After being overlooked for much of his high school career, Luke Kornet's late growth spurt, and some big performances on the AAU circuit, eventually put him on the map as a recruit. Kornet eventually settled on Vanderbilt, following in the path of his father, Frank Kornet, who helped lead the Commodores to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in the late 1980's.
In many respects, Kornet, listed at 7'1", 250 pounds by Vanderbilt, showed progress as a junior for the Commodores. His rebounding, a big weakness in his game up to that point, improved from 6.0 rebounds per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, to 10.9. He blocked significantly more shots (1.9 per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, to 4.4), committed less turnovers (2.2 to 1.6), and got to the free-throw line more (25.7% free-throw rate to 32.9%).
Still, the season on the whole was slightly disappointing for the 7'1" Kornet, in large part because of his struggles shooting from the perimeter. After connecting on an even 40% of his 125 three-point attempts as a sophomore Kornet connected on just 28% as a junior, while taking a step back from the free-throw line as well. Kornet improved somewhat in the second half of the year, shooting 31.4% from three-point range in his last 14 games, compared to just 23.8% in the first 14, but he never truly regained the shooting touch that made him such an intriguing prospect.
Some of Kornet's struggles from the perimeter can come down to shot selection, as he's more than willing to take contested shots, shots off the dribble, and shots from well beyond the collegiate three-point line. Despite his struggles last year Kornet has great mechanics on his jump shot and a repeatable, quick shooting motion that should suggest his struggles last year can be overcome, but becoming a little bit more selective in his shot selection would certainly help him in that regard.
Kornet is mostly an opportunistic scorer outside of jumpers. He has solid touch around the basket and moves well without the ball, but he's mostly a below the rim player, despite his size. He can score on the occasional post-up when he has a size advantage with basic hook shots, but while he's made some minor progress in developing his upper body strength and looks like he has a frame that can continue to fill out, his lower body strength is still a weak point and he struggles to establish decent post position, usually resorting to a low-percentage turnaround jump shot rather than forcing his way inside with a move toward the basket.
Kornet does have some perimeter skills which gives him more than just pick and pop potential, though. While he has a slow first step and not much leaping ability, he does have the requisite ball handling skills to put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts, is capable of making quality decisions with the ball and shows an affinity for passing on the perimeter, and is relatively nimble on his feet, even if not all that quick. Nobody is going to mistake Kornet for a high-level shot creator at the next level, but the skills are there to be able to take advantage of the closeouts he'll receive if he's able to force defenders to respect his jump shot.
Defensively, it's a little bit harder to project Kornet at the next level. While he's able to use his 7'1" size and length to alter shots around the basket, the rest of his defensive game has quite a bit of way to go before he's not a liability on that end of the floor.
Kornet's lack of lower body strength makes it difficult for him to keep even mediocre post scorers from working their way to the basket, and he compounds that with an upright stance and a tendency to not engage until the opponent already has deep post position. He can overcome this at times with an occasional block thanks to his length, but his tendency to get pushed around is something that he's going to have to improve upon as he physically matures.
Kornet also struggles quite a bit on the perimeter, as he's relatively slow of foot, is frequently too upright and off balance, struggles to change direction, and doesn't have the greatest awareness as a defender. The combination of his struggles in the post and his inability to defend the perimeter is going to be tough to overcome, as he would be a liability regardless of whether he's defending the power forward or center position at this stage of his career.
On the plus side, Kornet did make drastic improvements in his output in the defensive glass, grabbing 19.7% of the available defensive rebounds when he was on the court. While this was a significant improvement over the 13.2% he grabbed as a sophomore, it's still an average-at-best figure for a seven-footer who was playing near the basket frequently, and his lack of lower body strength once again was a big factor in this facet of the game. He gave more consistent effort this past season, but he's still going to struggle to physically compete.
In some respects, Luke Kornet made a lot of improvements to round out his game this past season. Still, when you project out Kornet's role to the NBA, he's going to succeed or fail based on his ability as a jump shooter. Injuries and the poor team chemistry Vanderbilt suffered from last year are mitigating factors that likely contributed to the season-long slump he endured, and the form, touch, and potential are clearly there for his jump shot. If he can continue to develop as an all-around player, and regain the shooting touch he showed as a sophomore, he'll stay on the draft radar for a league desperate for big men who can stretch the floor.