Golden State Warriors Draft Analysis: Kevon Looney


With the 30th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors selected Kevon Looney out of UCLA. A 6-foot-9-inch combo forward with a 7-foot-3-inch wingspan, Looney will likely be groomed to become Golden State’s stretch-four off the bench.

The Warriors went into the draft on Thursday with two needs: shooting in the backcourt off the bench, and a big man to replace David Lee, who’s been on the team’s trading block for quite some time.

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And while Leandro Barbosa turned out to be a good shooter off the bench for Golden State, he is not guaranteed to stick with the team after serving the length of his 1-year contract.

That’s where Looney comes in. Looney, 19, was once thought to be a top-10 talent in his draft class before being flagged for having what’s reported as a “degenerative back” in addition to a “hip issue,” per Draft Express.

A report from ESPN claimed that it was possible Looney would miss his entire rookie season due to the lingering, but “fixable” issue with his hip, a report that was later refuted by CBS Sports and supported by a statement made by Looney’s agent, Todd Ramasar, that held Looney made it just fine through pre-draft workouts.

Though unaware of rumors regarding Looney’s back issue, Warriors general manager Bob Myers addressed the press shortly after drafting Looney and assured everyone watching that Golden State would go through the necessary process of evaluating Looney’s physical status moving forward.

When asked about whether Looney would miss some time, Myers didn’t rule out the possibility:

"“It’s possible, but not for sure. We’ll look at him, let our doctors make that determination,” Myers said.“Fortunately for us, whatever it is — with our roster, the way it’s constructed — it’d be hard for anybody we draft to get a chance to crack the rotation. So if he needs to take some time to recover from anything that might be there, or not, then he will. And we’re fine with that.But we have no indication that there’s anything that has to happen. We haven’t looked at him ourselves and if we do and there’s something, we’ll deal with it.We have no indication that he needs surgery or has to have any type of procedures done.”"

The Warriors had several options remaining by the time they were on the clock, including shooter Anthony Brown out of Stanford and Rakeem Christmas out of Syracuse, but Golden State general manager Bob Myers was intent on selecting Looney after he fell onto their lap.

"“We had him ranked higher clearly than 30. So for us, we grabbed what we thought was the best player available,” said Myers.“We think he’s a skilled player and he fits our system–he’ll be able to pass; he’s a good shooter, he shot over 40% from three in college.So [he’s] got some upside; he’s going to have to work hard in a lot of areas, but we’re excited.”"

And the Warriors certainly have the right to be excited with Looney falling to 30.

If healthy, Looney has the potential to be an incredibly versatile weapon at the power forward position, much like Draymond Green has been for the Warriors this past season. In his freshman year at UCLA, Looney averaged 11.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists, displaying good scoring ability, an affinity for grabbing boards and a willingness to get his teammates involved.

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In fact, rebounding is what Looney is renowned for, as he shows great instincts when it comes to cleaning the glass — even more so on the offensive end, where he averaged 3.4 offensive boards for UCLA. Despite being a skinny 222-pounds, Looney’s wingspan and box out technique helps keep other big men at bay, and there’s no absolutely no doubts regarding his motor and competitiveness battling against other big men.

It’s because of his motor and natural feel for the game that led to Looney leading all NCAA freshman in double-doubles (15), which included a stretch of seven double-doubles over his first 10 games with the Bruins.

In addition, Looney went 22-for-53 from behind the arc (41.5%) and has the potential to become a threat from three-point land. Though he recently told KNBR that his shot is “still kind of streaky,” there’s really no reason to draw concern over his shooting mechanics as he looks to extend his range and work on his consistency.

On the defensive end, Looney averaged just about a block and a steal playing at the top of UCLA’s 3-2 defense, which is an extremely encouraging sign going on to the next level. He’s expected to add more weight so that he’s better equipped to deal with opposing big men, but his ability to utilize his length in an effective manner is the main reason why scouts believe he can mold himself into a solid defensive big.

Many speculated as to whether the Warriors would be able to move up in the draft using a possible trade package involving David Lee’s expiring $15.5 million contract.

For weeks the Warriors have been trying to find a reasonable deal that would open up more money for Green’s probable max contract, but they’ve since been unsuccessful in finding a new destination for Lee.

With Brandon Rush opting into his $1.27 million player option, the Warriors are also looking to extend Harrison Barnes, and they’re seriously considering taking on Marreese Speights‘$3.8 million team option, so finding a new destination for Lee’s money is imperative if the team wants to avoid paying the luxury tax for the first season ever.

At the moment, the organization is in a great position with Lee still on the roster, Looney still possibly a year or two away from being a serviceable NBA big man and the team coming off a recent title. If Myers does well in free agency, chances are Looney will spend much of the season with the Warriors’ D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz, but Myers says being the reigning champion and having a solid core group allows them the convenience of being  patient.

"“We’re pretty happy with our team, pretty happy with our depth,” Myers said.“The draft allows you an opportunity to build with some youth and so we took a 19-year-old. We’re fortunate we can do that–a lot of times in the draft you have to take a player and hope he can help you right away.We’re not in that position and if he can help us right away, that’d be great, too. But we’re not forced to throw someone out there right away which speaks to the roster as it is.”"

All things considered, the Warriors deserve a C for their draft day performance.

Despite the possibility of him having lingering health issues, Looney’s talent and upside alone still earned him a high position on a number of team’s draft boards, as evidenced by the fact he was one of the 20 draftees that were invited to the NBA Draft Green Room. If he ends up working out in the long run, he could prove the steal of the draft.

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They also didn’t create the opportunity to get rid of Lee’s money, nor have they addressed the need of a shooter in their second unit (though recent reports point to the Warriors adding shooting guard Michael Frazier out of Florida, who went undrated Thursday night).

It would have been much more reassuring had the Warriors drafted someone who could have came in right away to contribute rather than a long term project, but Myers put a great deal of emphasis on everyone being patient. So far, the front office has given little reason for anyone to doubt them.

Nevertheless, Looney will have the chance to prove that the Warriors didn’t roll the dice on a bust in the coming seasons.

Best case scenario is he comes in and shows the other teams that passed on him that they made a haunting mistake early on in his career. As blessed of a year the Warriors have had, I wouldn’t rule that out of the list of possibilities.

Next: Warriors Title Long Overdue