Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kennard are both adept at shooting three-pointers. The combination of Caldwell-Pope and Kennard could give Detroit their own “Splash Brothers” duet.
Kennard made his first podium appearance as an NBA player shortly after donning the Pistons’ hat and shaking commissioner Adam Silver’s hand. The questions in the press room at the Barclay’s Center centered around what kind of impact Kennard could have on the Pistons immediately, and what type of challenges he faced.
Kennard discussed his assets as a player and the negatives of his game in the short interview.
“I’m a very poised player. I’m very calm and I’m able to change pace really well. I think that can be very effective. I’m pretty crafty when it comes to different things, like being in the lane or just creating my shot. Just being a playmaker and being able to knock down shots.”
Last season, the Pistons were one of the worst shooting teams in the league, finishing 28th in three-point shooting (33 percent) and dead last in true shooting percentage.
According to Sean Corp of SB Nation‘s Bad Boys, Detroit head coach Stan Van Gundy wanted to address three key factors in the draft this year. They needed a reliable three-point shooter, a playmaker or creator to assist Reggie Jackson, and a defender of Kawhi Leonard‘s caliber.
Kennard addresses two of Van Gundy’s immediate priorities. Defensively, Kennard has a lot of maturing to do to make an impact on both ends of the floor.
“I just need to work on my strength,” Kennard said during the pre-draft presser. “I think that will help me on both offense and defense. And one thing is just wanting to guard and being competitive. I’m a really competitive player, and I think that’s going to help me with that specific skill.”
Growing up in Franklin, Ohio, Kennard didn’t envision this moment even though he passed LeBron James on the Ohio high school scoring list before attending Duke.
“Being at Franklin in Ohio, a small town like that, I enjoyed it so much. Any chance I have to go back home, I can’t wait for that chance to come. Back then, I didn’t think I’d be in this position. Even last year at the end of the year, the beginning of this past season, I didn’t think I’d be here. But I’ve worked hard and gotten a lot better. I’m looking forward to this next step.”
Passing James on the Ohio high school scoring list is just one of Kennard’s career highlights:
John R. Wooden Award All-America Team
Finalist Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award
MVP of the 2017 ACC Tournament
86.7 career free throw percentage is second all-time in Duke history
Kennard was the second Duke player drafted in the 2017 NBA Draft. Grant Hill was the last Duke player drafted in the first round by the Pistons. If Kennard has half the career Hill did, this might be heralded as a stroke of genius in a few years.
Kennard has many upsides. He’s a threat from behind the arc, he can shoot and he’s a playmaker who can read and set up screens. Van Gundy compared him Los Angeles Clipper guard J.J. Redick.
With time and maturity, Kennard’s defense will improve. Van Gundy insists Kennard will have to address his defensive flaws if he wants to see significant playing time right away.
“He’s got to change his entire defensive approach,” he said. “He’s got to get a lot better and, quite honestly, he’s got to, in my opinion take a lot more pride in (defense) than he did this past year. The process of becoming a better defender begins first thing in the morning. We’ll have that first talk tomorrow.”
The Pistons did the best they could with the draft position and tools they received. Even though Kennard was their best option, his lack of defense, the Pistons’ salary cap concerns, and their inability to create trades that would give them more picks in the draft lowers their overall grade.