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Best case/worst case: Kevon Looney

How good - or how bad - might we see Looney be in his fifth NBA season?

2019-20 Golden State Warriors Media Day Photo by Jack Arent /NBAE via Getty Images

With the NBA season starting this week, we’re running through mini previews of the Golden State Warriors’ 16 players, focusing on what their best and worst case scenario is for the upcoming year. Next up is center Kevon Looney. You can check out the other best case/worst case articles below:

Ky Bowman
Alec Burks
Willie Cauley-Stein
Marquese Chriss
Stephen Curry
Jacob Evans III
Draymond Green
Damion Lee

Preseason stats

Did not play

2018-19 stats (Warriors)

80 games, 6.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game

64.1% 2FG, 10.0% 3FG, 61.9% FT, 63.6% true-shooting

Role on the 2019-20 Warriors

In his fifth season, Kevon Looney will have the most important role of his career. The Warriors enter the season with only three centers: Marquese Chriss, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Looney. And only the latter two are established NBA players. And Cauley-Stein is injured.

With Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Kevin Durant gone, plus Klay Thompson injured, the Warriors have only two players who are proven, high-quality NBA defenders: Looney and Draymond Green.

When the Warriors are healthy, Looney will split minutes with Cauley-Stein, anchor the defense, and serve as a savvy pick-and-roll screen man.

Best case scenario

In the 2018 Western Conference Finals, Looney established himself as one of the premier switching big men in the NBA. Rarely, if ever, had we seen a center handle himself so well when switched onto James Harden and Chris Paul.

A year ago, Looney cemented that reputation. He added improved interior D to his elite switching skills, making him a highly valuable defensive player.

The Warriors defense will be worse this year. It would be hard to argue otherwise. The question is, does Looney stay as engaged and valuable even when the role becomes bigger and more crucial?

If he does, he’s a defensive force on a team that desperately needs him. He started flashing a three-pointer last year, and while he only made one of his ten attempts, his form and results were stellar in warmups and practices. He’ll have increased scoring opportunities with Durant gone and Thompson out, and if he can continue to develop his game around the rim, he should be able to approach double figures, while maintaining strong efficiency.

An elite screener, top tier defender, and strong finisher, who can occasionally make the defense pay with a three ball? Yeah, that’s a pretty good best case scenario. Still just 23, it’s fair to assume we’ll see another step forward from Looney this season. So the best case scenario just my come to fruition.

Worst case scenario

Looney is a safe player, insofar as he plays strong defense and never tries to do too much. His floor is high. It’s hard to imagine him having a poor season on the court.

But the injuries could derail the first year of his bargain three-year, $15 million contract. Looney suffered a chest injury in the 2019 NBA Finals, which he valiantly played through, and doesn’t seem to be bothering him now. But a hamstring injury flared up in the summer, and was re-aggravated in the preseason, keeping Looney from seeing the court in preseason.

Add that to the list of lower body injuries that Looney suffered as an amateur athlete, and it’s fair to label him as a little injury prone.

The Warriors don’t have much interior depth. Chriss and Omari Spellman are wholly unproven, Alen Smailagic is 18, and Eric Paschall is undersized. Golden State is in trouble if injuries keep Looney out for more than a handful of games this year. That’s the worst case scenario.