NBA Draft Profile: Luke Kennard
Key Stats: 19.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 APG
Measurables: 6’5, 196 pounds
Strengths: Shooting, shooting and more shooting. In 2015, Luke Kennard had a modest first year for the Blue Devils and only hit on 32% of his 3’s. However, he shot 53% from the field and just a hair under 90% from the free throw line indicating that his low 3-point FG percentage was an aberration, considering he shot close to 50% from deep his senior year of high school. In 2016, Kennard found his groove from beyond the arc and nailed triples at a clip of 44%. Kennard has a sweet lefty stroke that punishes defenders in catch and shoot situations, but he’s much more than just a spot up shooter. Kennard works remarkably hard to come off screens to get himself quality looks and is extremely comfortable shooting off the dribble and in transition. While his increase in efficiency from 3 was a great improvement, it was somewhat expected; his evolution as a ball handler was not. The two-time Ohio High School Basketball Player of the Year showed a newfound ability to initiate the offense and operate in pick and roll sets. Kennard barley averaged over a turnover per game during his career at Duke, despite having a usage rate of 23%. The All-American has a very high basketball IQ and sees the court well with the ball in his hands and when he moves without it. So while Kennard projects to be an NBA 2-guard, he could theoretically give teams minutes at the 1-3. Kennard also is very crafty and can convert shots with a high level of difficulty despite not being a good athlete. His mid-range shot is equally impressive as his stroke from deep and his soft touch on floaters and runners allows him to find scoring success in the lane.
Weaknesses: Kennard is probably an average athlete at best and will most likely have a hard time chasing around shooting guards at the next level. He also isn’t exceptionally strong and will not be able to body up the athletic freaks that play small forward in today’s game. These two factors plus his undesirable 6’5 wingspan will leave him as a defensive liability in the NBA. Furthermore, since Kennard doesn’t have one positive defensive trait, it will be tough to even hide him on that end of the floor. Unless he is guarding an Andre Roberson level scorer, Kennard will be under constant attack by his man both off the dribble and in the screen and roll. Kennard’s underwhelming athleticism doesn’t just hinder him on the defensive end, but it limits his ability to play above the rim. Sure he is capable of the occasional nifty reverse, but overall he is not a good finisher around the rim. This deficiency could spur teams to simply chase him off the 3-point line and attack him with close-outs to limit the damage he can do on offense.
Best Team Fit:
Since Kennard projects to be such a poor defender, he would be best equipped to go to a team that has strong wing stoppers already on the roster. The Charlotte Hornets have both Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and that would allow Kennard to check the least talented perimeter player when he’s on the floor. Charlotte could also use another shooter on the offensive side of the ball. The Hornets ranked in the bottom half of the league in 3-point FG%, despite attempting the 9th most 3’s. The addition of Kennard would also give Kemba Walker more space to operate with off the bounce and give them a secondary ball handler in the backcourt. Going from Durham to Charlotte would be an easy transition for Kennard and he would serve as a complimentary piece with the hopes that his offense continues to expand. 11th overall may seem a tad high for Kennard, but shooters reign supreme in today’s game so it’s not a reach at all.
NBA Player Comparison:
Kennard should follow a similar career path to either Tim Hardaway Jr or JJ Redick. The comparisons to Redick are almost inevitable, since both are 3-point snipers, from Duke with the ability to handle the ball in a pinch. However, Redick is both a better and tougher defender than Kennard profiles to be. If Kennard can prove me wrong and make some significant strides on the defensive end then he could turn into one of the league’s most valuable role players like Redick has become for the Clippers. If his defense never evolves and his value is solely centered around his offense, he can be likened to Tim Hardaway Jr, albeit a less athletic version. Hardaway can get buckets from deep and do some nice things in the scoring department, but like Kennard his poor defense limits his time on the court and while his offensive game isn’t one-dimensional it is not completely well rounded. All in all, Kennard’s shooting stroke will allow him to stick around for a long time, especially in an era where there is a premium placed on perimeter shooting.