Detroit Pistons: New front office should believe in Luke Kennard

Detroit Pistons Luke Kennard. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Luke Kennard. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons could hit the reset button. Reasonable as that may be, it’s far too soon to give up on Luke Kennard as a potential impact player.

When the Detroit Pistons selected Luke Kennard at No. 12 in the 2017 NBA Draft, the front office effectively made it a point to modernize the offense. Hindsight suggests that All-Stars Bam Adebayo and Donovan Mitchell represent missed opportunities, but Kennard was an appealing prospect.

A star in the deep and competitive ACC, Kennard not only had the film to impress scouts, but the skill set to fit what Detroit needed at that time.

While he may or may not become an All-Star himself, Kennard has already emerged as a player who can be slotted into the starting lineup. He’s one of the purest shooters in the NBA, as well as a capable passer and ball-handler who can set teammates up without committing turnovers.

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Kennard has even improved his ability to take his man off the bounce, albeit with room for improvement still existing.

Unfortunately for Kennard, any time a front office is shaken up, trades tend to follow. That in no way guarantees that he’ll be traded, but sending him elsewhere could admittedly net a decent number of assets to facilitate the restoring process.

Whether or not Detroit believes it can build its offense around Kennard, however, it shouldn’t be so quick to part with a player who can thrive in the type of environment it aspires to build.

It all starts with Kennard’s ability to thrive in an area in which Detroit has seen mixed results overall: Three-point shooting.

Three-Point Shooting

If the Detroit Pistons are hitting the restore button, the intention is likely to modernize the current roster and strategy. That could mean any number of things, but as far as offensive execution is concerned, Detroit should be looking to embrace the modern methods for scoring.

If that proves to be the case, then investing in a three-point shooter with a multifaceted game would be a wise decision by Troy Weaver and the Pistons’ front office.

Kennard has spent the entirety of his three-year NBA career shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. He buried 41.4 percent of his 195 attempts in 2017-18, shot 39.4 percent on 269 attempts in 2018-19, and hit 39.9 percent of his 183 attempts in 2019-20.

The latter mark may seem like a regression, but Kennard was averaging a career-high 2.6 three-point field goals made per game in 2019-20.

The important context here is that Detroit has converted an average of just 11.4 three-point field goals per game as a team—good for 18th in the NBA. It ranks ninth in three-point field goal percentage, but the volume with which it converts isn’t quite ideal.

Considering Kennard is the player who leads the team in three-point field goals made per game and ranks third in percentage, it’s easy to see how he helps address that issue.


The modern NBA has created something of a false narrative about point guards. The rise of players such as Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, and Russell Westbrook suggests that every contender needs a star at the position, but it’s not as simple as that diagnosis seems.

Since Isiah Thomas averaged 9.4 assists per game during the Pistons’ 1989-90 season, the tide has turned leaguewide.

Since 1990, only eight teams have won championships with an individual player averaging upwards of 7.0 assists per game. Only two players—Kyle Lowry in 2018-19 at 8.7 and Jason Kidd in 2010-11 at 8.2—averaged 8.0 assists per game.

Even amongst those eight teams, the Chicago Bulls (1992), Dallas Mavericks (2011), Golden State Warriors (3x), and San Antonio Spurs (1999) were all known for ball movement.

The same can be said about the Pistons’ most recent championship team. Chauncey BIllups and company priotized defense in 2003-04, but they also moved the ball beautifully.

Once again: It was about the team, not the individual.

The message being conveyed here is that teams don’t need one player who can run the entire offense in order to contend. Instead, the best approach would be to implement a system in which shots are created for and by everyone on the floor.

Considering Kennard is averaging 4.5 assists to just 1.7 turnovers per 36 minutes in 2019-20, it’s safe to say that he’s the type of player who could fit that system.

Raw Value

It’s easy to sit here and call Luke Kennard a high-level offensive player because of raw statistics. In 2019-20, Kennard has averaged 15.8 points, 4.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.9 three-point field goals made as a full-time starter for the first time in his career.

The age of analytics have enabled us to look deeper than the surface, however, while still evaluating basic statistics and the most important thing of all: Film.

Put all of that together and one will land upon the conclusion that Kennard is not only productive but valuable to the Pistons.

Despite appearing in just 28 games, Kennard currently ranks 23rd amongst shooting guards in Real Plus-Minus. He boasts positive marks on both Offense and Defense, which suggests he can fit into a team-first system on either end of the floor.

There’s certainly room for criticism on defense, but there are also encouraging signs that he’s willing to buy in, if nothing else.

It’s also worth noting that the Pistons were statistically better with Kennard on the floor than without him. That includes being 1.7 points per 100 possessions better on offense and 0.6 points per 100 possessions superior on defense.

Considering Kennard is still just 24 years of age, it’s hard to be anything but intrigued by the fact that he already knows how to put the team first.

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Countless decisions will be made in the coming months, but the Detroit Pistons would be wise to give Luke Kennard the chance that some NBA fans have already refused to provide.