Kevon Looney was a force for the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, setting career highs in points and rebounds and blocking opposing big men as he helped lead the team to a title.
The often-injured center wants an even bigger sequel next season.
Finally in full health, Looney played in all 82 competitions for the first time in his career — he started in 80 of them — and finished the season at 6 points a game while tacking a career-high 7.3 rebounds. Though the Warriors hope to gradually expand the role of young center James Wiseman in the coming season, Looney will be the acting starter and said he hopes for a career-best season.
As reported by NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole, Looney expects to slightly increase his playing minutes and return to his role as the team’s primary rebounder and defensive end next season.
Looney told the outlet he hopes to get league-wide attention for his defensive play, which is one of the most versatile among NBA big men.
“With the veil of his importance to the Warriors — his name will appear in the opposing team’s scouting reports — Looney told NBC Sports Bay Area this week that one of his goals is to get the all-defensive team’s attention ‘ Poole wrote. “He’s one of the few centers that usually holds his own against big men of color and moves to the perimeter as well.”
A resurgent season from Looney could be key for the Warriors, who lack traditional big men. The team lost Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr., and Wiseman is believed to have picked up a knee injury that wiped out the tail end of his rookie season and his entire sophomore year in the NBA. Although Wiseman showed great potential, the Warriors are expected to slowly advance him.
After the Warriors sent the Boston Celtics to their fourth title in eight seasons, the front office had to make some very difficult roster decisions. Free agents Gary Payton II and Porter had surpassed the one-year contracts they signed the previous offseason, and the Warriors couldn’t match the contracts they received from the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors, respectively.
However, the team’s priority was to bring back Looney, who was also a free agent and reportedly generated some interest in the league. The team signed the 26-year-old center to a new three-year, $25.5 million deal.
Looney also received strong endorsement from Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who clarified that he would remain the starting center.
“[Looney] will come back as a starter,” Kerr said, per The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “He deserves that and more. We are all happy that he is back. There was a real fear that we were going to lose him. Getting him back is huge for our team. It’s good for Loon to continue what he did for us last year. He’s really a good mentor [Wiseman].”