2018-19 Season Review: Luke Kennard is No Bust
In the modern day NBA, the ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc is an absolute commodity. This is huge for Detroit Pistons’ second-year shooting guard Luke Kennard. Kennard is coming off of a 2018-19 season which saw a career high in points, rebounds, and minutes. The former number 12 overall pick in the 2017 draft toted averages of 9.7 points and 2.9 rebounds on 43.8 percent shooting and 39.4 percent shooting from three in 22.8 minutes per game.
Although Kennard’s shooting numbers went down a couple percentage points compared to his rookie season, the 6’5” guard from Duke University took two more shots per game from the floor and from three on average.
Kennard played in 63 games for the Pistons in 2018-19, 10 games less than he appeared in during his rookie campaign. Cool Hand Luke, as he is known by Pistons fans, missed 19 games during the regular season due to shoulder and foot injuries, with 16 of those games being missed consecutively during the end of October.
After missing those 14 straight games, Kennard came back in a slump, scoring only a combined nine points in four games, before hanging a season and career-high 28 points in 36 minutes in what would end up being a 116-102 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Kennard’s shooting numbers would take a bit of a hit during his sophomore season, as he would shoot 43.8 percent from the floor, 39.4 percent from three, and 83.6 percent from the stripe compared to 44.3-41.5-85.5 splits in his rookie season.
Even though Kennard’s shooting numbers took a slight dip during the 2018-19 season, he would see career highs in points per 100 possessions and usage percentage, having 21 points per 100 possessions and a usage percentage of 18.1 percent, fifth on the Pistons roster behind Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond, and Ish Smith.
The one area where Kennard struggled during the season was on the defensive end of the floor. Kennard continually struggled to keep his man in front of him, as he was beaten off the dribble consistently, allowing opponents to shoot 47.2 percent against him, and 75.8 percent from inside the paint.
In an interview with Pistons.com’s Keith Langlois, the 6’5” swingman discussed how he plans to focus a lot this summer on becoming more physical and a better defender. Not only does he want to become a better defender, but he also wants to become a more consistent shooter.
“The biggest thing is consistency for me. A lot of it is mental stuff, just being ready, staying confident,” Kennard said. “I’ve learned, just growing up, being mature, in that sense. I know what it takes. I know there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’m ready to have a really good off-season, really good summer, put the work in and I’m ready to have a good third year.”
The second-year sharpshooter had a lot of memorable plays throughout the 2018-19 campaign, including the 28 points he hung on Philly aforementioned earlier. However, none of Kennard’s plays were more memorable than this deep three against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 2, 2019.
Kennard wound up finishing the game that night with 26 points on 10-15 shooting from the floor and 6-7 from beyond the arc. This game would end up being Kennard’s third-highest scoring output, and two points short of his career high.
The Pistons season would end in a four-game sweep in the first round of the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks. Kennard found himself starting in the final game of the series, finishing with 11 points on 5-11 shooting.
Although the season ended on a sour note and Kennard is unlikely to receive any league-wide awards, he is a very important piece to Detroit’s success in the future.