Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? Part 1.1: 2015 Kevon Looney

Looney looney

We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? An In-Depth Series. This also has links to all the articles in the series.

Who was a better pick in 2015?

The Warriors picked Kevon Looney at #30. Very injury prone, didn’t play for two years, was almost cut, turned out to be a great smallball center, made key contributions in the 2018 and 2019 Playoffs. Looney has a particular talent for guarding smalls (particularly James Harden) on the pick and roll and in isolation without fouling.  

Was planned to be the center of the future, but his injuries have put his whole future in question. There’s a recent good news report about his surgery, but I’ll believe it when he’s healthy and happy on the court.

Of the 30 players drafted after him, only 16 played a single NBA game.

Here are the players who played significant NBA time, ordered by Win Shares:

  • Montrezl Harrell. Big hustle guy and a dynamic smallball center. Played strong minutes off the bench for Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. A good finisher on the pick and roll. Rated somewhat worse on defense. Harrell signed a 2 year contract for $12M and Looney signed a 3 year contract for $15M. So Harrell is probably regarded a bit more highly in the league, but it’s debatable how much of an upgrade he is over Looney for the Warriors in their system.

  • Josh Richardson. A budding star in Miami, he was traded last season to the 76ers, and announced by Elton Brand thus: “He has worked diligently and improved each season. As one of the NBA’s best young two-way talents, Josh’s ability to space the floor while also effectively guarding multiple positions at an elite level will bolster our lineup immediately”. Last season was a bit of a shooting struggle, and advanced stats are not excited about JR. But he’s undoubtedly NBA starting caliber and the biggest find in this second round.

  • Richaun Holmes. A very good defensive big who flashed in his second season some nice play as a stretch big (what happened to that?) before abandoning the three ball. A solid bench player with PHI and PHX who got elevated to starter last year with SAC. Possibly a defensive upgrade on Looney? He signed a 2-year $9.77M contract, so similar valuing to Looney. Not an obvious big upgrade.

  • Kevon Looney. Our guy.

  • Norman Powell is a good defender and has developed in his fourth and fifth year a consistent 3 point stroke. This last year, he’s become an occasional starter for TOR and become a super sixth man. GSW would consider swapping him for Looney today, but not in his first 4 years, when Looney made his crucial playoff contributions. I can’t ding GSW for missing on Powell.

  • Plus four bench players that are not upgrades over Looney. Willy Hernangómez, Pat Connaughton, Andrew Harrison, Cedi Osman.

How did GSW do against the field?

So GSW got solid value out of the #30 pick.

2015 Pick Grade: B

I’m going to call this one a solid draft pick by the Warriors. Looney made crucial contributions, but also missed the first two years of his career. This was an intentional choice, as GSW pursued a strategy of drafting for high upside with value damaged by injury concerns (see Jones, Damian). It’s looking quite unclear that Looney will ever contribute big meaningful minutes in the future, but he peaked and made strong contributions in the 2018 and 2019 playoffs.

You could also argue GSW missed on Josh Richardson, but so did a lot of people. You might think more highly of Holmes or Harrell, but I don’t think there is a large upgrade there. As for missing on Richardson, there seemed to be an organizational drive to find the Bigs of the Future in 2015, with Andrew Bogut aging and Festus Ezeli making uncertain progress, and Harrison Barnes doing a decent job at wing.

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