In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s post breaks down former Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard.
Much of the discussion surrounding the Atlanta Hawks and the team’s draft plans centers on what should be prioritized with the No. 19 pick. Should the Hawks go with a “big swing” on upside or stay on course from the 2016 class (Taurean Prince, DeAndre Bembry) by selecting an established college player that is much “safer” at this stage? Duke guard Luke Kennard certainly leans toward the latter but that doesn’t mean he’d be a bad pick.
Kennard might be the best shooter in this class. That isn’t a slight to players like Malik Monk and Lauri Markkanen but the former Duke standout can really shoot. He converted 44 percent of his threes last season as the No. 1 option for much of the year and Kennard isn’t only a standstill shooter. The left-hander made great (and surprising) strides as a ball-handler and creator and Kennard actually profiles as a strong secondary option in this way during his NBA career.
On the down side, he almost certainly isn’t a guy that is going to be more than a role player in the NBA offensively. Shooting is at a premium and that is where his value lies, with the important note that Kennard is a tremendous passer from a non-point guard. With that said, the secondary creation isn’t fully certain and he’ll need it to be more than a bench shooter.
This is the issue for Kennard and everyone knows it. Can he hold up defensively? Kennard is less than 6’6 with a 6’5 wingspan and a standing reach of only 8’2. In short, he isn’t very long and Kennard isn’t a tremendous athlete.
It should be noted that Kennard isn’t a non-athlete either, but his strength is a concern and that leads to real question marks defensively. His NBA path will be largely dictated by whether he can be an average defensive player using positional awareness and savvy. If he can’t, it becomes a real problem.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have some roster weaknesses but one glaring one is a lack of shooting. Even if the team were to retain everyone (i.e. Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr.), Travis Schlenk and company would be tasked with providing more shooting at nearly every level.
On one hand, adding Kennard to a wing rotation that already includes two soon-to-be sophomores, Kent Bazemore and Hardaway Jr. doesn’t make perfect sense. On the other, he would be the best shooter of the bunch immediately and that certainly matters.
There is a possibility, or even a likelihood, that Kennard is long gone by the team the Hawks make their first selection at No. 19. From a personal standpoint, Kennard is solidly a top-15 player on my board and I would advocate for Atlanta to select him if available. With that said, it might facilitate another roster move if the Hawks plan to integrate a pure shooting guard anytime soon and this is likely a spot in which Kennard would not have a universal approval rating for the No. 19 pick. Still, he is a tremendous offensive player that would be a bargain at this spot.