I’ll be honest. I am not as bold as Lavar Ball, who said his son, Lonzo, will be better than Steph Curry. What I will say is this, Duke’s Luke Kennard will mirror Steph Curry’s game in the NBA.
Let’s start out with a little background on Luke Kennard. The soon to be 21-year-old, Kennard attended Franklin High School in Franklin, Ohio. As a junior and senior, Kennard was donned the Ohio Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year. Ohio is also, of course, where the great Lebron James played his high school basketball. Kennard, who averaged around 40 points a game during his senior year, finished ahead of Lebron, and second all-time on the Ohio High School Athletic Association career scoring list. Oh and by the way, he was also named the Division II State Offensive Player of the Year in 2013, but for football. As quarterback for Franklin High, Kennard threw for 2,331 yards with 26 passing and 4 rushing touchdowns. The craziest part is that he threw right handed, even though he is a left handed shooter. Yes, this dude is a total freak. The 6’6 athletic guard did not disappoint at the next level.
While coming off the bench his freshman year, Kennard averaged 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game for the Blue Devils. Great numbers for a freshman off the bench, but Kennard had not been used to this type of role, as he has been the star player his whole life. After starting only six games during the regular season, Kennard started all of the ACC tournament, and NCAA tournament games. It was his past sophomore year that Kennard showed that his High School stats were no joke.
During his sophomore campaign, Kennard lead the Blue Devils in scoring at 19.5 points per game. He did this on 49% shooting, including 43.8% from deep. Not only did Kennard shoot the lights out, he also averaged 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game. These stats were good enough for Kennard to be named a consensus All American, as well as a unanimous selection for the All-ACC First Team. In three contests against the eventual NCAA champion, UNC Tar Heels, Kennard averaged 22.7 points, on 53.8% shooting, as well as grabbing 4 rebounds per game. His efficiency and ability to knock down shots are just two of the many reasons he will be a star in the NBA. Having coach Mike Krzyzewski for two seasons could have also helped a little.
Kennard vs. Curry
Now, back to the Steph Curry comparisons. One thing that must be noted is the fact that Steph Curry played at Davidson University, who have sent a total of five players to the NBA, none of course played with Steph. Kennard’s teammates, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Franklin Jackson will all be selected in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft on June 22nd. Not even named was Grayson Allen, who is staying for his senior year and will be a first round draft pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. My point is this, Steph had to be the guy or else his team would lose by 40. I am not taking anything away from him averaging 25 points a game over three years at Davidson, but during his junior year, Curry took 687 shots, which was over 200 more shots than Kennard had attempted this past year. Duke also plays in the ACC, which is far better competition that the Southern Conference, which Curry and Davidson competed in, before recently joining the Atlantic-10.
Surrounded by better teammates, and playing in a better conference, Kennard was able to match up very similar to Curry, who is arguably one of the best college basketball players of all time. Curry, who during his sophomore season averaged 26 points per game, shot 48.3% from the field, and 43.9% from three. The percentages almost identical to Kennard’s. They also both were able to shoot above 85% from the free throw line. I also believe Kennard will be a much better defender than Curry, mostly because of his quickness and the fact that he is 6’6”. All in all, both players can score at will. Kennard has shown he can get his shot off against anyone at any time because of his quick shot and athleticism, similar to Curry.
The Next Level
People might ask, what about the ball handling and ability to make plays like Curry? In a post draft workout interview with the Indiana Pacers, Kennard was asked if he thought he could be a playmaker at the next level. He responded with a confident “I do”, and why wouldn’t he? He has shown throughout his athletic career that he can virtually do anything.
In that same interview, Kennard also touched upon the spacing in the NBA and how the game has changed into more of a shooter’s league. To put it into perspective, the average amount of threes attempted in a game was 13 in the 1999-2000 season. This past year, it was 26 per game. We also saw the Houston Rockets break the record for most threes attempted in a season, as well as most threes made per game. This record will probably be broken as more and more teams have realized how valuable the 3-point shot truly is.
Not a bad league to enter if you are a sniper like Kennard, who shot over 44% from downtown. So where should he get picked?
In a league where teams are looking for guys who can stretch the floor and hit threes, Kennard is a perfect fit for essentially any team. Mock drafts have him at around 18th pick to the Indiana Pacers, which would be an absolute steal. If Kennard falls to the Pacers, it wouldn’t be the worst spot. The stadium is about two hours away from his hometown in Franklin, Ohio, and playing alongside Paul George would be extremely beneficial. Teams like Boston, Orlando, Dallas, Charlotte and Denver, who all have picks before Indiana, could really use a guy like Kennard. Not only can he be an immediate impact for these teams, but Kennard could thrive as all of the teams listed finished in the top half of the league in three point shots attempted during the 2016-17 campaign.
Of the top rated prospects, (Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Fox, Tatum, Smith, Monk), Kennard finished ahead of all of them in three-point percentage. Why draft a player who cannot shoot when teams are taking more deep shots than ever? In a league dominated by the three ball, Kennard is the obvious choice.
On June 22nd, we will most likely see a situation similar to when Johnny Flynn was drafted ahead of Steph Curry. With an already established shot, the confident and consistent Kennard will drop a lot lower than he should have. GM’s will be shaking their heads in the near future if they pass on Luke Kennard.
Featured image by Swarm and Sting.com
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