Bell is a Warrior for life