Last season, when the Pistons bench unit came in, most in the arena and watching at home had one thought.
“Please don’t screw this up.”
While three preseason games are the smallest of sample sizes, it is safe to say the Pistons bench unit is a bit more electric this time around.
A few months ago, I made a video about Luke Kennard and why I thought he should start. I was really worried that Luke was going to be stuck on the bench, not getting his attempts and not being unleashed as one of the league’s best shooters. Those feelings still ring true for me, that Kennard is capable of being an NBA starter in Detroit. But after watching the Pistons first three preseason games, I have to say that I am content with what they are doing with Kennard, and the growth that Luke has made from last season to now.
The addition of Derrick Rose has turned Kennard into a much more confident and decisive player. A former MVP, Rose was brought in to get buckets and be a leader for the younger players. Of all of the players on the team, Rose seems to be taking Kennard under his wing more than any other player, and the results will show up this season. Rose and Kennard, both capable to start under other circumstances, will work together to become one of the best bench backcourts in the NBA, and here’s why.
Most importantly, Rose’s on-court presence dramatically affects the second unit in a way that Ish Smith and other guards of the past have not. Smith was very quick and a willing passer, but his scoring was often inconsistent and he took shots that erased the rhythm Detroit had in key moments.
Teams have to respect Derrick Rose as a dynamic offensive threat, someone who can get into the paint and create. Rose has never played in a system so heavily reliant on screen and roll, and it’s turning him into a solid distributor. This is where Luke Kennard comes in.
When a player like Rose commands the attention of everyone else on the floor, it allows a player like Kennard to flourish. Rose will almost always be guarded by the quickest defender on the court, leaving Kennard to feast on a player closer to his size and athleticism.
Like I said before, Kennard is not a top-tier athlete, but he’s skilled enough to keep his advantage once he gets a step on a defender. Kennard, almost certainly, has the best footwork in Detroit outside of Kenny Golladay. His array of pivots, step-throughs, and step-backs help him keep defenders away.
Because both players are adept as pick and roll ball handlers, they create advantages for themselves and the bigs that they are in lineups with. Rose and Kennard are respected NBA bucket-getters, and pairing them with interior scorers Markieff Morris and Christian Wood opens up the whole floor for anyone to score.
Their offensive success brings on more questions. Can Rose and Kennard defend well enough to be a positive as a second unit? Does the increased offensive pace bring more defensive intensity from Kennard? Will Rose and Kennard finish games? What happens after the Pistons make a trade this season?
Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard are the Pistons’ bucket brothers off the bench. Widening the scope from their offensive talent to the eye test, Detroit has increased the entertainment value tremendously by adding Derrick Rose. No longer will eyes burn at the sight of Jose Calderon and Glenn Robinson III stinking up LCA. The Pistons have another household name in Derrick Rose, and he will be a key factor in turning Luke Kennard into a household name, too.