If one were attempting to define the concept of overcoming the odds for the big book of Golden State Warriors basketball, a picture of center Kevon Looney would probably suffice.
Despite entering the league as a 30th overall pick, averaging 1.8 PPG as a rookie and measuring in at a smallish 6-foot-9, Looney has grown to the point that he’s locked down a spot as the Dubs’ starting center. Moreover, he played a key role in getting Golden State back to the NBA Finals.
He was so good during Game 2 of the Warriors’ Western Conference Finals showdown with the Dallas Mavericks — scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds — that the Chase Center crowd unironically showered him with MVP chants.
As solid as he has been in the pivot, though, Looney faces an uncertain future in the Bay Area, regardless of whether or not the Dubs win the title. One league executive even believes that Golden State will ultimately have to choose between him and former No. 2 pick James Wiseman.
The Cap & Tax Reality
In speaking with Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney, a Western Conference executive opined that now is the time for Looney to reap the financial fruits of his labor. Alas, the Warriors aren’t in a great position from a luxury tax standpoint to give him his big payday.
“He should get something around the mid-level exception, he could get three, four years, about $40 or $45 million. The Warriors are in repeater tax territory so if they want to give him $10 million per year it is basically going to cost them $50 million per year, and they need to think long and hard about that. That will get even bigger once they get [Jordan] Poole signed and that kicks in next year.”
Therein lies the conundrum for the Warriors — do you continue to pay Wiseman an eight-figure annual salary in the hopes that he’ll live up to his massive potential or do you earmark those funds for the solid, yet unspectacular Looney?
“You just can’t afford to have both him and Wiseman,” said the exec.
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Kicking the Can Down the Road
Although the Warriors have a tough choice to make with Looney — who averaged 6.0 points and a career-best 7.3 rebounds per contest in ’21-22 — the exec does see one scenario where the team delays its big decision for another year while gathering more data.
“The one thing they could do is give him a two-year deal with an option at a big number, $25 million or something for two years. If Wiseman is your guy, you don’t pick up the option and you let him walk next summer. If Wiseman is still hurt, you keep Looney and do something with Wiseman.”
In any case, the situation at hand is just as difficult for the player as it is for the team.
“[Looney] loves being with that team and he won’t want to leave but he was underpaid on his last contract and he has got to look to cash in this summer.”