After trade rumors circled around Detroit Pistons guard Luke Kennard, the Pistons opted to keep their young guard around. What could his next contract look like?
As the trade deadline came and went, one player that was included in a surprising amount of trade rumors was Detroit Pistons guard Luke Kennard.
Kennard is in his third NBA season, averaging 15.8 points and 4.1 assists per game, both career highs. However, concerns over Kennard’s health may have made him expendable to the front office, along with his upcoming contract situation. Kennard has missed the previous 23 games due to bilateral knee tendinitis.
While improving offensively since he came into the league, his defense has not improved, and his limited athleticism likely will limit his growth on that end for the rest of his career.
On Monday night, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Pistons were talking with the Phoenix Suns on a potential trade. Wojnarowski later reported that talks had reached an impasse over the protections on the first-round pick that would have gone to the Pistons from the Phoenix Suns.
This got fans of the team wondering, wouldn’t Kennard, at 23 years old, seem to be a part of the future? At what price could the Pistons extend him at?
During the midst of the trade deadline deals, Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Dillon Brooks singed an extension that could provide a framework — three years, $35 million — for the Pistons to work with on Kennard’s next deal.
From a scoring perspective, the statical seasons of Kennard and Brooks are strangely similar. Both players in their third seasons this year are shooting 39.9% from 3. Brooks is scoring 16.1 points per game, compared to Kennard’s 15.8 points per game. Kennard is scoring 44% from the field, and Brooks is right behind him at 42%.
Kennard has done a good job at staying aggressive this season, shooting 6.5 3-point attempts per game, which is higher than Brooks with 5.3 attempts per game.
However, the rest of these players games are pretty different. Brooks is not much of a playmaker for the Grizzlies, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.27, while in Kennard has displayed a much improved passing ability with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.67.
Brooks is 6-foot-7, so while he plays shooting guard for the Grizzlies, he often ends up guarding wing-sized players. Brooks has been solid on defense, however he commits fouls too often. His 190 personal fouls rank second-highest in the NBA behind his teammate Jaren Jackson Jr. (198), and just ahead of former Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (176).
While being tall, Brooks wingspan of 6-6 may limit his defense longterm, the same way that Kennard’s physical profile may limit his potential. However, Kennard has had much less to show on the defensive end, where he has gotten worse after his rookie season. His defensive rating has skyrocketed each of his three seasons in the league, going from 103.2 in his rookie season all the way to 111.3 during his third year. Kennard has also been unable to stay in front of scoring guards, and looks to be a liability on that end for the rest of his career.
So with these limitations established, will Kennard make more or less money on his first post-rookie contract than Brooks received? It’s hard to say.
Kennard still has one more season, his age-24 season, to prove that he is worth a solid payday throughout the Pistons rebuild. Brooks signed his extension this year at the age of 24, so a standard has been set for guys of their caliber looking to get paid at this time.
Even if Kennard comes out next season even more improved on the offensive end, it will still take some stability in terms of health in order for the Pistons to feel comfortable giving him a lot of money.
After a healthy rookie year, his sophomore season was much more difficult, as he was only able to appear in 63 games. During Summer League when the team was going to try and develop him as a point guard, he suffered a left knee strain, which held him out for the entire summer. In late October he suffered an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder, sidelining him for 16 games.
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After taking some time to cement himself in Dwane Casey’s rotation, Kennard has been a vital piece for the Pistons. However, he has missed 23 consecutive games, and the Pistons don’t have much of a reason to rush him back after trading Drummond in what was essentially a commitment to losing the rest of the year.
Brooks will average $11.7 million per year on his new contract, which the Pistons could try and use as a framework for Kennard’s deal. Kennard and his agent may look more towards Caris LeVert‘s contract of $17.5 million per year, comparing Kennard’s passing ability to that of LeVert. It’s possible that they meet somewhere in the middle, which would be a fair price for Kennard’s production so far in the league.
Kennard will be extension eligible during the 2020 offseason, but it may be in the best interest of both parties to let the 2020-21 season play out, and test the restricted free-agent market. The Pistons will have to make a decision soon, on whether or not they prioritize Kennard as a part of their future.