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Kevon Looney is poised for playoff success

Looney’s defensive presence and versatility makes him maybe the Warriors’ best option at center

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kevon Looney began the season as the forgotten man of the Golden State Warriors’ roster.

His first two seasons in the league were effectively lost to injuries to both hips, and the Warriors declined to pick up his team option for the 2018-2019 season.

But he’s proven to be one of the most reliable options at center on the team. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, at first glance he might be too small for the position. But his nimble feet, 7-foot-3 wingspan, and acute defensive awareness make him perfect for the modern NBA.

The Warriors have been at a tough spot at the center position this season. The Death lineups with Draymond Green at the five haven’t done as well this season, so Kerr has opted to play a traditional center more often than not. Zaza Pachulia has lost the starting role, as Steve Kerr has chosen his starting center by matchup every night. While Pachulia is the Warriors’ biggest and strongest center, he’s simply too slow to defend outside the paint. He’s also somewhat of a liability offensively.

JaVale McGee has started a bunch of games in his place, and although he’s a monster athlete who is excellent offensively, he still makes a bunch of defensive mistakes. Jordan Bell has flashed a bunch of potential, but he’s been injured quite a bit lately, and his inexperience will be a weakness in the playoffs. David West is as good as ever, but he can’t play too many minutes at his age.

Over the past few weeks, Looney has separated himself from the rest of the pack. He’s been a monster defensively, contesting shots at the rim and defending decently on the perimeter.

He hasn’t had a game without a block in nearly a month, and recently pulled down 11 boards, a career-high. Offensively, he’s still a work in progress, but he’s one of the best offensive rebounders on the team, can move without the ball, and has even shown the ability to shoot the ball. And he’s still 22!

Expect Looney to be a huge factor in Steve Kerr’s playoff rotation. He might struggle against big bodied centers who enjoy posting up, but he’s otherwise an excellent defender, and will find enough open looks offensively. He’s improved so much this year, and is genuinely a decent player.

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