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Luke Kennard Player Preview: No pressure Luke, you’re our only hope

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The third-year guard is ready for a stellar season

Luke Kennard Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

On this site, Luke and I go way back.

Way back to 2017, if we are getting specific.

The month prior to the 2017 NBA Draft I was all over Luke, writing here on DBB that the Duke shooting guard is exactly what the Pistons need.

Now it’s two and a half years later and there’s some truth to that assertion, yet there’s also legitimate reservation to it as well. I’m not patting myself on the back quite yet, as Luke hasn’t lit the pro basketball world on fire. But he’s been far from a dud either.

This season will be his third and his most important. Granted, the organization does have added faith in him, as evident by last week’s news of them exercising a fourth-year team option for 2020-21 on the 23-year-old. Suffice it to say, fairly big things are still expected out of Luke in Detroit.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

Let’s just look at Luke’s playoff numbers in the four-game playoff series last season against the Milwaukee Bucks:

Kennard averaged 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and shot 49% from the field and 60% from downtown in 33 minutes per contest.

Again, it was only four games, so it’s right to take it with a grain of salt. For the regular season, I’m probably not crazy for thinking Kennard can average at least 15 points per game on about 45% shooting from the field and in the high 30s from downtown. And sure, Kennard’s assist numbers will certainly rise, as may his turnovers. Usage will have that effect. As far as minutes go, frankly, I’d be shocked if Kennard didn’t see very close to 30 minutes a game this season. Last season he was at 22 minutes per, which rarely seemed like enough on a team that didn’t have many outside shooting threats. But then again, Luke at times last season wasn’t comfortable and clearly wasn’t consistently assertive enough for a player with his offensive abilities and sheer potential.

Kennard’s regular season averages in 136 career games are 8.6 points per game on 44-percent shooting from the field. Last season alone, Luke shot 8.3 times per game. Again, looking at Luke playing about 30 minutes per game and often times being a perimeter focal point of the offense, his shot attempts should pop up to 10 or 11 easily. And that’s likely being a bit too conservative. But you know, numbers, schnumbers. What I’m getting at is that, like a lot of things in life, quality is better than quantity. With Luke on offense, that may be the case too. We don’t want him to sacrifice quality for quantity.

But I think I speak for every Pistons fan on earth when I say we’d like to see Luke have the greenest of green lights to shoot and probe as he may. Even with a heavy increase in quantity of shots, Luke’s efficiency (hence the quality of his offensive play) may not suffer. If Luke isn’t given the opportunity, then we’ll never know. Good teams in the NBA run their offense through their best offensive players. Bad teams do the same thing. So if Luke Kennard is one of the team’s key offensive weapons (besides Blake Griffin and maybe a resurgent Derrick Rose), then please create offensive strategy to let Luke eat. Let him feast!

I don’t care if Kennard has the occasional really awful shooting game where he just keeps shooting and shooting (all the stars do it) — the point is that he and his teammates develop extreme confidence in his shot-making ability. Luke should never be hesitant about looking for his own. I just hope Luke is capable of having an attacking mindset and looks at his place on this team and clearly understands what he needs to consistently do for them to even have a chance to be successful. While it’s not any good for Luke to ever be a full-fledged gunner, is he going to be content in taking a backseat to others, especially when there’s just no reason to?

Luke Kennard Christopher Daniels, Detroit Bad Boys

If Luke feels he has the hot hand, or a favorable matchup, that’s where having an aggressive mindset — plus a green light — will take both him and the team far. And props to Andre for patiently hunting Luke’s man, as this is often all Luke will even need.

Here’s a miss — but it was a quality look that he’ll make a generous amount of the time. Luke’s aggression going to the basket — even if not all the way to the paint — will continue to pay off as defenders will more and more come to respect Luke’s dribble-drive game and his overall ability to create different types of looks for himself. This aggression will allow Luke even more room to breathe and pop from the outside.

This was a laughably poor close out by rookie Isaiah Roby, and Luke took advantage of the situation. So much about the game of basketball is knowing when to be patient, but also recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities that might only reveal themselves for a split second. Without some patience, the opportunities may never have time to materialize.

Lastly, it’s not be a bad thing before Luke gets the ball that he has his mind made that he’s going to attack or shoot. A lot of players feel that way too much and many just simply aren’t at that level yet. Neither is Luke yet, of course. But again, it’s about having that killer type of mindset. He’s one of the few players on this Detroit roster that should have that mindset anyway. It’s needed.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

There is no worst-case scenario here. Only the most positive thoughts for Mr. Luke Kennard.

Say it with me now: Shoot, Luke, shoot. May you be our excellent (STARTING) shooting guard of the present and of the future.

THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF HYPE

My ending thoughts on Kennard’s NBA outlook were pretty strong:

Plain and simple, Luke Kennard is one of those talented basketball players who is just that: a basketball player. He has a good all-around skill set, he has proven to play well at a high level in one of the best college basketball conferences in the world, and it certainly wouldn’t be far-fetched for him to be one of the best shooters in the NBA in a few years’ time.

Do you believe the hype?

So, do you believe the Luke Kennard hype?

I think for our sanity’s sake, we must believe the hype that comes along with Kennard.

We just don’t have a lot here on this team right now. And I’m not just exaggerating and saying that because it came out yesterday that Blake Griffin will be out with hamstring and knee soreness for a few weeks and now it’s making Pistons Nation mostly sour and down and negative. But it’s true, sadly. On this team, the young-player-with-high-potential cupboard is mostly bare. Sekou Doumboyoa could be a year or two from being a year or two away. Bruce Brown and Christian Wood are nice, although they both figure to be role players in the program at the very best.

The fact is that Luke Kennard is about all the Pistons have at the moment. Luke might not be totally aware of that because, sure, his vantage point is quite different as a player. But we all more than know that Luke is a huge part of this team now and going forward, and so much of its success will depend on just how well he develops and performs.

And who really knows how much Luke can actually continue to expand his game in the next few seasons. Of course, we’ve see signs with him that the sky is the limit in many ways. Soon, he should be a starting caliber shooting guard in the league, no doubt. Still, Luke has a long ways to go to reach his potential. We all know that. And even if Luke doesn’t ever develop into one of the better overall shooting guards in the league, take solace in the fact that if you take a look at only his perimeter shooting and his resume of his entire basketball career thus far, expecting Luke to be one of the best shooters in the NBA is very reasonable. And then you have a Wesley Matthews, JJ Redick, Kyle Korver type of player and career on your hands. That’s really good.

But I think that’s Luke’s floor. So, pretty much, you could say that I really, really believe the Luke Kennard hype. And if I’m not far off, then this season should be so darn fun when we start to see what Luke is really about.