It’s no secret the Detroit Pistons have plenty of issues, and one of their biggest ones is three point shooting. The Pistons ranked 28th last season in three-point shooting percentage at 33%. Only the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder shot worse from behind the long line, as George Blaha would say. If you take a look up and down the Pistons roster, they severely lack a consistent knock-down shooter. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is generally considered the team’s best shooter and he only shot the three at a 35 percent clip, which is very underwhelming. Stan Van Gundy and company signed Jon Leuer last summer, hoping he could be the shooter the team lacked. As it seemed like a good signing at the time, Leuer finished the year shooting 29 percent from the three-point line, which is atrocious for someone who shot 38 percent the season before in Phoenix. With all that being said, the Pistons went with Luke Kennard out of Duke with the 12th pick in the draft Thursday night, who is arguably the best shooter in the entire draft. For now, it looks like Kennard and his outside ability could be a good fit, and it certainly addresses a huge need.
First, let’s take a look at Kennard’s measurables from the NBA Draft Combine. His height with shoes is 6’5 1/2″, and he has a 6’5 1/4″ wingspan. He weighed in at just 196 pounds, very slim for an NBA player. Kennard really doesn’t bring anything special to the table with these numbers. He has an average height for a shooting guard, and it would probably be best for him to add a few pounds. His wingspan is very underwhelming, which may limit his potential to be a great player in the league, but look, these are just numbers and the player has to go out and play. Height, weight, and wingspan are interesting to look at, but it doesn’t tell the whole story, especially for Kennard.
In his sophomore season at Duke, he averaged 19.5 points per game on 53 percent shooting, while shooting 44 percent from beyond the three-point line, and 86 percent from the free throw line. To add onto his great shooting numbers, he had a true shooting percentage of 63 percent. It’s safe to say Kennard is a pure and dominate shooter.
When Kennard heats up, he’s on another level offensively. In a six-game stretch from December 3rd to December 31st, Kennard had himself one hell of a stretch. During this span, he averaged 26.5 points per game, on 59 percent shooting. He shot 63 percent on two-point field goals, and an outstanding 53 percent on three-point field goals, while shooting 90 percent from the free throw line. Obviously, this is just a small sample size of a hot shooting span from Kennard, but it’s clear he can really get in a groove offensively and can be a threat from all three levels.
With hot shooting streaks comes cold shooting streaks as well. The good news is I couldn’t find any terribly bad shooting performances by Kennard throughout his entire sophomore season, but I did find a span at the end of the year where he slowed it down a bit.
In his final six games of the year, Kennard averaged 16.5 points per game on only 40 percent from the field, and 38 percent from three. In his two games in the NCAA Tournament, he shot 22 percent from the field, 33 percent from three, and only averaged 9 points a contest. Again, these aren’t absolutely terrible numbers, but it shows Kennard wasn’t always performing at his highest level, and he had some poor performances, but what shooter doesn’t have those?
From Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz:
“Kennard is best suited in a system where he’s not going to be stuck in the corner waiting for catch and shoot opportunities, but rather running off screens (thanks to his ability to make catch and shoot jumpers, pull-ups, floaters and utilize his vision off of in-downs) and playing out of second side pick and roll, functioning more as a combo guard.”
As someone who watched several Duke games this past season, I agree with Schmitz’s analysis. Kennard isn’t just a shooter and he isn’t the second coming as Kyle Singler as a lot of Pistons fans are claiming. He’s a very crafty lefty who can finish at the time, and create shots for himself. He’s not just some guy you put in catch and shoot opportunities and that’s only it, although he has no problem knocking down a wide open catch and shoot jumper.
So with all that being said, where does Kennard fit with this current Pistons roster? I think he’s a nice bench piece as of now. His defense has to improve vastly though before the start of the season if he wants to see the floor at all. Stan Van Gundy has said he’s a very polished player offensively but the first thing they need to work on is defense. I think Van Gundy wants Kennard to play valuable minutes in his first year, but we won’t be able to really tell until we see some preseason action and how the rotations are handled.
For Kennard’s rookie year, the best outcome would be he’s a guy who will come off the bench, give the team immediate scoring and shooting. The worse outcome could be him getting very little playing time, and spending most of his time with the Grand Rapids Drive.
For Kennard’s career, it’s really way too early to tell. In a perfect world, he becomes an NBA starter who can average around 18 points a night. Some NBA comparisons have been to Manu Ginobli, and if that happens, or he even comes remotely close to a player like Ginobili, the Pistons made one hell of a pick.
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