Detroit Pistons shooting guard Luke Kennard has had a so-so first two seasons in the NBA. Last year, he averaged 9.7 points (on 43.8 percent shooting), 2.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 0.4 steals, while also connecting on 1.7 three-pointers on a 39.4.-percent clip. While he improved in practically all areas of his game in his sophomore campaign, his production still remains to be mediocre at best.
Entering his third year in the league this coming season, a lot will be on the line for Kennard. Not only will this be a very important year for him in terms of his future with the Pistons — Detroit holds a team option on the final year of his current rookie-scale deal next season — but also, the same can be said about how much the team needs him to step up his game this coming campaign.
Incoming sophomore guard Bruce Brown is still expected to hold on to the starting role at the two spot, with Kennard serving as his primary backup. However, despite Kennard’s role off the bench, he will still play a pivotal role for the squad this season.
Kennard’s most impressive asset is perhaps his long-distance shooting, and at 1.7 three-pointers per ballgame in just 4.3 attempts, that’s actually pretty efficient. If the 23-year-old is somehow able to increase his production from distance, then surely, he will become a very useful weapon for the Pistons.
The game has evolved in such a way that the ability to score from distance has become one of the most important aspects of any team’s potential for success. The significance of efficient and effective play from the wing has now emerged as a prerequisite to any team’s hopes of becoming a serious contender, and perhaps, this is an area where Kennard can most help the Pistons.
Moreover, being able to stretch out the floor will be vital in Detroit’s aspirations for the coming season, as it should provide more breathing room for their bigs down low. Andre Drummond is expected to have another monster year, while Blake Griffin — provided that he can stay healthy — should also be in store for another All-Star campaign. Having sufficient help from the wings will definitely help their individual and collective cases, thereby increasing the team’s overall potential for success.
The Eastern Conference — or at least the bottom half of the available playoff spots — will be wide open this season, and the Pistons will likely be contending for a place in the postseason. Detroit secured the eighth and final spot in the East last year, and they are likely going to be fighting for a similar position towards the tail end of the season. This makes it even more important for guys like Kennard to step up, and potentially serve as the team’s x-factor for the 2019-20 campaign.
On another note, the Pistons also need Kennard to have a breakout campaign for reasons related to their success rate in the draft over the past few years. Detroit has not exactly been very good/lucky when it comes to the draft, with their most significant draftee in the past decade or so being none other than Andre Drummond. Other than him, most of their other draft selections have either been run-of-the-mill, at best or have found success in other teams (read: Khris Middleton, Spencer Dinwiddie).
After using their 12th overall pick on Kennard in 2017 — one spot higher than Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell who went 13th — the Pistons need Kennard to have a breakout year to turn their luck around. The potential is there for the former Duke standout, so maybe he’s the guy that can break the curse for the Pistons.
Detroit is not, and never will be a prime destination for free agents, so it is important for the Pistons to be able to build their team from the draft. The Milwaukee Bucks are one of the prime examples of an organization building their team from the ground up, and the Pistons should be looking at their success as a barometer.
Detroit already have great cornerstone stars in Drummond and Griffin (who will notably be 31 this season), and the front office has done relatively well in the offseason by adding important pieces such as Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, and Tony Snell over the summer. The addition of highly-touted rookie forward Sekou Doumbouya should also help their cause, but it is definitely guys like Kennard and their potential success that will lift the Pistons to another level. The Pistons faithful are definitely hoping that Kennard takes off this coming season, and if all goes according to plan, he could prove to be a crucial piece for the team moving forward.