Getting to Know Kevon Looney

by Brian Witt

The Warriors made their first post-Championship acquisition last night, selecting freshman forward Kevon Looney out of UCLA with the 30th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. Looney averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds in his first and only season at UCLA, leading the entire country in double-doubles among freshmen, a group that includes first overall pick Karl Anthony-Towns. Looney, 19, is now the youngest Warriors’ draft pick since Bob Myers became General Manager. Here are five things to know about Golden State’s newest addition:

He’s A Rebounder

The Warriors were the 10th-worst offensive rebounding team in the league this past season, and while he brings more to the table than solely rebounding, Looney has proven himself to be a terror on the offensive glass. In his only season at UCLA, Looney averaged 4.2 offensive and 11.4 total rebounds per 40 minutes of playing time. What he lacks in girth, he makes up for in length and technique. He’s lighter than most typical power forwards, but utilizes his long arms and strong box-out technique to compensate for any weight disadvantage. He shows great instincts on the glass, and also has the ability to push the break on his own after hauling in a rebound.

He’s Got Range

Last season at UCLA, Looney shot 41.5 percent from behind the 3-point line. Granted, that was on only 53 attempts, but the quality is promising, even if the quantity is lacking. As the season wore on, Looney’s three-point shot actually improved. He made 13-of-20 (.650) three-pointers over his final nine conference games, making at least one trey in each of them. In general, he’s not a prolific shooter and does need to improve his free throw percentage, but he has proven himself to be a perimeter threat when receiving the ball in advantageous situations, particularly when he doesn’t have to dribble much before his shot. For instance, he scored 1.05 points per possession on pick-and-pop jumpers while at UCLA, and 1.11 points per possession in catch-and-shoot scenarios. Those are more than adequate ratios as it projects to the NBA-level, particularly when you consider his efficiency should only go up when he’s surrounded by the deadly shooters already on the Warriors’ roster.

He’s Versatile

So, he can rebound and extend the defense. Yep, that’ll fit right in. Looney is tremendously long, but also possesses enough quickness and ball-handling ability to face up and drive at his defenders. So, when his defender ventures further out to the perimeter to account for his shooting ability, he’s able to blow right past them into the now-vacated lane where his pterodactyl-like wingspan makes for easy conversions at the rim. His versatility proves even more valuable on the defensive end, where he possesses the agility to stay in front of smaller, quicker players and the length and shot-blocking ability to cause opponents fits in the post. He played at the top of a 3-2 zone in college, which will translate nicely to the switch-heavy defense that the Warriors employ.

We’ve Been Down This Road Before

Stop me if this sounds familiar: A frontcourt player from the Midwest who fell in the draft due to concerns over positional fit and size. Yes, I’m referring to Draymond Green, and while it’s unreasonable to predict a Green-like rapid rise to stardom for Looney at this point, there are reasons to believe he could follow a similar path. Both are high-motor guys who utilize instincts and quickness to overcome perceived disadvantages. Green is also deceptively long, and Looney is taller and longer than him by two inches. While neither is going to win a Three-Point Contest, Looney possesses the potential to turn into a three-point threat in the same model as Green. His mechanics are sound enough that defenses will have to account for him, particularly in the corners and at the top of the arc. While he’s not at NBA range yet, it’s reasonable to expect he will develop it in the near future. Plus, it doesn’t hurt having the Splash Brothers as teammates and Steve Kerr as a coach to assist with that process.

He’s A Work-In-Progress

After turning 19 this past February, Looney was the ninth-youngest player taken in the first round of Thursday’s draft. On pure potential alone, he was widely regarded as a lottery pick, but Looney fell to the Warriors due to concerns about a lingering hip issue, as well as his general rawness. Well, luckily for both he and the Warriors, the Dubs don’t need him to play a major role right off the bat. The Warriors were already perhaps the deepest team in the league, so they can afford to give Looney all the time he needs to get healthy and develop. Chances are, he’ll see far more playing time in Santa Cruz next season than he will with Golden State, but that’s the position the Warriors are now in; They can afford to play the long game with Looney since they already appear quite well set for the short one, even without their shiny new toy. Time in Santa Cruz did wonders for players like Justin Holiday and James Michael McAdoo this past year, and it would seem the Warriors intend to take the same kind of approach with Looney. Of course, if Looney proves himself worthy of a spot in the main rotation right away, then that’s the best of both worlds.

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