Golden State Warriors place big bets on Kevon Looney’s health

Golden State Warriors, Kevon Looney. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Golden State Warriors, Kevon Looney. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

The durability of Golden State Warriors’ center Kevon Looney has been nothing short of incredible over the last two years, with the 27-year-old having appeared in all 82 games in consecutive seasons.

This would be a major feat for anyone, but it’s particularly extraordinary for Looney. In his early twenties he missed dozens of games due to multiple hip surgeries, making him an undeniably slower player with moments where he didn’t look like lasting long in the league. No one thought he would become the unwavering ironman he has today.

In the modern NBA, it would be unprecedented for a player to have three seasons without a game missed. The odds would suggest Looney is due for at least a minor injury sometime soon, yet the Warrior front office doesn’t seem to be planning for it.

The Golden State Warriors have placed heavy bets on Kevon Looney’s continued streak of health by not adding another big-bodied veteran center to the roster. The fate of their season could rely on his ability to remain injury-free as a result.

As Looney has stayed healthy over the last two seasons, he’s really blossomed as a player. He’s grown from a solid but replaceable big man off the bench, to an invaluable piece of this Golden State team. He’s dominated the glass and holds his own against opposing centers, playing well above his 6’9″ size.

The 27-year-old center’s value was on full display during the Warriors’ 2023 playoff run. In his 25 minutes per game, Looney averaged 13.3 rebounds and pulled down 20 boards on four separate occasions.

He has quickly ascended to be a key role player on the Warriors with one of the best value contracts in the league. The Warriors have him under contract for two more years at an average $7.5 million per season.

That ranks him as the 34th highest-paid center in the league next season, getting paid less than unproven playoff centers like Isaiah Hartenstein, Paul Reed, Jock Landale and Daniel Theis just to name a few.

As the Warriors’ roster is currently constructed, Looney is the only true big man who can hold his own against size. Draymond Green, of course, can guard the best post players in the league, but his 6’6” frame doesn’t make him a viable full-time option at center. Golden State also added big-man Dario Šarić in the offseason, and although he’ll add a new weapon of spacing on offense, he cannot replace the rebounding and defensive prowess that Looney provides.

If Looney goes out for any extended period of time, the Warriors will likely rely on rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis to fill his role when the matchup calls. However, Jackson-Davis is a little undersized himself at 6’10” and as a rookie, shouldn’t be totally counted on until he proves otherwise.

The value that Looney provides to this Warriors team — rebounding, passing, screen setting, post defense — is not easily replaced by anyone currently on the roster. If he misses games, the lineups and schemes will be drastically different. You can bet that the Warriors’ success will take a hit in such an instance.

Warrior management shouldn’t necessarily be blamed for not adding a Looney replacement — any third or fourth-string center would likely not see many minutes, if at all, should everyone stay healthy.

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Management probably sees that potential ‘insurance’ player as a big hit to the luxury tax with little to no results displaying on the court. The Golden State front office seems confident that Looney can have another injury-free season. It’s a bold bet and only time will determine if it pays off.