ORLANDO — Warriors center Kevon Looney could play as soon as Monday in Atlanta as he nears his return from a neuropathic condition that has sidelined him most of the season.
Looney is the Warriors’ most experienced center and was the opening day starter. While his return will be a welcome addition to a team lacking in institutional knowledge, it will also change a front court rotation that is the deepest of any positional unit on the team.
Willie Cauley-Stein started the last 16 games at center, Omari Spellman and Marquese Chriss have made skilled contributions off the bench, and Draymond Green and Eric Paschall’s versatility have rounded out a five-man platoon.
Here are some ways Looney’s return could shake things up.
Less leeway for Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein’s numbers are down across the board from last season, averaging 7.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game.
While his 7-foot frame has provided interference at the rim defensively, he has struggled to guard on the perimeter. Opponents have pounced on this opportunity, forcing switches that lead to mismatches. Conversely, this is where Looney thrives.
The Warriors have the league’s worst defensive rating in first quarters. Looney has spent most of his career coming off the bench but should Steve Kerr seek to buoy his defense early in the game, he may opt to start Looney over Cauley-Stein.
Chriss and Spellman play more 4
Natural power forwards Chriss and Spellman have been thrust into center minutes but have performed admirably. Chriss’ passing instincts (2.3 assists per game) and Spellman’s long-range shooting (37.5% on 3-pointers) have helped open up the offense.
With Looney back, Chriss and Spellman will have to play more 4. Mostly Spellman who, to prepare, has already lost weight after hovering around 260 pounds for most of the season. He’s down to his best playing shape since he was in college at Villanova.
Offensively, they have the skillsets to make it work.
“I think our rotation suits us and I don’t really care if I start, play a lot, get a lot of minutes, I just want to be on the floor and be a part of the team,” Chriss said. “But I think when we’ve been playing with Omari at the 4 it’s been a lot of fun.
“Omari spaces the floor and makes it easy for me to get some rebounds, and he’s also athletic as hell so he comes in and rebounds with me. We just play off each other. It’s been fun. Even on the defensive end, I go up to contest a shot, he comes over my shoulder and blocks it and vice versa.”
Defensively, they could be a liability early on — something Kerr anticipates — but this is the season for them to develop. Both Spellman and Chriss have been studying film with Green as they continue to develop on the defensive end.
More Point Draymond
If Looney returns on Monday, it will give the Warriors 10 healthy players, more than half of whom play in the front court. That could make it tough to find minutes and …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Sports