Looney's value to Warriors' starters goes beyond stat sheet


Kevon Looney is no stranger to positional battles at the center spot and lineup changes. It's been a constant theme in his six years with the Warriors. Through it all, he's learned a valuable lesson: Be prepared because chances are, coach Steve Kerr will make adjustments and your name might be called. 

This is the exact message Kerr told James Wiseman after the Warriors coach tapped Looney to replace in the starting lineup against the Timberwolves on Monday night. 

Kerr informed the players of this switch a few hours ahead of Monday's game. For Looney, it didn't mean a great deal of change.

"It doesn't really change what I do on the court," Looney told media members after practice on Tuesday. "My minutes are kind of the same and my role is the same, I just have to go out there and play hard, know my personnel and know who I'm playing with."

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Was this the right move? Well, some thought it was. Others thought switching out Kelly Oubre Jr. would have been better. But that's not up to us. And frankly, Kerr's adjustment worked. 

There isn't a big sample size of Looney in the starting lineup with the other four players. But, there is a big sample size of the five players being on the court together -- 40 minutes to be exact -- which is the second-most played lineup this season.


The group of Looney, Oubre, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins has a net rating of plus-50, the best out of lineups that have played at least 30 minutes together. Switch Wiseman in for Looney, and the net rating drops to minus-20.3.

As Kerr said after Monday's game, Looney is "rock solid." Finishing the game with just two points, five rebounds and four assists, Looney doesn't stuff the stat sheet like some would think a player who was plus-21 in the plus/minus would. Instead, he impacts the game in different, less tangible ways

"That's something my dad always talked to me about -- boxing out, hitting off the glass and doing that," Looney said. "For me having an impact, it might not be scoring, but getting Steph open or getting rebounds and not turning the ball over and not making small mistakes. I know when I get out there and I miss a couple of rotations or I might have a turnover here and there or I drop a pass, I know I'm playing bad. I stake myself to play mistake-free basketball when I go out there."

Most of the players Looney tries to model his game after are ones he feels played a similar way and had a knack for the details that don't show up in the box score. 

Growing up, Looney watched Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, and once he joined the Warriors, Looney learned from David West.

"Those guys are Hall of Famers, but you can learn small things and fundamentals from those great guys and add it to the basis of my game," Looney said. "Everybody pays attention to the points they score, but they don't watch the rebounds and the screens and small things."

Setting screens has been the main offensive component Looney has provided the Warriors, and he's become a primary screener for Curry, making Curry's shot easier to get off. 

There is no secret trick to screening for Curry, Looney says. It's just a natural talent. 

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Looney most likely will retain his starting job against Minnesota in the second half of the baseball-style series Wednesday night, and again on Thursday in Phoenix. But after that, Looney's guess on when he will get his minutes is as good as any. 

"That's what Steve likes to do. I wouldn't be surprised if in four or five games he switches again," Looney said. "That's the Warriors way, especially at the center position. But nothing really changed. Our minutes are about the same so it's not a big difference. To me, I don't really care about starting or none of that."