The Golden State Warriors are little more than a month beyond capturing their fourth NBA title of the Steve Kerr era, but team brass is already making crucial decisions about the lineup for the start of next regular season.
The positions of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green as starters are about as guaranteed as jobs get in the Association. Andrew Wiggins cemented himself as the fourth starter after earning his first trip to the All-Star Game last season and then performing as arguably the team’s second-best player in their six-game NBA Finals victory over the Boston Celtics.
But the fifth spot in the lineup — the center anchoring the Dubs’ interior defense and responsible for making up a rebounding disadvantage the Warriors sometimes accept by playing on the smaller side — seemed like it could be the one starting role up for grabs. The two players competing for it are the recently extended Kevon Looney and former No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, entering his third year in the NBA after sitting out all of last season with injury issues.
The competition apparently isn’t as heated as it may have seemed, however, as Kerr made a definitive statement on who will start at center nearly three months before the regular season opens.
“[Looney] will come back as the starter,” Kerr said, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “He has earned that and then some. We’re all thrilled that he’s back. There was a real fear that we’d lose him. To get him back is massive for our team. It sets up well for Loon to continue what he did for us last year. In doing so, he’s really a good mentor for [Wiseman].”
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Warriors Lock in Looney for Years to Come
The Dubs secured Looney via a three-year contract worth $22.5 million in total, per Spotrac. It was a solid deal for both sides, after Looney was physically reliable and consistently productive all year long.
The big man appeared in every single regular season game in 2021-22, averaging six points, 7.3 rebounds and two assists per contest. His rebounding stats were a career high across seven years in the league, while his assists matched his career high in that category, per Basketball Reference.
Looney was also a crucial member of the Dubs’ championship run. He was a beast against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, averaging 10.6 points and 10.6 rebounds for the series, per ESPN. He also produced arguably the greatest performance of his career in the closeout Game 5, scoring 10 points and grabbing 18 rebounds while dishing out four assists.
Looney also showed up in the Finals against the Celtics, averaging 7.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per night, both increases from his regular season numbers, to go along with five points per game.
Warriors May Be Entering Final Season With All Their Core Members
While Looney, and presumably Wiseman, will both be around for several years to come, the Warriors’ core group may only have one run left as a unit.
Curry is under contract for the next four years and will certainly remain with the team. However, both Thompson and Green are up for extensions next summer. Golden State must also make decisions on long-term commitments to both Wiggins and Jordan Poole within the same timeframe.
Green wants a max contract extension, per The Athletic, while Poole is expected to garner a deal in the nine-figure range. Wiggins already makes more than $30 million per season and isn’t likely to be interested in a massive discount.
Thompson has indicated on numerous occasions in the past that he wants to finish his career with the Warriors. However, coming off of two serious injuries that sidelined him for nearly two and a half years, the Dubs’ front office may have to do some tough math on what they can pay the aging guard moving forward — depending particularly on how he looks next season.
A few things are for certain, though: the Warriors are defending champions, they brought back the group that Kerr referred to recently as the team’s “foundational six,” and they have a load of young talent led by Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga.
And the final guarantee — Golden State will run it back at least once more in 2022-23.