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Pistons High/Low: Luke Kennard edition

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Men lie women lie FILM DNT

South Carolina v Duke Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

First things first: I fully acknowledge I’m swiping mophatt1’s thing. Sorry, Mike.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Luke Kennard, the Detroit Pistons’ newest, “deceptively athletic,” ballhandler and scorer. His game reminds me a lot of another guy who’s not classically “deceptively athletic,” Rodney Hood. Kennard has said as much - and it makes sense, them both being crafty lefties who went to the same school.

To the tape!

High:

Shooting from 3

Kennard’s a great catch-and-shoot guy. That’s not super exciting, but it gets the job done in a 1-4 PNR based offense. What IS exciting is his ability to make shots - from NBA three-point range - after one or two rhythm dribbles. That opens up further offensive possibilities, like pullups out of dribble hand-offs or one-dribble threes, that stretch the defense beyond what they’re comfortable with.

Having another guy on the roster who can create shots (even if they are perimeter shots and not looks at the rim) is a good thing for a Pistons team sorely lacking in that ability.

In the Lane

Both Hood and Kennard don’t always get all the way to the rim on drives, which is fine: the NBA is full of gaps that guys can’t get to in time and uber-athletic help defenders. But both guys have a decent amount of craft once they pick up their dribble in the lane, enabling them to still get good shots.

Not sure if it’s a lefty thing, but after the fourth or fifth clip of Hood and Kennard getting their defender off balance to finish around them, you have to acknowledge that this is a feature of their games, not a bug.

At the Rim

That’s not to say that Kennard can’t finish at the rim - that’s not true. It’s just easier for him (as it is for nearly all other players) to finish when there’s no help at the rim.

Plays like the above are reminiscent of the kind of looks Ish Smith gets when Aron Baynes would seal his man inside. Keep an eye on how Amile Jefferson keeps the help occupied on these drives. If Andre Drummond has absorbed that bit of big man craft from Baynes, it’ll result in easy points for the Pistons’ perimeter players.

Miscellaneous

Kennard has really good court vision and can distribute the ball, but he either prefers to score or was asked to score more for Duke. When defenses begin clogging his driving lanes in the NBA, I have confidence he’ll be able to find open guys and make the correct basketball play.

Duke, like Detroit, didn’t play a lot in transition, but I found it interesting that Kennard was comfortable pulling up from three in semi-transition when they did speed things up. Very KCP-esque shots - and those KCP transition threes are backbreakers when they go in.

Also, that last play, in transition with Jason Tatum, looks SUPER familiar. Where have I seen that before...

Oh yeah, that’s where. Pistons should get out in transition more.

Low

I’m going to make the Low REALLY simple, for your sake and mine.

Kennard is atrocious defensively. Indecisive and flat-footed a lot of the time, dudes just give him buckets.

Hopefully, this doesn’t matter as much in the slice of minutes he’s given in the regular season, but in the worst-case scenario, teams score something like 1.4 points per possession when they put Kennard and Boban Marjanović into a pick-and-roll, and Stan Van Gundy refuses to play Kennard anywhere but Grand Rapids in February.

However, it’s important to remember that defending isn’t really Kennard’s role for this team. If he can avoid tire fire levels of defense, move the ball, and make shots, he will be a successful rookie.

I know Kennard isn’t the apple of Pistons fans’ eye right now, but I’m eager to see how he and Henry Ellenson play together in the Orlando Summer League. Getting some clips of Kennard shooting with an actual NBA three-point line in the picture will be nice.