Centers of Attrition: Should there be a change at the 5 for the Warriors?

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr emphasized the development of the team’s younger players during the preseason, and rightfully so. They are the oldest team in the league, and that fact is really evident in the bench. Andre Iguodala is 34 while Shaun Livingston is 33, so the need to develop the young reserves is critical.

Ironically, their development isn’t more critical than the development Damian Jones, Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney at the 5. It’s a foregone conclusion that DeMarcus Cousins will be the Warriors’ starting center when he returns. It’s also obvious that a somewhat diminished Cousins is better than what the Warriors had at center previously and what they have currently. Even at 70-75 percent, Boogie will still be an effective dump off post option that could impact a game.

Until then, the Warriors have what they have and what they have is a carousel of raw bigs with potential. During the Western Conference Finals, Looney impressed on defense. His solid footwork and discipline made the Rockets think twice about attacking the paint. Jones is the de-facto starter until Cousins return but should he be?

The Case For Jones

Damian Jones fits the Warriors’ prototype for a center. His length and athleticism meshes with the team’s philosophy on both sides of the ball. The Warriors tend to use the 7-foot 0 245 Jones the same way that they used Javale McGee. He provided ‘vertical spacing’ by catching lobs above the rim, and so does Jones. The Warriors are hoping that Jones will develop into a center that sets solid screens and is a solid rim protector. In addition to Kerr and Ron Adams, Jones also has the support and tutorage of Cousins, who has been giving the young big constructive feedback.

The Case Against Jones

Cousins constantly suggests that Jones should show some physicality on both ends of the floor. According to Draymond Green, that’s one of Jones’ flaws.

“He (Cousins) instilling that attitude in him,” Green told reporters recently, “If there was any knock on DJ, it was always to try to get him to have that attitude in him. DeMarcus iso him constantly about that.”

In addition to a lack of intensity, Jones is foul prone. He’s averaging 2.9 fouls per game. He struggles with not extending his arms when he jumps, hence his struggles on pump fakes.

The Case For Looney

Of all of the Warriors’ young bigs, Kevon Looney is the most fundamentally sound. His discipline on defense is a huge reason why the idea of him starting isn’t a far fetched suggestion. Looney operates well within the Warriors’ switches on defense. His rim protection and defense along the perimeter was vital during the Western Conference Final, as it compensated for Iguodala’s absence. While he may be limited offensively, Looney also proved in the conference finals that he was an effective screener and a potential vertical threat. While the Rockets were switching everything on defense and ignoring Looney and Jordan Bell, the Warriors countered by feeding the bigs in the paint for lobs and used them both for screens. When the Warriors face long athletic teams, using Looney as a screener and a scorer above the rim can be effective.

The Case Against Looney

Looney lacks a solid consistent jumper. If he adds that plus playmaking and passing from the blocks ala Cousins, Looney would become more of a viable option. Another thing that’s working against Looney is the fact that his previous hip issues robbed him of some athleticism. What Looney lacks in athleticism, he can very well make up in skill. While he isn’t as foul prone as Jones, Looney still has issues in that regard.

Summing it up

While it seems as if Jones has the upside and more potential than Looney, that doesn’t necessary mean that he is the right fit before Cousins returns. There are some matchups that better suits Looney as opposed to Jones, and the Warriors should at least consider experimenting with the five. Have both of these bigs to split time to accelerate their development especially since both will be called upon to make key plays in the postseason.

Image by Riley Gisseman

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