One of the most skilled guards in the draft, Kennard exploded as a sophomore, averaging 19.5 points per game in the ACC, while proving his value playing both on and off the ball. A versatile shot maker who's not afraid of the moment, Kennard is best suited in a system where he's not going to be stuck in the corner waiting for catch and shoot opportunities, but rather running off screens (thanks to his ability to make catch and shoot jumpers, pull-ups, floaters and utilize his vision off of in-downs) and playing out of second side pick and roll, functioning more as a combo guard. He's proven that he can make quick decisions on the move and navigate a ball screen, so landing in a spot with a creative offense, where his versatility is welcomed, will be best for Kennard's maximum productivity. On the other side of the ball, he's not the toughest defender, so having a couple stoppers next to him with a rim protector behind him is a necessity.
Like Mitchell, Kennard is getting looks as high as #8 from New York, and is likely to come off the board somewhere in the 11-16 range as he has obvious suitors in Charlotte, Detroit, Miami and Chicago.
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
The #21 recruit in the 2015 high school class, Luke Kennard was a McDonald's All-American and USA Basketball fixture who surprised somewhat by developing into one of the best players in college basketball and a potential lottery pick already as a sophomore.
Kennard had a solid, but hardly overwhelming freshman season, averaging 12 points per game in 27 minutes, and shooting just 32% for 3, before absolutely exploding as a sophomore. He finished as the second best scorer in the ACC at 19.5 points per game, and did so on tremendous efficiency (53% 2P%, 44% 3P%, 86% FT%) earning him ACC First Team All-Conference Honors.
Physically, Kennard has solid height for a shooting guard at around 6'6, but otherwise has plenty of question marks about his profile. His wingspan is shorter than his height at 6'5 ¼, and his frame hasn't added much bulk in recent years, weighing 196 pounds at the NBA Combine, only seven pounds heavier than three years ago with USA Basketball. He's also not a great athlete in a traditional sense, lacking standout quickness and explosiveness.
What Kennard lacks in measurables he makes up for with tremendous skill, savvy and productivity. He played the game at a different speed than almost anyone at the college level this season, using polished footwork, body control and feel to get to different spots on the floor and compensate for his just-decent tools. He came up big time after time in clutch moments in some of the most important games he competed in, showing a level of swagger and confidence that grew on NBA decision makers over time.
Kennard possesses outstanding scoring instincts from all over the court, but his advantage on offense starts with his elite-level shot-making ability. He converted a sky-high 44% of his 3-pointers this past season, with many of them coming on very high degree of difficulty attempts. He moves off the ball intelligently, constantly relocating based on where the ball is and how the defense is reacting, and only needs an instant to get his shot off thanks to his super quick release and excellent shot preparation.
Far more than a spot-up shooter, Kennard is excellent coming off screens, and is also lethal pulling up off the dribble. He has very good footwork and timing attacking closeouts, using head-fakes, pump-fakes and terrific body control to shed his initial defender. He will not hesitate to use side-steps to quickly relocate behind the arc, or take one dribble inside the arc and pull-up for a mid-range step-back, often throwing in a slight fade for good measure.
Kennard really improved with his ability to initiate offense this season, partially out of necessity on a Duke team with no point guard on the roster. He was very functional operating out of the pick and roll, in no small part due to his shot-making prowess, but also because of his ability to find the open man. Kennard sees over the top of the defense at 6'6 and is a very willing facilitator who almost never turns the ball over. He makes quick reads and decisions within the flow of the offense, seeing things evolving on the court and adjusting on the fly with a very high basketball IQ. There are some NBA people that feel he has legit combo guard potential with his strong handle, impressive vision, and ability to make shots off the bounce, something that would certainly boost his NBA prospects.
Kennard's first step is average, and he doesn't put all that much pressure on the rim, certainly not from a stand-still. He has a knack for slowing down and speeding up instinctively, keeping defenders on their heels (or his back) and using his body to create the space he needs to get his shot off. He has very soft touch on his floaters, being nearly ambidextrous with his finishes, often using the glass or throwing the ball in the basket from very difficult angles.
With that said, there are some concerns about how this part of his game will translate to the NBA level, as he often seemed to be just barely getting by already at the college level. He struggles to finish over length due to his underwhelming explosiveness and extension around the rim, and he couldn't always turn the corner against quicker players in college. Some of the moves in his arsenal, for example killing his dribble and using reverse pivot moves inside the paint, may simply not translate against bigger, stronger, longer and more athletic defenders. How sustainable his 53% 2P% and high free throw rate this season will be in the NBA is a real question mark, and how well he'll adapt his game in turn will be very important.
The biggest question marks NBA people have about Kennard undoubtedly revolve around his defense. He has an unappealing combination of short arms, average lateral quickness, and a just-decent frame that already puts him at a significant disadvantage right off the bat. He compounded that this past season by demonstrating a distinctly low energy level, playing with very little urgency and getting lost off the ball frequently, although some of those issues plagued the entire Duke team as a whole. Regardless, there are real concerns about whether Kennard is the type of player a NBA team will need to hide on that end of the floor, as he's probably not quick enough to defend most guards, and seemingly lacks the length to contain bigger wing players.
Kennard showed flashes of toughness and smarts at times during the year, for example with the way he attacked the glass, got deflections, and generally used his excellent anticipation skills to his advantage. Those moments were far and few between, though, and were mixed in with some very ugly possessions. He will have to rev up his intensity level significantly and learn how to use his IQ to become a more sound positional defender, something that will go a long way in deciding whether he ends up being just another guy in the NBA or a real difference maker.
Kennard is an unorthodox prospect who worked on his game obsessively the past few years to polish up his skill-level and emerge as one of the best players in the NCAA this past season. High-level shot makers with size, vision and feel are all the rage in today's NBA, and Kennard will be drafted accordingly high and get every chance to show his game can translate to the next level.
Julian Applebome analyzes the significant improvement Luke Kennard has shown in many different areas between his freshman and sophomore season, with a special focus on how his game might translate to the NBA level.
Kennard has clearly put a significant amount of work into his footwork, ball-handling, shot-creation skills, passing and shooting, both off the dribble and with his feet set. He's seen exceptional results so far this season, catapulting him into the national player of the year conversation.
He's improved his already solid freshman per-40 numbers of 17.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 19.7 PER to an entirely new level with 22.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists per-40 and a 27.6 PER as a sophomore. Perhaps most impressively, despite his usage rising, he's seen his efficiency skyrocket, elevating his True Shooting percentage from 56 to 67%.
Julian Applebome is a video analyst for DraftExpress. Follow him on twitter and check out the DraftExpress Video section. He will be breaking down the NBA draft in digital format all year long for us.
A consensus top-25 high school recruit, Luke Kennard's freshman campaign was a productive one, as the young guard's basketball IQ and shooting ability allowed him to make an immediate impact in one of the college basketball's best conferences. Averaging 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists over 26.7 minutes per game, Kennard figures to play a prominent role for Mike Krzyzewski's program for the foreseeable future, and ultimately find his way onto the NBA radar.
Perhaps the biggest thing holding the two-time Ohio Mr. Basketball back from solidifying himself as an NBA prospect at this stage is that he is a mixed bag from a physical perspective. Measured around 6'6 in shoes with a mediocre 6'5 wingspan and 187-pound frame at the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit, Kennard has average tools for a shooting guard. To his credit, the 20-year-old had made noticeable strides adding muscle to his frame by the end of last season and comes into the 2016 season listed at 202 pounds. Lacking a degree of quickness defensively and the explosiveness to play above the rim without significant room to operate, Kennard's poor length and average athleticism are the biggest concerns regarding his NBA potential.
What Kennard lacks in physical tools he makes up for with tremendous instincts and polish, playing with a maturity beyond his years. Operating mostly off the ball last season, with almost half of his possessions coming on spot up or off-screen opportunities, Kennard's role revolved principally around his ability to make shots from the perimeter. Despite that, he contributed in a variety of ways offensively, as his scoring instincts and skill level frequently allowed him to exploit what defenders gave him in pick and roll and isolation situations. Averaging a terrific 1.03 points per possession as a freshman according to Synergy Sports Technology, Kennard was exceptionally efficient as his smart, low-mistake style of play translated extremely well to the college game.
As good as Kennard's season looked on paper, it wasn't without its difficult stretches. Shooting just 29% from beyond the arc in the month of November and 28% in March, the Franklin, Ohio native suffered through a number of cold streaks from deep, problematic given over half of his attempts came from downtown. Nonetheless, he looked like the high-level shot maker his pedigree suggested he would be in spurts, making right around 40% of his 3-pointers from the wings and an improvable 32% overall for the season.
Shooting the ball with a very quick, but low, release, Kennard has deep range and the ability to make shots from beyond the arc both off the catch and off the dribble. Adept at moving without the ball, Kennard was particularly effective making shots on the move, getting himself open running off of baseline screens, displaying a knack for getting his feet set and shot off before the defense could recover. A tremendous free throw shooter (89%) who also drilled a number of contested jumpers in isolation situations, Kennard has all the makings of an exceptional shooter down the road, perhaps the most appealing element of his game in projecting him to the NBA level.
Aside from his ability to make jump shots, its Kennard's instincts that really shined last season. Lacking a degree of quickness, but very smooth with the ball in his hands, Kennard is an opportunistic slasher who uses quick jabs, savvy footwork, and timely fakes to create space for himself to score inside. Shooting an average 51% around the rim in the half court in finishing situations, but tossing in 54% of his floaters flashing good touch scoring with both hands, Kennard isn't very shifty with the ball and plays mostly below the rim, making it difficult for him to finish in traffic, but still finds ways to contribute attacking off the dribble.
Aside from his ability to score the ball, Kennard's ability to read the game allows him to find the open man as a passer, exploit lazy defenders sneaking in to crash the glass, and simply make good decisions. Turning the ball over on just 7% of his total possessions last year, Kennard seldom tries to do too much off the dribble. As his game matures at the college level, it will be interesting to see what kind of playmaking responsibilities Kennard takes on, as becoming a more capable facilitator in the pick and roll seems like the next logical step in his development.
As much as there is to like about Kennard's offensive game, there are considerable concerns about his defensive ability. Consistently targeted by opposing coaches, Kennard's lack of length and lateral speed overshadowed his quick hands and the solid energy level he played with last season. Struggling to keep the ball in front of him at times and lacking the ability to bother shooters, Kennard has plenty to prove on the defensive end in the coming years. His improved frame should be an asset, but whether it will help compensate for his poor tools at the next level remains to be seen.
One of the most mature freshman in the country, Luke Kennard will be a key piece for one of the nation's best teams as a sophomore. Surrounded by a number of elite freshman, Kennard could be a major difference maker for the Blue Devils if he has a strong year shooting the ball and begins to take some of the pressure off of Grayson Allen at the point guard spot by emerging as a viable facilitator. Impressing scouts in practices and playing well in Duke's exhibition games, Kennard seems like a lock to emerge as a standout college player, but it's a little early to make definitive statements about where he stands as a NBA prospect.
Kennard, who was outstanding in practice all week, played a fantastic game as he went for 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. The smooth lefty knocked down two triples, a few 1-2 dribble pull ups after attacking a closeout, and grabbed five offensive rebounds, showing his overall basketball instincts. The US Team had five players in double figures as a handful of individuals played well, but it wasn't enough to neutralize the size and length of the World Team, and the overall play of Murray, Labissiere and Simmons in an extremely high-level, fluid, and competitive game.
One of the most skilled players in this group, Kennard's size is not what's made him such a highly sought after recruit. The future Duke guard compares favorably to his predecessor J.J. Redick who measured 6'4.75 in shoes with a 6'3.25 wingspan and a 190-pound frame coming out of college in 2006. Like Redick, Kennard will have to work extra hard defensively to prove that his lack of length and reach won't be a hindrance at the NBA level.
Duke-bound Luke Kennard also did some nice things offensively for the US Team after a strong showing in 5-on-5 play during the team's early afternoon scrimmages. The 6' 5 smooth lefty wasn't completely automatic from the perimeter, but drilled a handful of spot up triples with a hand in his face, sporting a smooth compact release to go along with his excellent basketball instincts.
Kennard proved he still has room to improve his ability to pull up off the bounce or get to the rim in a straight line, but the Franklin, Ohio native does a lot of really impressive little things that, combined with his shooting stroke, should make him a very productive player for Duke next season.
Kennard makes the simple play offensive, sees the floor and finds cutters on the move, shows impressive anticipation in the passing lanes and keeps plays alive on the glass despite his fairly thin body and poor wingspan, things that should make him a Cameron Crazies fan favorite.
Strengths -More than just a shooter. -Excellent spot up shooter. Good mechanics, quick release. Can shoot on the move as well (coming off of screens). -Not an explosive athlete but is very smooth. -Can handle a little bit. -High IQ on both ends. -Good passing instincts. Very unselfish. -Uses both hands around the rim. -Plays hard.
Weaknesses -Not the most explosive athlete. -Inconsistent shooter off the bounce. -Short arms -Struggles containing quicker guards -Low release point on his shot
Outlook Sharp-shooting guard with potential to develop into more of a playmaker due to his above average handle, basketball IQ and passing instincts. Kennard figures to be a contributor at the college level right away due to his shooting ability and effort level. Kennard may not have a ton of NBA potential due to his average physical tools, but expect Kennard to be a solid collegiate player.
Strengths: -Versatile shooting guard -Excellent shooter. Reliable with feet set. Can come off screens. Moves off the ball well. Quick release -Mature, intelligent player. Unselfish. Operates within team concept. Can create for others -Very good passer -Solid ball-handler. Can change speeds. Finishes with both hands around the basket -Good awareness and activity level -Competitive player. Crashes the glass. Tries on defense
Weaknesses -Average size for a wing at 6-5 -Short arms (6-4 ½ wingspan) -Doesn't have great mechanics on pull-up jumper -Low release point on shot, but very consistent with his stroke -Could struggle defensively at the next level
Outlook: Shooting guard who does a little bit of everything. Has a very good feel for the game. Looks like an excellent college prospect at the very least.