Before the 2016-2017 season began, Luke Kennard was seen by many as an obvious “odd man out” for the Duke Blue Devils. Coach K and company assembled a phenomenal recruiting class to go along with arguably the top returning player in the country in Grayson Allen. Even after a very nice sophomore season, the left-handed guard profiled as a supporting piece of the puzzle rather than a lead dog of sorts.
Fast-forward to early February and one thing is abundantly clear. Luke Kennard is the best player for Duke. And it isn’t particularly close.
It should be noted that Kennard (still) isn’t the top NBA Draft prospect for the Blue Devils, with Jayson Tatum solidly ahead of him on any credible ‘big board’ and Harry Giles still living on the reputation of a once-elite prospect. Still, Duke’s offense functions at its peak level when it revolves around Kennard above and beyond everyone else and his offensive talent is both significant and overly apparent.
Through 23 games, the 6’5 off-guard is averaging 19.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, but more impressively, Kennard is assembling that scoring production while shooting 53 percent from the floor and a lights-out 46 percent from beyond the three-point arc. At the next level, it is entirely possible that Kennard will transform into something of a shooting specialist, and that is easily the biggest reason that he is ascending rapidly on draft boards everywhere.
In the same breath, he has flashed strong court vision and high-end passing ability, with more than enough off-dribble game to get to the rim when needed.
Make no mistake, Luke Kennard probably won’t become a top-10 draft pick, simply because he is somewhat limited athletically and, as a result, his defensive upside is lacking. There is no reason to think that he can’t become passable on that end of the floor, though, and if he can simply achieve that level of respectability, there is no reason Kennard can’t be a long-time NBA contributor that fits perfectly in the modern professional game.
Just how high can Kennard climb in this edition of NBA Draft watch? Let’s find out.