If you had told me back in 2017 that Kevon Looney would one day stand as bastion of grit and toughness for the Golden State Warriors, I would have retorted that you were full of nonsense. At that time he appeared to be a fragile bust; a series of devastating injuries effectively wiped out his rookie season, and later inconsistent play made Looney a potential candidate to be waived as recently as Summer ‘17.
Now, flash forward to the the 2018-2019 season, where Looney played 80 games for the Dubs, starting 24 of them, and finished 9th-highest amongst centers in Real Plus-Minus. His tenacious defense and hefty 7-foot-4 wingspan allowed him to hang with smaller players on the perimeter while still guarding the paint (he had a higher Defensive RPM than Clint Capela or Steven Adams!).
What block here from 6 foot 9 Kevon Looney on 7-foot-1 Alex Len, which leads to a Quinn Cook breakaway layup. pic.twitter.com/G8wbW4VnYw— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) April 9, 2018
Looney developed into a real pro last year, validating the Warriors’ decision to stick by him. Per Ethan Strauss of The Athletic:
“Having the hip surgery and then still having the pain with it, I was kind of scared jumping off one leg, jumping off two feet,” Looney said. “I was scared to be explosive. After I lost some weight and got really healthy, I got more athletic and healthy every year, more confident every year.
”They tell you, you play like I did with your hips being wrong your whole life, you’ve got a lot of untapped potential, a lot of untapped athleticism. Hopefully that’s true and I can find it.”
Looney earned the faith of the coaching staff and became an X-Factor during the postseason. He averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game during the tournament and repeatedly keyed pivotal sequences that swung momentum into Golden State’s favor.
This is a great thread of five huge plays by Looney looney down the stretch of G5. https://t.co/0x6h3ABA5f— Eric Apricot (@EricApricot) May 9, 2019
Kerr on Kevon Looney: "Looney has been a rock for us all year, one of our key contributors. He's wise beyond his years. He's a guy who just understands the game and makes the right play over and over again. He's really, really smart. ... He was great all series and big tonight."— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) May 11, 2019
His emergence as a rugged and dependable asset in the trenches was solidified in June against the Toronto Raptors. The Warriors’ defeat was marked by their defiance in the face of brutal injury woes, which Looney epitomized after suffering a gruesome collision with Kawhi Leonard. Remember when we thought Loon was done for the series?
The Warriors are going to miss Kevon Looney, who's out indefinitely with a costal cartilage fracture.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 4, 2019
Prior to his injury in Game 2, Golden State was +12.6 per 100 possessions with Looney on the floor this postseason, the best mark of any player on the roster. pic.twitter.com/vZM2jGTdLH
And yet, Looney returned heroically in Game 4. How did he go from “out indefinitely” to back to battling with the giants?
Kevon Looney on playing through injury in the Finals: "I didn't want to have no regrets so I went out there and sucked it up." pic.twitter.com/TMLfnS79l4— Chris Montano (@gswchris) July 6, 2019
Kevon Looney’s Bay legend status is confirmed. I have no idea how he dealt with the pain of that injury and still played with complete physical abandon.— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) June 11, 2019
Many in Dub Nation feared Looney would be scooped up by a thirsty team in the offseason who could offer him more money than the cash strapped Dubs. This was something that Andre Iguodala touched on last season:
Andre Iguodala on Kevon Looney this summer: “I hope he gets paid, so I hope he doesn’t come back because I hope he gets all the money.” pic.twitter.com/mZUI2Lm4JH— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) April 19, 2019
Fortunately, over this past offseason the 23-year old budding star agreed to return to the Bay in order to rebuild the Golden Empire.
Sources: Free agent Kevon Looney has agreed to a three-year, $15M deal to return to Golden State.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2019
On the Warriors Insiders podcast, Coach Steve Kerr gushed over how important retaining Looney was:
“That was a huge signing for us,” Kerr said. “Had we lost Kevon, we would’ve been in big trouble because — I said it late last year — he’s become one of our foundational pieces. I look at Kevon, with all of our departures, he’s now one of our best players and one of the guys that we’re really going to count on from night to night.”
Thank you Sir Looney for a breakout season. We in Dub Nation salute you and look forward to the next leap you’ll take as you expand your game.
How would you grade Kevon Looney’s 2018-2019 season?
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