Potential trade targets with CAA connections: Luke Kennard
Picked one slot before Donovan Mitchell, Luke Kennard faced unfair expectations three years into his NBA career. With the Detroit Pistons aiming for the cusp of the playoffs, Kennard played a backup role in his first two seasons. He received a fair amount of minutes off the bench as coach Dwane Casey appreciated Kennard’s ability to become a secondary ballhandler while shooting proficiently from three.
The 2019-20 season was a freefall year for the Pistons. After willing the Pistons to the playoffs in the 2018-19 season, a left knee surgery sidelined Blake Griffin for most of the season. The team subsequently shifted gears towards a rebuild as the team traded Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Reggie Jackson missed most of the season with a back injury before the team waived him after the trade deadline.
Kennard had a breakthrough start of the season, averaging 15.8 points/game, 2.6 threes/game (40% from three), and 4.1 assists/game. However, knee tendinitis ended Kennard’s season early after only 28 games.
The Pistons are at a crossroads. Griffin’s contract extends through the 2020-21 season with a player option worth $38 million in the 2021-22 season, an option he will most likely pick up unless he has a breakout season. Outside of Griffin, the only significant contracts are Derrick Rose, Sekou Doumboya, Tony Snell’s player option, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Their available cap space is around $45 million at this point. The Pistons could make one last-ditch effort to contend with Griffin on the roster or further rebuild.
In either situation, Kennard’s contract situation presents an interesting conundrum. Health is the biggest question mark for Kennard as he missed most of the past season. Additionally, his ceiling is limited due to his defensive deficiencies and lack of explosiveness on the offensive end. If the Pistons want to contend, they’d like to better optimize their cap room. Therefore, extending Kennard to a big contract wouldn’t be smart. At the same time, if the Pistons wanted to start from scratch, offering Kennard a long-term extension makes little sense.
It was a little surprising that the Pistons took trade calls on Kennard in February. While new GM Troy Weaver’s complimented Kennard in his initial press conference, there’s no sure endorsement of his long-term future. The Suns nearly traded a combination of Elie Okobo, Jevon Carter, and a protected 1st round pick for Kennard at the trade deadline before discussions folded. The Pistons have long had interest in Frank Ntilikina, so he could be a potential piece that moves to Detroit, even if that angers Knicks fans. Surely, the Pistons could consider one of Dennis Smith Jr or Kevin Knox as buy-low targets, along with a 2023 1st round pick (via Dallas), but that may not be too enticing.
Any deal for Kennard only makes sense if the Knicks view him as a long-term piece on the roster. Kennard’s max ceiling is as a scorer and facilitator off the bench with perimeter shooting capabilities.