The Golden State Warriors must re-sign Kevon Looney in free agency

Warriors (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Warriors (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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The Golden State Warriors have two major decisions to make this offseason, but they shouldn’t neglect to re-sign foundational big man Kevon Looney.

The Golden State Warriors attention this offseason will undoubtedly be focused on two names: Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. But one player who shouldn’t be overlooked is talented big man Kevon Looney.

He’s not an irreplaceable superstar like Durant. And he’s not a generational shooter like Thompson. But make no mistake about it, Looney is a valuable member of the Warriors roster.

And he’s one player that they cannot afford to lose.

Fortunately, the Warriors should have the upper hand when it comes to retaining his rights. Looney has played with the Warriors for the last four seasons without clearing waivers and thus he’s eligible for full Bird Rights.

As a result, the Warriors will be able to pay as much as they feel comfortable spending over the luxury tax as the exception allows them to exceed the cap to retain him. And that’s especially good considering that other teams are expected to have plenty of interest.

The Houston Rockets are one of those teams as the Warriors postseason rivals could look to steal Looney away from Golden State. Houston is desperate for cap space this offseason and rumors have been swirling that they could look to trade players such as Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, or P.J. Tucker.

And if Capela is moved, the Rockets will suddenly find themselves with a major hole at center — one that Looney could fill quite well.

While they could target pricier options such as Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez or DeAndre Jordan of the New York Knicks, Looney would give the Rockets a younger, cheaper option to fill their big man vacancy.

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But even though the Warriors will be occupied with their pursuits of Durant and Thompson, don’t expect them to ignore Looney. The 2015 first-round pick has steadily improved throughout his NBA career and served a key role as a bench contributor for the Warriors last season.

Looney posted career highs in virtually every statistic including points per game (6.3), rebounds per game (5.2), and assists per game (1.5). He did this while playing in 80 games — starting 24 of them — and averaging over 18 minutes per game.

However, it was his performance in the postseason that truly won Warriors fans over.

Looney was one of a number of Warriors players who suffered serious injuries during their deep postseason run. The 23-year-old took a hard fall defending a Kawhi Leonard drive in Game 2 of the NBA Finals and was diagnosed with a costal cartilage fracture near his collarbone.

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Originally thought to be a season-ending injury, Looney would push hard for a return and he would do just that after missing just one game playing once again in Game 4. From that point on, Looney wouldn’t miss another game and he was even pushed into the starting lineup in Game 6 for the first time in the playoffs.

With every shot, every dribble, and every step, it was clear that Looney was in agonizing pain. The grimaces on his face painted a picture of pure grit and determination — an individual unwilling to let his team or himself down even in the face of serious adversity.

Looney is a true Warrior and he means more now to the organization than he ever has before.

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With DeMarcus Cousins set to hit free agency, there’s no guarantee the Warriors can bring him back. The New York Knicks are rumored to be very interested in Cousins and Golden State might opt to move on and allocate their money elsewhere after just one season in the Bay Area.

And if that’s the case, re-signing Looney becomes a must.

The Warriors depth at center is limited with Jordan Bell set to hit restricted free agency and the unproven Damian Jones sitting behind him. Andrew Bogut likely won’t return either meaning that it would be Bell or bust if both Looney and Cousins leave.

Expect Golden State to make a strong push to retain Looney in free agency. At this point, it would be surprising if the two sides didn’t reach an agreement given the Warriors ability to pay him and his proven commitment to the team.

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Durant and Thompson may be the bigger names, but Looney’s value is not one that should be understated.