The Detroit Pistons are off to yet another mediocre season under head coach Stan Van Gundy. They currently sit at 22-18 after starting the season well at 10-3. With the .500 play that fans have seen, many are calling for changes within the Pistons’ roster, with Luke Kennard frequently popping up into the conversation.
Fans were not very happy when the Pistons selected Kennard with the 12th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. I, for one, preferred Dennis Smith Jr. or Malik Monk, both who were picked just before him in the ninth and 11th pick, respectively. Seeing how well Donovan Mitchell has played for the Utah Jazz, Piston fans are disappointed with how Detroit passed on such a great talent in Mitchell.
However, Kennard has had a very impressive first half of the season. So much so that NBA GM’s are calling for his availability in potential trade situations. If the Pistons were to trade Kennard, they could be missing out on a potential future All-Star. Here is why.
The Reggie Jackson Injury Has Been Great For Kennard
On Dec. 27, Reggie Jackson went down with a high ankle sprain and was expected to miss about six weeks. Kennard has been getting about five more minutes per game since Jackson’s injury, and he has impressed. Against the San Antonio Spurs, Kennard put up a career-high 20 points in a 93-79 winning effort at home.
In seven games, Kennard is shooting 60 percent from the 3-point line. He has also been shooting 54.5 percent from the field on about six shot attempts per game. Now, I know the sample size here is small, but at the very least it shows that Kennard knows how to get open and shoot good shots with more time on the court. On average, his numbers per game are about nine points, three rebounds, one assist, and 1.5 steals per game. That is pretty good for a rookie who is the seventh man off the bench.
The Comparison of Kennard to Klay Thompson.
After reviewing Kennard’s first half of the season, I am convinced that he could be the next Klay Thompson. Kennard and Thompson share a similar frame; standing at 6’6″, 206 pounds, which is a great size for a shooting guard. His counterpart, Thompson, stands at 6’7″, 215 pounds, which Kennard could come into as he grows stronger through an NBA training program.
Both these players are known for their impressive shooting percentages, as well as being a threat from behind the arc. They also have the ability to drive and finish effectively with both hands. I think Kennard could learn a lot from watching some film on Thompson and learn how to post up and back defenders down using his big frame for a two-guard. They also have very similar styles of play.
The stats go right along with it when comparing their rookie seasons. Kennard is shooting 43.8 percent on the season while Thompson shot slightly better at 44.3 percent. Kennard has him beat from behind the arc, though, shooting 44.3 percent from deep while Thompson only shot at 41.4 percent.
In the 35 games Kennard has played in this year, he is averaging about 17 minutes per game. He has shot the ball a mere 5.5 times and scored about 6.5 points per game.
Thompson’s numbers through his first 35 are extremely compatible. Thompson shot the ball about 6.5 times per game, scoring 7.5 ppg. He played just about 16.5 minutes per game in that span.
However, Thompson then really picked it up for the rest of his rookie season. In the second half of that year, Thompson averaged 18.5 points per game, attempting nearly 17 shots per game in that time frame.
Thompson also finished with an average of 24.5 minutes per game. He shot the ball 11 times and racked up about 12 points per game. His play was good enough for him to earn a spot on the 2011-2012 All-Rookie team.
Could Kennard Follow In Thompson’s Footsteps?
Absolutely. At this point, Kennard has a very high ceiling. He is proving to be the shooter that everyone expected him, and if he is given more playing time throughout the second half of the season, he can only get better. The Pistons should do everything in their control to keep Kennard as he improves his skills.
But who knows if that will happen? Van Gundy is not big on playing rookies and Kennard is already getting more minutes than I expected him to have. Rookies of the past few seasons have gotten very little playing time in Van Gundy’s system, including Henry Ellenson and Stanley Johnson. So, the fact that Kennard is getting more than them proves that Van Gundy sees something in this kid.