Let’s give Luke Kennard a chance to prove himself

Detroit Pistons Luke Kennard. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Luke Kennard. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Hysterical responses to a team’s first-round draft pick are nothing new, but the Detroit Pistons’ newest addition to the roster, Luke Kennard, deserves a fair shot in his first year in the NBA.

Luke Kennard is an exciting young prospect, but his selection at pick 12 was met with almost universal criticism initially.

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Many fans were disappointed that Malik Monk was selected by the Charlotte Hornets at pick 11 and wasn’t able to fall one more spot to the Pistons, while the overwhelming majority wished they’d picked Donovan Mitchell who went one spot later.

To be fair, these reactions to the Pistons selection are mostly reasonable.

Malik Monk would have been an incredible steal to pick up at 12, while Donovan Mitchell is quite a similar player to Luke Kennard, except he showed far superior potential as a defender while in college.

While these reactions were totally valid, criticism started to swing around onto Kennard himself, with fans willing to already label the pick as terrible and that he was destined to become the next Kyle Singler.

It’s hard to see why Kennard’s selection ruffled so many feathers in the Detroit Pistons community and elicited so many extreme reactions though.

Perhaps it’s because he’s from Duke, and if you’re not a fan of Duke then you’re almost guaranteed to hate them.

Or maybe people don’t like that it seems his hair is beginning to thin out at when he’s only 21.

In reality, Luke Kennard is an exciting young prospect who has the potential to contribute meaningfully to the Pistons as soon as next season.

Kennard’s biggest weapon is his jump shot.


He was a three-point sniper in college, and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t carry over and continue in the NBA.

Knowing Kennard was a 43.8 per cent three-point shooter this past season in college should be music to fan’s ears.

Even more exciting is that he’s been improving his shooting significantly over the past couple of years.

In his first season with Duke in 2015-16, he shot 52.8 per cent from the field on 4.5 two-point attempts per game, while also going at 31.8 per cent on 4.8 three-point attempts.

Last season his two-point field goal percentage remained steady at 52.7 per cent while upping his attempts to 7.6 per game, while as I mentioned his three-point percentage was 43.8 while shooting 5.4 per game.

Clearly, Kennard works hard on his game and is willing to put in the hours to continually improve, so with him having access to a wealth of resources now he’s in the NBA, it wouldn’t be surprising if he continues to improve his already fantastic shooting.

While it’s only Summer League and it’s foolish to read too much into it, his performances in Orlando have been impressive and lead me to believe that his game is going to be able to thrive in the NBA.

He’s had a couple of streaky shooting performances in his games against the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, but in the other three games he’s shot 50 per cent or better from deep each time.

If nothing, this shows he can knock down NBA threes while under the pressure of an actual game and that for the most part, he’s able to find great looks.

In the games where he’s shot poorly from outside, Kennard has still been able to put up points and is proving that he’s more than just a pure shooter.


He’s been driving into the paint and finish under pressure, while he’s also got a nice mid-range game at his disposal too.

Having the ability to finish inside will help him enormously during his rookie season.

It’s also emerging that Kennard is a pretty solid rebounder.

He averaged 5.1 per game in his last season at Duke, but you’d probably expect this to drop upon first entering the NBA due to the bigger and more mature bodies he’d be playing against.

However, so far through Summer League he’s pulled down 5 rebounds in every single game except the opening clash against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer were the only Pistons to average 5 rebounds or more last season and no players outside of the power forward or centre position really came close.

The Pistons still found themselves ranked 4th in the league for rebounding thanks to Drummond’s incredible ability on the glass, but having a guard on the roster who can generally be relied on to pull down a handful of rebounds is a big asset.

The most serious cause for concern with Kennard’s selection, his defence, also appears to not be as bad as initially thought.

It was a little worrying on draft day when Stan Van Gundy spoke about Kennard and how poor his defence is.

Van Gundy was just being honest about his selection and acknowledging the obvious criticisms that would come from drafting Kennard, but it was still a little concerning.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see within the first few days of training camp the reports coming out were that everybody was blown away by how much better of a defender he was than first thought.

He has great footwork and has worked extremely hard on his lateral quickness over the offseason.

Kennard emphasised strength and agility training in getting ready for the draft and it seems like he’s being rewarded for that effort.

So far he’s shown he’s eager and willing to work hard on his biggest flaws and try to turn them into strengths, which is the perfect characteristic you’d want from your first-round draft pick.

Kennard clearly has a great head on his shoulders and that will go a long way in making him successful in the NBA.

With the recent draft history of the Pistons, it’s understandable that fans may be apprehensive about anybody this team selects.

However, Kennard is a high character guy with a great outside shot, the ability to score inside and at the moment is willing to get his hands dirty on the defensive end and on the glass.

In his very short stint in Detroit so far, Kennard is doing almost everything right.

So instead of writing him off, complaining that Donovan Mitchell wasn’t selected and assuming Van Gundy is going to play him in the G League for most of the year, let’s give Luke Kennard the chance to prove himself.