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The rise of Kevon Looney

Few thought Looney would be a positive contributor for the Warriors this year. But Looney has put together a string of awesome games that may earn him some rotation minutes.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into his third season, Kevon Looney projected as the fourteenth or fifteenth man on a crowded Golden State Warriors roster. Looney has suffered injuries to both of his hips, and has consequently never looked spry or quick enough for the NBA level.

Looney’s odds of becoming a long-term piece of the Warriors’ core diminished greatly with the drafting of Jordan Bell this offseason. His team option for next year was unsurprisingly declined, and his future with the team is uncertain.

Steve Kerr kept emphasizing that Looney “had a fantastic camp,” and was in the best shape of his career, losing twenty pounds this offseason. He even chose him as the MVP of a scrimmage during the preseason. But in a crowded frontcourt on a championship team, minutes for Looney are still tough to come by.

Looney’s season began poorly: against the Rockets in the season opener, Looney played crucial second-half minutes after Draymond Green’s injury. He could not compete defensively, and was a -7 in seven minutes in the Rockets’ comeback victory. He only played one of the next seven games.

But recently, Looney has put together a string of excellent performances. Against Washington, he tallied nine points and five boards, and against Miami, five points, three rebounds, and three blocks. He’s looked athletic enough for the league, and has been competent both protecting the rim and switching onto quicker players.

Against the Philadelphia 76ers, Looney put in the best performance of his career. His box score totals (four points, two rebounds, and three blocks) don’t tell nearly the entire story: Looney was a +14 in only fifteen minutes, and helped spark the Warriors’ massive third quarter run. Not only did Looney defend Joel Embiid well in the post, he showed the ability to rotate as a help defender and looked comfortable moving his feet on the perimeter.

Offensively, he made the right plays and showed some potential in the pick and roll. He was the only player on the Warriors without a turnover.

In limited minutes this season, Looney has shot 72% from the field, rebounded decently, and has been a plus defender. That’s a valuable big man for any team.

If he continues to play this well, Kerr will have no choice but to give him more minutes. By the playoffs, it’s possible that Looney becomes more valuable than any big other than Draymond Green and David West.