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Where would the Warriors be without Kevon Looney?

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The only healthy center on the roster right now, Looney can anchor the defense and contribute just enough on the offensive end.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kevon Looney’s rise over the past two seasons has been nothing short of remarkable. From having his team option declined to leading the Golden State Warriors’ centers in minutes played in the 2018 postseason, he’s become an integral part of the Warriors’ rotation.

Looney is not amazingly athletic, nor particularly gifted offensively. But he’s an incredibly smart defender for his age, using good footwork and tremendous length to both protect the rim and defend the perimeter. Offensively, he’s improved his finishing and passing this season. He’s a perfect role player any team would be lucky to have, and the Warriors were able to retain him for just the minimum.

With Damian Jones suffering a pectoral injury that will likely side him for most, if not all, of the season, the Warriors are short on centers. From last year, JaVale McGee, David West, and Zaza Pachulia are all gone. DeMarcus Cousins and Draymond Green are currently nursing injuries, though Green should be back sooner rather than later. Other than Looney, perhaps Jordan Bell can play some minutes at center. But he’s undersized and still learning the nuances of proper defensive positioning. Looney’s going to have to hold down the fort mostly by himself until Green returns.

Against the Hawks on Monday night, Looney recorded a career-high fourteen points on seven of eight shooting, dished out five assists, and was indispensable defensively with two steals and blocks apiece. Among the Warriors’ role players, he fits best with the stars, never shying away from the moment.

Looney has really improved moving without the ball, finding spots in the interior where he can finish plays given an easy pass. He has particularly good chemistry with Kevin Durant, who finds him on the pick-and-roll often. This game, he made two wide-open midrange jumpers when the defense gave him space—hitting those regularly would provide a crucial amount of spacing for an offense that can sometimes struggle to find it.

Looney has even showed off some impressive ballhandling in spurts. Here he is making a quick move to the basket on Trae Young:

Looney continuing to improve his game despite limited athleticism is great to see. For now, he’s the Warriors’ starting center, and he is not a liability in the least.