Warriors

Looney's improved durability huge positive for Warriors

Warriors

If you're searching for bright spots from the Warriors' season, don't start and stop with the emergence of several young players such as Juan Toscano-Anderson and Jordan Poole. Or even with the reemergence of Andrew Wiggins. 

Another veteran player deserves a lot of credit: Kevon Looney.

The Warriors and coach Steve Kerr relied heavily on Looney through the final stretch of the season out of necessity. He was their only true center available since mid-April when James Wiseman suffered a season-ending injury, and while the Warriors leaned on small-ball lineups a lot, Looney was a stabilizing big-man presence. 

The thing is, when the Warriors turned to him to do so, they didn't know what they would be getting. Because of all the injuries, Looney has suffered throughout his career, his durability was in question. 

Before playing 31 minutes against the Nuggets on April 12, Looney hadn't played over 29 minutes in nearly six seasons in Golden State. He did it five times over the last 19 games this season. 

His scoring wasn't eye-popping, averaging just 4.1 points per game, but his impact defensively was clear. He finished with the team's third-best defensive plus-minus behind Wiggins and Green. 

When Kerr inserted Looney into the starting lineup in January, the first unit improved drastically. He was switched back to the bench nearly a month later because the Warriors decided to prioritize Wiseman's development, but when Wiseman went down, the Warriors were forced to rely on Looney and increase his playing time. 

 

That initial minute-boost, to just over 25 minutes, was already a milestone for how far Looney has come.

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Looney has a $5.1 million player option waiting for him this summer, and he should be expected to pick it up. He has a clear-cut role in Golden State, which has only become clearer over the last few months

Knowing that Looney can not only have this kind of impact, but also play at the volume he was at the end of the season and avoid injury (outside of a sprained ankle that held him out 10 games), provides the Warriors with a much-needed cushion heading into next season. 

It's unclear where Wiseman will be at in his rehab process by the start of the season -- we are expected to get an update in September -- so the Warriors shouldn't necessarily plan for him to be ready to go by opening night. And because Looney proved he could anchor the interior defense, they shouldn't feel the need to rush to get Wiseman back on the court.

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