Leading up to the NBA Draft we will be analyzing scouting reports for various players who have entered their name in this year’s NBA Draft. The focus of these articles will be on prospects who we find most intriguing and feel readers need to become more familiar with. Please let us know if you want any players specifically @edupridepress. All stats and videos are via KenPom, ESPN, DraftExpress, and YouTube.
Luke Kennard – Duke
Weight: 196 Ibs
Age: 21 years
Projected: No. 13 (DraftExpress) No. 17 (CPP Big Board) No. 14 (CPP Mock Draft)
Background: After a great sophomore campaign with Duke, Luke Kennard decided to forgo his last two years of eligibility and sign with an agent in this year’s draft. Kennard was expected to take a back seat with Grayson Allen leading the charge this year but with Allen’s inconsistency throughout the season, Kennard stepped up and became the go-to scorer for the Blue Devils. Coming out of high school, it wasn’t clear whether Kennard would be a one and done or stay an extra year or two. Kennard’s sophomore season ultimately raised his draft stock after putting up disappointing numbers his freshman year. Usually, with more shot attempts one’s shooting percentage starts to dwindle which was not the case with Kennard. Basically, all his shooting percentages saw an increase along with his scoring, assist and rebounding averages while playing around 35 minutes a game compared to 26 his freshman year.
Strengths: Kennard has great size for a player with his archetype at his position. He is listed at 6’6″ 202 lbs according to DraftExpress.com and is decently built for someone of his stature. Kennard’s body strength and control let him finish around the basket but what makes him stand out is his ability to create his own shot and knock down perimeter jumpers. With guys like Frank Jackson and Grayson Allen running the point, Kennard was able to play off-ball and find ways to make himself open. It was evident that Duke’s team on paper was a lot more talented during Kennard’s sophomore year than his freshman. Even with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Allen, and Jackson, Kennard was responsible for 25.5% of his team’s shots and was the most efficient player offensively this year for Duke.
Much of Kennard’s heralded shooting ability is credited to his quick release and poise. Like a majority of players, Kennard is at his best off the catch and when he sets his feet. Even with late arriving defenders, he’s proven he can knock down the shot and isn’t startled by the tardy block attempt. But, the preparation for the shot is what’s most important. Kennard is able to find ways to create space between him and his defender. He’s able to use both his left and right hand with the dribble to free himself from defenders, which give himself enough time for an open shot attempt. When teammates pass to him, he always has his feet set and in a shooting stance which already raises the chances of the shot going through the hoop.
Video via FrankieVision on YouTube
In this clip, Kennard shows how effective he is off the bounce. He’s able to get defenders off their feet and take one or two dribbles then pull up for a smooth silky jumper. Rarely in the NBA do you see a successful player just stand around and shoot threes. In order to be an impact player, he is going to have to rely more on his shotmaking abilities off the dribble like he did in this short video. If Kennard proves he can be more than a one-dimensional scorer, it will force opponents to back off which will give him more space to do what he does best, and that’s shooting from three.
Weaknesses: With the NBA game becoming much faster and played with an up-tempo pace, Kennard is going to have to improve in that category. Especially guarding NBA two guards like James Harden and Demar DeRozan, he’s going to have to become more defensive oriented and find a way to excel in his respective team’s system on both sides of the ball. At best, Kennard is an average athlete. He needs to work on his footwork and be able to guard smaller and taller opponents. He’s not a guy who is going to rack up the steals and often falls into the trap of committing bad fouls which will limit his minutes and productivity.
Comparison: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
Many NBA scouts and scouting experts believe Kennard’s go-to scorer mentality won’t translate to the NBA. In his one year at Indiana, Eric Gordon was the GUY for the Hoosiers and was a superb athlete/talent in comparison to other college players. But when he got to the NBA, he was in the middle of the pack athletically and had to develop a different play style from his college days in order to be a solid role player in the pros.
Kennard’s ability to not only shoot the ball effectively from behind the arc but also find ways to get open off screens and create space with the dribble are very similar to how Gordon has made a living doing what he does. Granted, Eric Gordon does have the luxury of playing with one of the best playmakers in the Association in James Harden but that’s where Kennard and Gordon are so similar. Eric Gordon has been so successful because he has teammates who do a great job of finding him for open shots. Gordon fits the role perfectly in Houston because he’s not relied on to do everything but he understands his playing style and what makes him and his team most successful. In order for Kennard to become a player like Gordon, he’ll need to play for a team that knows how to use him. I know it sounds cliché but it’s the truth. Luke Kennard performed so well at Duke because Coach K’s system fits his play style perfectly. If a franchise that has playmakers who can create open looks for Kennard, then I don’t see why he can’t be an immediate impact player coming off the bench in the Association.
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Featured image via SB Nation