After two seasons at Duke, Shooting Guard Luke Kennard is headed to the NBA. Kennard is a scorer that can make an immediate impact on a team because of his experience, shooting, and size. Kennard averaged 19.5 points per game in the toughest conference in the NCAA (ACC) and is a proven scorer for teams late in the first round to look at. Kennard shot 52% from two-point range and 43% from behind the arc last season at Duke.
Kennard is NBA ready, which could help his draft stock, especially if a team is looking for a polished player. Kennard’s effort, size, and experience in college could make him an immediate scorer for a team who wants to win now. Kennard also has room to improve, so Kennard can fit in with rebuilding teams and contending teams.
Kennard has a great shot. He shot 43% from behind the arc last season, but his great form and the spacing of the NBA could increase that percentage quickly.
Kennard, at 6’6″, has good size for his position. He’s shown he can recognize when he has a smaller defender guarding him, and he’s proven to have an effective mid-range and floater to take advantage of those matchups.
Kennard does a good job creating his own shot. Kennard has solid athleticism and quick feet which allow him to make fast cuts around screens. Kennard uses head-fakes and pump-fakes to fake out defenders in order to get open shots. Kennard is also a good decision maker in the pick-and-roll and knows when to give the ball up.
Kennard is a competitor, which is something coaches can’t teach. He’s stepped up in big games for Duke, and Coach K has trusted him being on the floor in late-game situations (1,314 minutes played-1st in ACC). Kennard is a true team player, as he was 1st in the ACC in points produced (combination of rebounds, assists, points, etc.), showing that he is a capable passer, hustles on the boards, and can score the basketball.
Kennard is a defensive liability. He has a short wingspan (6’5″), and he does not like playing physical. He’s not quick enough to guard Point Guards and has a hard time guarding bigger forwards. His effort will help him a little bit, but he is going to need to be able to be smart on defense (read passes) to not be a huge liability.
Finishing through contact is a thing Kennard does not do well, and right now Kennard isn’t athletic enough to get open on the three-point line every play. To round out his game, Kennard will have to learn to finish inside, so defenders won’t be able to cheat over screens.
Kennard’s ceiling isn’t very high compared to other players in the draft, which is bad for teams who are looking for a high-upside prospect. Kennard’s lack of great athleticism, ball-handling, and finishing ability limits him to an off-the-ball shooter who can play the pick-and-roll. But, some of these things can be fixed over time, so that isn’t a huge concern.
NBA Comparison: Kyle Korver
Luke Kennard isn’t the shooter that Kyle Korver is, but there frames and play styles are similar. Both have enough athleticism to find their way around screens and get open shots, and both of them are truly team players. But, both are liabilities on defense, don’t handle the ball too well, and finish at the rim. Both are smart basketball players who play very hard and have a lot of skill to make up for the lack of extreme athleticism.
Projected NBA team- Oklahoma City Thunder (#21)
The Thunder are in dire need of a player like Luke Kennard. The team has a win-now mentality and could really use a shooter like Kennard to help Russell Westbrook out. The Thunder shot an awful 31% last season and have many guards who can’t shoot like Victor Oladipo (36% from three), Russell Westbrook (34% from three in RS, 26% in playoffs), and Andre Roberson (24% from three). Kennard would be able to make an immediate impact as a shooter on a proven team in the Western Conference. There has been reports that the Lakers have considered Kennard and would take him if they got another lottery pick, but for now, they haven’t. If the Thunder do not take him, he could potentially end up with the Hawks at #31 (latest he would go) to help their 3-point woes as well. Kennard’s draft stock has been going up and down, so don’t be surprised to see Kennard picked earlier or later than expected.