Luke Kennard will be entering the third season of his NBA career. With a solid second half of the season and playoff showing in his sophomore season, the expectations for his third season are higher than it will ever be.
After the Pistons traded Reggie Bullock, Kennard averaged 11.8 points per game, 2.4 assists, and 3.0 rebounds on 43.3 percent shooting from downtown; quality stats for a guy coming off the bench. More importantly, his minutes skyrocketed up from 20 a night to 26.3 a night, as he helped push the Pistons into the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Although the Pistons were demolished in a four-game sweep by the Milwaukee Bucks, Kennard, as one of the few bright spots in that series, gave the media and fans a small sample-sized taste of what he could bring into the third season.
In the playoffs, Kennard averaged 15 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists on ridiculous efficiency from the field and from three. Kennard finally showed an aspect of his game that made all Luke Kennard fans shed a proud tear; an aspect of his game that, too often, Kennard had shied away from and left many fans frustrated when watching him play.
Yes I’m talking about his aggressiveness.
In the playoffs, Kennard was able to show what he could do with heavy minutes and the ball in his hands. In games prior to the playoffs, it was a big deal to Pistons fans that Kennard wouldn’t shoot the ball. He’d play too passively, and hesitate even on open opportunities:
Kennard passes up an open triple to put it on the floor and turn it over. I don’t get the hesitation sometimes. It’s happened all year.— ☠️ (@StanimaI) March 18, 2018
Blake Griffin defense and Luke Kennard’s hesitation is killing us— Pistons Play (@PistonsPlay) April 7, 2019
Per our earlier discussion, Luke Kennard did NOT shoot this, and he absolutely has to: pic.twitter.com/I6aNVH2UNg— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) July 18, 2019
Even Dwane Casey was frustrated with Kennard for his hesitation.
Casey was silently agitated that Kennard didn't shoot that 3 coming off the screen. His face said it all.— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) February 12, 2019
But in the playoffs, Kennard didn’t show much of that problem against the Bucks. Kennard shot the ball 11.8 times in the series, three more shots a game than he did in the regular season. And he wasn’t just shooting threes. He was taking defenders off the dribble, getting to the rim, and pulling up and knocking down shots right between the eyes of the Bucks’ defense.
You would rarely see Kennard shoot this type of shot during the regular season; with plenty of time on the shot clock, the old Kennard would have passed this for the potential of a better shot. But Playoff Luke knew this is the type of shot Dwane Casey wants him to shoot:
Here, Luke brings the ball up court himself and wastes no time getting the offense he wants. Zaza Pachulia sets the quick screen at the three point line. Kennard utilizes the screen and frees himself up for an open jump shot.
Lastly, here’s one of my favorite shots from Kennard during the playoffs: Kennard gets his defender in the air with a simple pump fake from three. Although Kennard almost lost his footing adjusting for his shot, he was still able to bury the three right in the face of his defender.
Kennard finished this game, Game 1, with 21 points on 8 for 14 shooting from the floor. In the 12 games that Kennard shot 12 or more times during his sophomore season and playoffs, he averaged 20.1 points. Overall, Luke only took 8.3 shots a night for the season.
I’m not saying Kennard should shoot 12 times a night, every night. But he should definitely get to that number more than 12 times next season. Doing so could lead to plenty more Piston wins. #ShootItLuke!