Lakers Eyeing Warriors’ Starter as Free Agency Target

Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney

Getty Andrew Wiggins #22 and Kevon Looney #5 of the Golden State Warriors react during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center on June 05, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors are champions once again but bringing the band back together to defend their title will prove difficult, if not impossible.

While the core of the Dubs’ dynasty — namely Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and, to a lesser extent, Andrew Wiggins — all remain under contract through at least next year, major pieces of the roster will be up for grabs once free agency hits this offseason. And they will all have takers.

Among those players who could potentially land with other teams are wing Otto Porter Jr., defensive specialist Gary Payton II and center Kevon Looney.

Jovan Buha of The Athletic on Monday, June 20, laid out how and why one prominent Western Conference franchise with a ton of money and a glaring talent deficiency may target all three of the Warriors’ free agents, with a keen eye toward Looney in particular. The organization in question is the Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James and newly-hired head coach Darvin Ham.

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Defensive Shift Will Spark Lakers’ Interest in Looney

Lakers star LeBron James

GettyLos Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

Buha believes that Ham could push for a transition in the Lakers’ defensive philosophy and if that happens, the most likely shift would render Looney a perfect fit in the paint.

It’s unclear how much Ham is going to change the Lakers’ defensive principles, as they were a top-three defense the first two seasons under former head coach Frank Vogel. But if he adopts the more conservative style that the Milwaukee Bucks used under coach Mike Budenholzer, expect the Lakers to prioritize containing the paint, first and foremost.

The Lakers allowed the third-worst field-goal percentage at the rim this season. They need more resistance in the paint. [Anthony] Davis being more available will help tremendously, but they also need better paint defenders flanking him.

It’s not just about blocking shots or taking charges — many of the best defenders are already in the right spot before the ball handler or finisher gets there, preventing shots in the paint altogether.


Western Conference Exec Says Lakers Likely to Make Play For Looney

Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors

GettyKevon Looney (right) of the Golden State Warriors drives against Al Horford (left) of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter in Game 2 of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center on June 5, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The Warriors would undoubtedly like to retain Looney if possible, but if they believe that center James Wiseman is both healthy and capable enough to step into his role as the team’s primary center, then the cost of a new deal for Looney is a luxury the Dubs’ front office will have to forego.

Sean Deveney of Heavy.com on Monday spoke to a Western Conference executive about Looney’s circumstances in Golden State, as well as the Lakers’ interest in scooping up the center.

The best situation for the Lakers is Looney. If the Warriors decide they’re giving that job to [James] Wiseman no matter what, then they’re going to have to let Looney walk.

The market for Looney is not going to be outrageous because there are a lot of centers out there and he is very limited on the offensive end. But he is a really good role player to have alongside Anthony Davis, where he knows when to get in and fill the lane and when to back off. He can protect the rim. He is a lot like JaVale McGee was for them, and McGee did such a good job of filling the gaps around AD and LeBron [James].

If Looney can’t get the big payday this year, he’s a UCLA guy and playing well for the Lakers can get him some notice until 2023, [when] there will be a lot more money out there.

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