Pistons take Duke's Kennard with No. 12 pick
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Stan Van Gundy is thoroughly impressed with Luke Kennard's offensive ability.
That won't be enough to earn Detroit's first-round draft pick regular playing time.
''He's a mature offensive player, for his age coming in,'' said Van Gundy, the Pistons' coach and team president. ''I would have no question putting him in the game offensively now, but defensively, I wouldn't put him in a game right now.''
The Pistons drafted Kennard with the 12th overall pick Thursday night, and the 6-foot-6 guard from Duke certainly could fill a need. Detroit shot only 33 percent from 3-point range as a team last season, and Kennard was at 44 percent from beyond the arc in his sophomore season for the Blue Devils.
Kennard averaged 19.5 points a game in 2016-17, then turned pro . Van Gundy stressed that he is a good all-around player on offense and can contribute more than just outside shooting.
''His game is to play with the ball, come off screens, make plays,'' Van Gundy said. ''I look at him as a playmaker, a scorer.''
The question is whether he can defend well enough at the NBA level.
''I think one of the big things is strength,'' Kennard said. ''I think if I become a bigger, or a stronger player physically, it will help me.''
Detroit missed the playoffs last season after making it in 2016, and the tandem the Pistons have built around - Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson - has a lot to prove going forward.
Detroit is coming off a disappointing season as it prepares to move to a new downtown arena in 2017-18. This pick - near the back of the lottery - probably won't add too much buzz, but the Pistons could use a significant contribution from Kennard.
Their last two first-round picks - Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson - haven't turned into standouts yet. Ellenson played in only 19 games for the Pistons as a rookie.
Kennard's shooting ability is enticing for a team that needs perimeter threats. Kennard, who turns 21 on Saturday, made at least one 3-pointer in 40 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in Duke history.
Van Gundy was almost gushing when he talked about Kennard's polished offensive game - and equally direct when discussing his defensive shortcomings.
''That's an area where he's just got to get a lot better, and quite honestly, he's got to, in my opinion, take a lot more pride in it than he did this past year,'' Van Gundy said. ''Whether it was carrying the offensive load, or what it was, he's got to change his entire defensive approach.''
Van Gundy did say Kennard wasn't alone in needing work at the defensive end. He says that's quite common among the top draft picks.
''The number of guys that are great offensive players in college that really apply themselves defensively is a very, very, very small number,'' Van Gundy said. ''I mean, I can go from pick one on down, I've watched them all. This is a common theme, OK? It's not like, `Wow, all these other guys really get after it defensively, so why did you take this guy who doesn't guard?'''
Van Gundy said he can sort of understand why defense may not have been a huge priority for players like Kennard.
''You're talking very young guys. He's one of the oldest ones, right? He played two years in college, so like, he's a veteran guy. But they're all young guys, and they came up as great offensive players, and to be fair, they carry great offensive loads at their schools,'' Van Gundy said. ''Most of them don't have the responsibility at the defensive end of the floor. I mean, the top 20 guys - and I'm not going to get into names - from what I would expect, I thought there were two that defended.''
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