Pistons Lead

Kennard Stepping up to the Plate

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Since the all-star break, the Detroit Pistons have arguably been the hottest team in the league.  The Pistons have won nine of their last 11 games (including pre all-star break contests), moving them up to 6th in the East. The streak of success overlapped with the trade deadline, seeing the departures of Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson.  Since that time, Luke Kennard has taken a huge step forward.  How has this changed his career and the outlook for the Pistons season?  In a single word: Positive.

Statistical Boom

While a statistical boost is not unheard of for a second year player, the last stretch of games has opened a lot of eyes to how productive Luke has become.  Since the deadline, Kennard is averaging 15 points per game on 51% shooting overall and a scorching 52% from three.  Taking out a brutal 0-for-6 game against the Spurs boosts the numbers to 54% from the field and 58% from three.  While this is a small sample size, what matters more is the confidence he is boosting and showing from game to game.

Over the last 20 games, Kennard is shooting over 40% from three.  He is becoming the most lethal shooter on the team and Pistons fans have adopted the common rhetoric every time he is on the floor of “Keep Shooting Luke”.  The team has been hoping for increased shooting from Luke, Langston Galloway and Wayne Ellington to space the floor and make some room for Blake and Andre.  While the other two have been streaky thus far, Luke has helped change the direction of Detroit’s season.

Starter or Sixth Man?

At the beginning of the season many fans had been hoping that Luke would take his spot in the starting lineup.  When Bullock was dealt, they had hoped he would get another shot at the spot.  Bruce Brown and new addition Wayne Ellington have taken the starting spots alongside Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond.  It is easy to make assumptions when looking at base statistics and think Luke should be starting over them because he is scoring more and shooting better– but the issue is much more nuanced than that.

As Kennard has stressed in interviews and has been proven over many games, he does not click with the starting unit as much.  Furthermore, it leaves the bench rudderless from a scoring perspective.  Having a spark off the bench to keep the offense flowing has led to great success for the Pistons.  When alongside the starters, he is relegated to the corner while watching Blake and Reggie work.  Leading the second unit allows Luke to really work and showcase his full skillset.  In the future he will likely be able to move into a starting role, but he plays his current role with seamless perfection.

Needless Comparisons

It is easy for some more troll-leaning fans to compare Kennard to his draft mate, Donovan Mitchell.  In either direction, this does no one any favors.  The most important thing for Luke and the team is that he is getting better every day.  It is not about being the better draft pick, looking better than Donovan Mitchell or validating a front office that no longer works here.  It is about the boost he has given to the team and how he has grown as an overall player.  Luke Kennard has arrived– and the Detroit Pistons are better because of him.

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