Keep Building: The Story of Kevon Looney
The Warriors’ young center has had a consistent uptrend in his development with the team
Kevon Looney was selected by the Warriors four years ago with the team’s 30th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. The UCLA product with a 7-foot-4-inch wingspan worked through early hip injuries and improved his play on the court to be a key part of the Dubs’ NBA postseason runs.
He has become such key piece of the team’s rotations that it earned the 23-year-old a contract extension this offseason.
Looney said his key to success has been simple: “Each year I try to get better and add something new to my game.” Thus far, he has done just that.
Looking at his per-36 minute stats since the 2016-17 season, Looney’s first extended campaign with the Dubs as he was limited to just five games his rookie season in 2015-16, he has shown growth in his scoring (from 10.9 to 12.2 points per 36 minutes), field goal percentage (.523 to .625), and offensive rebounds (3.5 to 4.7) while maintaining consistent production in other statistical categories (9.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.6 blocks over those three seasons).
Last season, Looney posted per-game averages of 6.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.7 blocks over 18 minutes of playing time, all career-highs for the big man.
In fact, Looney showed significant growth over just the last three months of the regular season:
February: 2.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, +9.9 in 14.6 minutes
March: 5.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, +11.2 in 14.3 minutes
April: 7.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, +15.7 in 12.8 minutes
When DeMarcus Cousins assumed starting center responsibilities upon his debut in January, Looney’s minutes took a hit. But, he found ways to be even more productive with the reduced playing time. Fans may have been keen to note Looney began featuring additions to his skillset, including more fluid movement around the rim and a clear confidence in his jumpshot, creating an ever-growing depth to his game.
His solid production continued through the 2019 Playoffs as he posted 7.1 points, 4.5 rebounds (including 2.0 offensive rebounds), 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.5 blocks during the Dubs’ postseason run. Most impressive perhaps was his versatility: as injuries altered the Dubs’ rotation, Looney was inserted into a variety of roles that required him to cover opposing centers as well as wings.
Back on April 15th in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, Dub Nation suffered two major losses in one game: giving up a 31-point lead to the Los Angeles Clippers and losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn left quadriceps. However, Looney shined bright in that game and tallied a career-high 19 points in 19 minutes, surpassing his previous high of 15 points posted against the Indiana Pacers on January 28th. Not only is the total number of points significant, Looney’s performance came on 6-of-6 shooting and 7-of-8 on free throws, well above his season shooting averages of 62.5 percent from the field and 61.9 from the line.
When the Dubs lost Kevin Durant to injury in the second round of the playoffs against Houston, Looney took on an increased role. He played the final seven-plus minutes of the game, totaling five points with a postseason-career high nine rebounds, including five offensive rebounds, in the Game 5 victory that gave the Dubs a 3-2 series lead (the Dubs won the series in six games). That drew praise from teammate Klay Thompson: “Kevon Looney, can't say enough about his performance. Five offensive rebounds, that's just heart right there.”
And then after Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals when Looney posted 12 points and 14 rebounds, Kerr went as far as to say that — on a team that features four All-Stars — “Looney has become one of our foundational pieces.”
“As the game goes on and players get tired, Loon gets more and more rebounds. He just has a knack for the ball. Really long arms. Great feel for the game. And so his rebounding… really a big key for us,” said Kerr.
Dub Nation will not soon forget Looney’s grit and determination in the 2019 Finals, either. He suffered a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture on his right side in Game 2, but missed only one game. Looney played through the discomfort for the remainder of the series, averaging 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in those final three games.
After building on his game throughout his young career, Looney is ready for more in the 2019-20 season, the debut season of the brand new Chase Center in San Francisco.
“A lot more on my shoulders this year… I’m really excited to show people what I can do,” said Looney.
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