There is no room for him on this roster. He will be nothing more than a solid bench player. These were the popular thoughts surrounding Luke Kennard before this season. Kennard, a 6’6’’ Sophomore from Franklin, Ohio was met with a fair amount of hype before his first season at Duke. A 5 star Shooting Guard that looked to possess the traits of a Duke superstar. I bought in, as I watched him throughout his High School Senior season (McDonalds Game, Nike Hoop Summit), and fully familiarized myself with his scouting report, coming away very impressed. However, he did not start brilliantly with the Blue Devils. He struggled shooting early, and did not look entirely comfortable on the court. This all seemed to change though, when I got to see him (in-person) dominate my lowly Boston College Eagles. That seemed to be a taking off point for Kennard, and he surged throughout the rest of the ACC season with big performances against teams like North Carolina. On the whole, Kennard averaged just under 12 ppg, while shooting a disappointing 32% from three.
The narrative regarding this season’s edition of the Duke Blue Devils was met with great hype, and for good reason. Duke returned the preseason national player of the year, Grayson Allen, added two likely top 5 draft picks, Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles, and had a roster composed of other studs like Amile Jefferson, Frank Jackson, Marques Bolden, and Chase Jeter. Kennard was kind of lost in the shuffle. Even the most optimistic of Kennard supporters could not foresee him having any role greater than the sixth man. However, Kennard was given a starting opportunity at the beginning of the season, with the injuries to Giles, Tatum, Bolden, and Allen. Not only has Kennard succeeded so far, but he has emerged as a legitimate national player of the year candidate. To this point, Kennard is averaging over 20 ppg, 6 rpg, is shooting over 52% from the floor, and about 41% from beyond the arc. Yet, arguably the most impressive part of his performance has been the way he is producing. Yes, he is nailing threes, but Luke has shown a complete offensive game. He is a great spot-up shooter from deep, and the midrange, and can also get his shot off the trouble. Kennard is also a tremendous driver, able to finish with both hands around the rim, and embrace contact to get to the free throw line (where he shoots nearly 90%). His feel on offense is simply phenomenal. Kennard has been so impressive, that he is garnering NBA attention. His perceived weaknesses of defense and athleticism (how surprising) is outweighed by the ease in which he gets buckets. At the very least, I believe he will be able to score decently (as he does have good NBA size for the position), and will grow to become a tolerable defender. While the NBA will certainly be calling, I think Luke has a chance to become an all-time great Blue Devil if he elects to continue his college career. He is perfect Duke. Punchable white face, that is just so dang good on the court. Kennard isn’t just a nice player; he is an absolute stud, and deserves to be viewed as one.