Warriors Rumors: Veteran Big Man Could Lose His Spot in the Starting Lineup

Kevon Looney

Getty Kevon Looney looks to pass the ball in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

The Golden State Warriors may need to make a big change to match the youth and athleticism of the Boston Celtics and prevent the NBA Finals from getting away from them, an insider speculates.

It’s a strategy that could start with benching the veteran big man who has turned in some of the best performances of his entire career over the course of the playoffs.

Dieter Kurtenbach of the Mercury News wrote that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr could counter the athleticism of the Celtics by giving a bigger role to the team’s top rookie, which would send veteran big man Kevon Looney to the bench.

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Changes to the Starting Lineup?

After the Warriors lost Game 3 to fall into a two-games-to-one hole in the NBA Finals, Kurtenbach noted the need for a big change in strategy. The Warriors have been unable — and often unwilling — to get into the paint when Celtics big man Robert Williams is on the floor. Moving Looney out of the starting lineup in favor of a more athletic player could be a start, he wrote.

“Now, the Warriors’ starting center has been absolutely fantastic in this series and postseason, and the Warriors should be playing him more — he sat out the entire fourth quarter of Game 3 to Golden State’s detriment — but while he sets brilliant picks, he’s limited on the roll,” he wrote. “And the Warriors have to run pick-and-roll on every offensive possession in Game 4.”

Kurtenbach suggested giving Looney’s spot in the starting lineup to rookie Jonathan Kuminga, an idea that many others have already raised. While Kuminga can still be prone to mistakes and fouls too often, his athleticism can help set a tone and bring an element the Warriors have been lacking through the first three games, the Mercury News writer suggested.

Looney’s Playoff Journey

Looney has already lost his starting spot to Kuminga once over the course of this playoff run, though earned it back when the Warriors needed to counter the size of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies moved Steven Adams into the starting lineup after Ja Morant was hurt, and Kerr countered by bringing Looney back off the bench.

The move paid off at the time. Looney turned in two of the best performances of his career, grabbing a career-high 22 rebounds including 11 on the offensive end in a series-clinching Game 6 win against Memphis. Looney then added a new career-high with 22 points in a Game 2 win over the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.

If he does move out of the starting lineup in the NBA Finals, Looney may still not see an overall drop in minutes. Kurtenbach noted that the Warriors still need him on the floor opposite Williams, especially late in the game.

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Looney has averaged 6.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game this playoffs.

Kerr addressed the idea of moving Kuminga into the starting lineup, saying everything has been under discussion but not committing to any changes.

“It’s always a possibility. You never rule out anything. It’s something we discuss as a staff every day,” Kerr said. “Do we need to insert another player into the rotation? Do we need to change a combination, lineup combination?”

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