Pistons' Stefanski: Enough With "Ridiculous" Kennard-To-Mitchell Comparisons

It discounts what Kennard brings to the game.

Will Burchfield
October 17, 2018 - 2:21 pm

© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

Fair or not, Luke Kennard will forever be linked to Donovan Mitchell. The Pistons drafted Kennard No. 12 overall in 2017, one pick before Mitchell, then watched Mitchell take the NBA by storm and nearly win Rookie of the Year with the Jazz. 

Mitchell, who put up over 20 points per game and peppered SportsCenter with his dunks last season, admitted he expected the Pistons to draft him

Kennard's rookie campaign was naturally viewed through this lens, which obscured what was a decent debut season for the Pistons shooting guard. In 73 games, Kennard averaged 7.6 points and shot 41.5 percent from three. 

As far as Pistons senior advisor (and acting GM) Ed Stefanski is concerned, it's time to stop measuring Kennard against Mitchell. It only discounts what Kennard can bring to the floor. 

"Comparing him all the time to Mitchell is kind of ridiculous. We have to move on from that," Stefanski told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. "You’re right, everybody does it." 

Though they play the same position, Kennard and Mitchell play much different games. Kennard is a smooth perimeter shooter with an inclination to pass, whereas Mitchell is an attack-the-rim scorer who's explosive off the dribble. 

For Kennard to take the next step in his second season, which tips off Wednesday night, Stefanski feels he needs to pull the trigger more often. 

"He’s arguably our best shooter on the team, his form is just fantastic. He has to get a little of that Kyle Korver, (J.J.) Redick type of mentality, the (Marco) Belinelli, where, 'Hey, if I'm open I'm firing it, and I think I'm open all the time.' I really think he has to get that mentality. He’s a much better with-the-ball passer than the guys I just mentioned, but he still has to be, in my eyes, a little bit selfish because this kid can really score," Stefanski said. 

Like lots of rookies, Kennard was too hesitant in his first season. He balked at opportunities to shoot and frequently deferred to his teammates. Over his first 55 games, he averaged 6.4 points on 5.5 field-goal attempts and 2.3 three-point attempts. He played a little under 18 minutes a night. 

But he turned a corner toward the end of the year. In his final 18 games, Kennard averaged 11.6 points on 9.1 field-goal attempts and 3.7 three-point attempts. He saw his playing time increase to about 27 minutes a night. 

A knee strain over the summer cost him some development time, but the 22-year-old has fully recovered and is ready to go for the start of this season. In a Dwane Casey offense that's built around constant ball movement and lots of threes, Kennard will have an opportunity to thrive.

"Last year he played more minutes as the season ended, and I think he’ll pick it back up," Stefanski said. "He’s coming into basketball form right now. The last week I've seen a difference in him as a player. I’m expecting a big year out of him."

Lest anyone forget, it took time for the likes of Redick, Korver and Belinelli to find their place in the NBA, particularly Redick, the highest draft pick (No. 11 overall, 2006) among them -- and another sharpshooter from Duke. Kennard is arguably a more complete player than all three, but patience is nevertheless necessary in evaluating his growth. 

"Well, who has patience?" Stefanski said with a laugh. "I don’t think anyone. And in the sporting world, of course, nobody has patience. ... It takes time and experience to figure out the pace of the game, how to play. These veterans are so wily. Redick took a while, but now I’m watching him come off screens, and oh my god, how good he is and how he figured it out." 

Mitchell figured out the NBA right away. That Kennard didn't, doesn't mean he won't in time.