Duke has dealt with a number of injuries so far this season but still managed to earn 12 wins over the non-conference part of its schedule thanks to breakout seasons by Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard – two veterans that were supposed to play supporting roles on this team.
The six-foot-four wing, specifically, has solidified his status as a bonafide gunner after what was considered an unimpressive first year, now matching versatile shot making ability with stunning efficiency, as he’s currently averaging 23.7 points per 40 minutes on 61.6% effective shooting – according to basketball-reference.
Thanks to that and some ability passing on the move, as a prominent part of Duke’s drive-and-kick attack, Kennard has been discussed in some pockets of the internet as a potential NBA prospect, though Draft Express currently does not have him in either their 2017 or their 2018 boards.
Kennard is the valuable chess piece type of shooter. He adds gravity as a weak-side spot-up threat but influences the game more with his ability to shoot on the move, as he’s proven himself able to set his feet on the catch, elevate with great balance and get his shot off in a second.
Duke has gotten him good looks sprinting to the ball on dribble-handoffs, coming off side screens and curling around pin-down screens for one-dribble pull-ups from mid-range. He’s nailed 56.2% of his 64 two-point and 43.2% of his 81 three-point jumpers, according to hoop-math.
His percentages are particularly impressive when you consider that 71.8% of his attempts are coming away from the basket, so it’s not as if opposing defenses are unaware of which types of shots Kennard is best at getting.
He is not tasked with handling the ball against a set defense, rarely getting downhill on middle pick-and-roll or creating in isolation. But Kennard has shown decent ability of getting into the lane attacking closeouts and off a live dribble on handoffs.
He is not an explosive leaper off one foot, can’t adjust his body in the air and doesn’t have a lot of length (six-foot-five wingspan) for reverse or extended finishes against length at the basket. But he has impressed with his craft scoring in traffic.
Kennard has a thin 187-pound frame but has decent core strength to maintain his balance through contact, get to the rim and protect the ball in order to get his shot off against better athletes. His 9.2% turnover rate is quite low in the context of his 24% usage rate.
He has a floater to finish over rim protectors, can get separation for short-range mini jumpers within eight feet and has been able to finish through contact at the collegiate level – converting 63.3% of his shots at the basket this season.
Kennard has also shown pretty good feel for making good reads on the move against a scrambling defense, sucking in help and then kicking out to shooters spot-up on the strong-side or big men at the dunker’s spot – assisting on 14.2% of Duke’s scores when he’s been on the floor.
He hasn’t shown much in terms of passing across his body to the opposite side of the floor and making pockets passes or lobbying the ball to a rim runner in pick-and-roll, though.
Kennard is a disciplined defender. He is attentive to try icing side pick-and-rolls, shuffles his feet to stay in front in isolation and looks to run opponents off the three-point line on closeouts.
But he lacks athleticism to make much of an impact on this end. He can’t contain penetration when opponents drive at him and his eight-foot-two standing reach isn’t much of an obstacle for true wings with NBA-caliber size to shoot over.
His contributions through steals and blocks are marginal. His 13.9% defensive rebounding rate is appealing but must be considered within the context of Duke keeping just a single true big man in the lineup for most of the game, enhancing the availability of rebounds for smaller players to collect.
Kennard’s best chance of potentially becoming a rotation player in the NBA would probably be transitioning into a role as a 3D point guard, supplementing wings who handle the ball a lot. But he doesn’t have the lateral quickness to go over ball-screens in middle pick-and-roll, the speed to chase smaller players around the court or the length necessary to bother opposing ball-handlers from behind trailing the play.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara