Free agent Kevon Looney has a raise coming, will Warriors pay to keep him?

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Kevon Looney showed his value during the regular season — playing all 82 games for the Warriors, averaging 6 points and 7.3 boards a night — and earned himself a raise during the playoffs as he helped the Warriors win another ring. His solid play and relative versatility on both ends of the floor mattered.

Looney couldn’t have picked a better time to up his level — he is a free agent this summer.

The expectation in league circles is Looney re-signs with the Warriors, but he will have options, as Marc Stein noted in his substack newsletter.

After playing a pivotal role in Golden State’s championship success, Kevon Looney’s forthcoming free agency will be monitored more closely than anyone might have imagined a month ago. Charlotte and Sacramento, soon to be coached by Golden State assistant Mike Brown, are among the teams said to be interested in signing Looney away from the Warriors, who spent nearly $350 million this season on salary and luxury tax for their championship roster. Looney more than outplayed the three-year, $14.4 million deal he just completed with his playoff productivity and is expected to generate no shortage of external interest. The hope in Golden State is that it can neutralize the inevitable external interest in Looney and Gary Payton II while realistically understanding that Otto Porter Jr., after playing on a minimum deal, is going to be very difficult to retain.

The reason Looney likely stays a Warrior? He matters more to Golden State than any other team, and they will pay him accordingly.

League sources suggest Looney will draw interest at around the $6.4 million taxpayer mid-level exception number, and while the price could jump to $7-$8 million a season, it likely won’t go higher than that. In an NBA where smaller lineups without a traditional center are increasingly the norm — the Warriors spend a lot of time with Draymond Green at the five — teams are not investing big money in a center (unless it’s an Embiid/Jokic/Towns level player). While Charlotte needs a five, they aren’t going to spend big on one like Looney.

In Looney, the Warriors have a player who knows and fits their system. There is value in that, especially with questions about whether James Wiseman is (or will be) ready to take on a more prominent role anytime soon. It’s going to get Looney a multi-year payday from the Warriors (three years, $21 million?).

The Warriors’ willingness to pay the tax bothers some owners, but this is not a store-bought team — they drafted, developed, and paid to retain Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole. Looney fits right in with that (the Warriors took him with the No. 30 pick in 2015). The one that is going to spike the Warriors books this offseason is Gary Payton II.

Expect Looney to remain in the Bay Area next season, but a few teams could make his free agency interesting if they wish.

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