As a highly touted and sought-after draft pick, Luke Kennard struggled in his first few seasons in the league. With point per game averages of 7.6 and 9.7 respectively, Kennard appeared well on his way to being considered a bust for the Detroit Pistons.
During year three, however, many will point to Kennard “figuring things out.” The former Duke Blue Devil averaged 15.8 points on 44.2% from the field during his injury-hit season. But, despite playing in only 28 games, the LA Clippers saw enough, nabbing the elite shooter before the start of the 2020-21 season.
Yet, for whatever reason, coach Ty Lue was unwilling to give Kennard a permanent spot in his rotation. In 63 appearances, Kennard played a meager 19.6 minutes per game, resulting in minuscule production. Although Kennard scored just 8.3 points per game, he shot the absolute lights out, nailing 44.6% of his 3-point attempts.
It was both bemusing and infuriating as Lue’s Clippers suffered through shooting slump after shooting slump as Kennard remained glued to the end of the bench.
Luke Kennard is an absolute sniper from behind the arc
During this past season, due to both necessity and little to no choice, Lue was forced to play Kennard far more than normal. The results, unsurprisingly, were off the charts. Kennard, 25, took his 3-point prowesses to another level, leading the entire NBA in overall percentage from behind the arc at 44.9%.
Yet, despite proving that he belonged amongst the NBA’s elite, and in spite of the Clippers dealing with a long list of injuries, Lue refused to put Kennard in the starting lineup, outside of 13 games. In those previously mentioned 13 games, Kennard was arguably the best player on the floor on a nightly basis, averaging 15.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists.
In today’s NBA, shooting is a cherished and beloved skill, something Kennard has excelled at well before he stepped foot onto an NBA Court. With both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard expected to return to full health next season, Kennard could provide LA’s star-studded duo with much-needed spacing on the court.
Currently, Lue is expected to put out a starting lineup that could consist of Leonard, George, Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac, and possibly Robert Covington.
To Covington’s credit, he performed admirably in 23 games in LA. The multi-faceted swingman averaged 10.4 points per game on 45% shooting from behind the arc.
Ultimately, however, Covington’s inability to create for himself places the Clippers in a difficult situation. With defenses staying at home with Covington and forcing him to put the ball on the floor, he’ll have little to no success. As for Kennard, on the other hand, he’s more than just a spot-up shooter.
Quietly, Kennard has worked on his ability to slither his way through the lane and finish at the basket, connecting on nearly 60% of his shots from inside the arc.
The days of Kennard playing over 30 minutes a game appear to be in the rearview mirror. Nonetheless, Kennard was incredibly productive in the 27.4 minutes he logged every night last season.
Leonard and George are both expected to play heavy minutes during both the regular and postseason. However, Kennard should find himself right alongside LA’s stars on most nights. Anything other than weighty minutes for the sweet-shooting two-guard will lead to uneventful nights from behind the arc and more losses than any of us are expecting during the regular season.