Five goals for Luke Kennard’s 2017-2018 Season

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 11: Luke Kennard
TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 11: Luke Kennard /

The Detroit Pistons drafted shooting guard Luke Kennard with the 12th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. What marks should the rookie aim to hit for his 2017-2018 season?

Luke Kennard was a great success at Duke over two years, and developed a deadly three-point shot. Headed into a deep guard rotation with the Detroit Pistons, the odds are against him for his rookie year.

Nonetheless, a couple of goals for the lottery pick as he begins his career:

1. Play 18 minutes per game

The Detroit Pistons certainly value Kennard and his high-profile scoring, but are deeper at the guard position than in recent years. In addition to Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, and Reggie Bullock, the Pistons signed Avery Bradley, and Langston Galloway this summer.

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So where does Kennard fit? As a rookie and lottery pick, you have to think coach Van Gundy will give him as much playing time as is reasonable. 18 minutes a game is plenty for Kennard to get out and show off his shot creating ability.

Should Jackson fail as a starting point guard or fall to injury yet again this year, the Pistons rookie could be looking at 20-25 minutes per game. Though with prospective rookie guards you do have to be cautious and gauge their minutes on production.

Kennard has been linked to names like Kyle Korver, but even he only averaged 11.9 points per game his first season. Aiming for 18 moderated minutes per game is an ideal mark for the young guard.

2. Defensive prowess right out of the gate

Today’s NBA wings are fast, and more importantly big. At 6’6″ and 195 pounds, Kennard is going to have to prove he can at least keep up defensively. How can he do that? By really putting pressure on backup wings as he plays mostly from the bench.

Head coach Van Gundy has been more than blunt on Kennard’s defensive deficiency, as he told Ansar Kahn of Michigan Live the rookie will have to improve.

"“He’s got a lot of work to do in that area, a lot of work to do. he’s got to do a lot more at the defensive end of the floor if he wants to get on the floor.”"

As the Pistons coach put it, improving on defense is about more than being good. On this team, it’s the requirement to be trusted with reasonable minutes on a professional platform. It should be Kennard’s number one priority, and will serve as the catalyst to a successful rookie year.

GREENVILLE, SC – MARCH 19: Luke Kennard
GREENVILLE, SC – MARCH 19: Luke Kennard /

3. Shoot at least 37 percent from three

After shooting 44 percent from behind-the-arc his sophomore year at Duke, the expectation is high for this guard’s three-point shot. A lot of shooters enter the draft, get selected by teams in need of three-point shooting, and then decline due to the culture change.

Kennard will need to consistently connect on the three ball to help secure his role in the Pistons lineup. 37 percent is a low mark to hit, and just above the league average last season.

The Detroit Pistons drafted him with a purpose in mind, after ranking 28th last season in three-point percentage. With limited minutes and time on the court, taking advantage of open looks and taking the smart shot are the foundation to this goal.

4. Be the scorer Stanley Johnson has yet to become

The Detroit Pistons selected Stanley Johnson with the 8th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. After averaging 13.8 points on 45 percent shooting from the field in college, he has averaged just 6.2 over two years in the league.

Detroit was hoping to see more scoring from Johnson last season, but he has failed to develop. In fact, he’s declined from his original 8.1 average his rookie season, to a lowly 4.4 points per game his second.

With Kennard, they may have a chance at earning the scoring they so desperately need off the bench. Detroit averaged just 101.3 points per game last year, which ranked them 26th among the league’s 30 teams.

Sure, Kennard is a better offensive prospect from the beginning, but this is a big gap to fill. He averaged 19.5 points his last year at Duke, which with even a little regression, will make a big difference for the Pistons.

5. Compete for Rookie of the Year

To say Kennard won’t compete for the NBA’s annual Rookie of the Year award isn’t rational, it’s pessimistic. Anyone is in the mix until proven otherwise, though there are some extremely talented individuals coming in from this rookie class.

Prior to the NBA draft, Kennard was dubbed to likely be the best shooting guard prospect. Why then, should he be considered not in the race for Rookie of the Year?

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If he can come out and score in multiple fashions while making an effort to improve defensively, watch for his name to be tossed around towards the end of the season.