The Golden State Warriors got off to a rough start when Draymond Green went down with a lower back injury on January 5. The team went 2-4 in their first six games without Green. His absence was immediately felt on both ends of the floor.
Green is the team’s best defensive player, so his play has certainly been missed on the defensive end. He also is the team’s lead distributor at 7.4 assists per game. Green is set to be re-evaluated at the end of the month and the Warriors are certainly eager for his return, but recently the Warriors have found some success in his absence.
As the Warriors are brought into trade rumors, especially with big men as their supposed targets, Looney has shown that they may not need a deal at all.
Warriors Recent Play
The Warriors have taken advantage of a recent lean spot in the schedule, winning three of their last four games. Two of their wins came against the woeful Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets, while Sunday’s win over the Utah Jazz was more impressive. During the Warriors recent play, one player, in particular, has stepped up.
Warriors big man Kevon Looney has been playing some of the best basketball of his career this season, and he’s even taken his play up a notch in Green’s absence. In the last four games, Looney has averaged 7.75 points, 10.75 rebounds, and 1.25 blocks in 27.75 minutes per game. Looking back further, Looney has played well during the entire stretch without Green.
Over his last ten games, Looney has averaged 7.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He’s played 24.3 minutes per game and has shot 57.4% from the field. His recent play has been an improvement on what has already been one of the best seasons of his career.
For the first time in his career, Looney has started every game for the Warriors so far this season. He’s averaging career-highs in minutes(20.7) and rebounds(7.2) per game. Looney’s 6.2 points per game is currently just below his career-best 6.3 points per game in 2018-19.
Warriors Notice Looney’s Impact
According to a story from NBC Sports Bay Area, the Warriors have noticed Looney’s play. Superstar Steph Curry gave Looney high praise after Sunday night’s win.
“Loon’s been unbelievable, all year really,” Curry said. “Especially with Draymond out, anchoring our defense and giving us a paint presence. He’s been blocking shots and rebounding and putting a body on big guys.”
Head Coach Steve Kerr also spoke highly of Looney’s play after the game as well.
“Loon was amazing,” Kerr said. “One-on-one, switching onto [Bojan] Bogdanovic and forced a really tough shot. And then Loon’s putback and three-point play was I think the key offensive possession of the game.”
Kerr also spoke about the improvement in Looney’s game last night. He also shed some insight as to why he thinks Looney has improved this season.
“If you don’t have your health, it’s tough to really grow as a player,” Kerr said. “You’re constantly in the training room and you’re more worried about just making it onto the floor rather than how you can improve. He’s worked so hard in the training room and with the training room. He’s gotten himself to this point health wise and now he’s got great confidence.
“He understands rebounding angles, he understands personnel. Great one-on-one individual defender against all five positions. He’s our best screener. He’s just a really important player.”
Looney is still just 26 years old, so his improvement is encouraging. His play this season has been important for the Warriors, especially in the absence of Green.