Luke Kennard

Central Notes: Oladipo, Pistons Rotation, Griffin

Victor Oladipo knew a breakout season was possible after speaking with Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard on the team’s private plane prior to his introductory press conference last summer, as Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated divulges in a feature story. Pritchard assured Oladipo that the club truly coveted his services, rather than just matching up salaries to facilitate the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder. Indiana wanted to play faster this season. “This wasn’t a dump. We targeted you,” Pritchard told Oladipo, according to Jenkins. The All-Star shooting guard is averaging a career-high 24.4 PPG for the surprising Pacers.  “It was the first time in my career I felt like a team really believed in me,” Oladipo told Jenkins. “I was just thinking, Don’t mess this up.”

In other nuggets involving the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will likely go with a 10-man rotation once Reggie Jackson returns from his Grade 3 ankle sprain, according to Ansar Khan of  Jackson would join a starting unit of Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. Ish Smith would return to his usual role as leader of the second unit with center Eric Moreland and forwards Anthony Tolliver and James Ennis getting steady minutes, Khan speculates. Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway would split time as the backup shooting guard, Khan adds.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores invited Griffin and his business partners over to his California home immediately after the blockbuster deal with the Clippers, as Keith Langlois of details. Gores wanted to assure Griffin how badly the Pistons wanted him and address any concerns the five-time All-Star power forward might have, Langlois continues. The Pistons are 5-3 since Griffin joined their lineup. “We were very quickly on the same page with the same view of what we want to achieve and the approach to get there,” Gores told Langlois. “He’s definitely hit the ground running. It’s been great to see how his teammates, the whole organization and the fans have embraced him.”

Trade Rumors: Suns, Smart, Pistons, Ferguson

While Suns general manager Ryan McDonough is working the phones, one source tells Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic that there hasn’t been a whole lot of Suns-related chatter this week. The odds of Phoenix completing a major deal in advance of the deadline appear slim, according to Bordow.

Still, as Bordow details, there are a few Suns players who make some sense as trade candidates. The team would like to shed Tyson Chandler‘s contract, which includes a $13.6MM guaranteed salary for 2018/19, a source tells Bordow. Alex Len, who wants to be a starter – or at least a backup on a contender – next season, is another trade candidate. As is Troy Daniels, who says he’s prepared to move if necessary, but would rather stay in Phoenix for now.

“I’m prepared for whatever. I’ll be prepared to play wherever it is,” the fifth-year Suns guard told Bordow. “Everything is smooth running right now. If I was going to get traded I would like it to happen in the summertime.”

Here are a few more trade notes and rumors from around the NBA:

  • The Marcus Smart trade rumors may be somewhat overblown, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald, who writes that the Celtics will likely only move Smart if they can land a player who helps the team more this season — or if they can acquire a draft pick that can be flipped to secure a player who fits that bill. Bulpett also expressed skepticism that Boston will surrender Smart solely for a rental player.
  • Based on the Pistons‘ cap situation, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press believes it’s “highly unlikely” that either Luke Kennard or Stanley Johnson gets moved before Thursday’s deadline. Both players will attract interest from other teams, but their affordable contracts are valuable to the Pistons, who are on the hook for a few big contracts, including Blake Griffin‘s.
  • Several teams have expressed interest in Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. However, those teams came away with the impression that Oklahoma City has no desire to move Ferguson, as we heard earlier this week.

Pistons Rumors: Failed Trades, S. Johnson, Love

The Pistons had originally planned to approach this season’s trade deadline by aggressively pursuing upgrades on the wing, writes Jake Fischer of League sources tell Fischer that Detroit looked into several potential trade candidates around the NBA, including Danny Green, Jordan Clarkson, Tyreke Evans, Rodney Hood, and Courtney Lee. The Magic also called to discuss a deal that would have included Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton, and Luke Kennard, per Fischer.

As a result of all that research and legwork on wing players, the Pistons came to a realization that prompted them to change direction. “It’s becoming a wing league, and not many teams are willing to move those players,” a Pistons source told Fischer. “We were willing to give up ours.”

Rather than looking to build up on their own wing depth, the Pistons decided to part with Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris in a deal that would bolster their frontcourt instead. It remains to be seen whether that approach will pay off, but the team will start to find out tonight, with Blake Griffin set to make his Pistons debut. “It’s time to make a run now,” one team source told Fischer, who notes that seven of Detroit’s eight remaining games before the All-Star break are at home.

Here’s more on the Pistons from Fischer:

  • The Pistons, who explored trading for Eric Bledsoe last summer, circled back to him in November and came “within inches” of acquiring him in a three-way deal with the Suns and Pelicans, according to Fischer. That trade, which would have included Reggie Jackson, fell through.
  • The Pistons will continue to keep an eye out for opportunities to acquire wing players, and Fischer hints that Stanley Johnson is more likely than Kennard to be included in such a deal.
  • Detroit’s front office worked with Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and GM Michael Winger on the Griffin deal. Head coach Doc Rivers, who served as the Clippers’ head of basketball operations until this past offseason, didn’t find out about the deal until Sunday — by that point, every detail except the first-round pick protections had already been agreed upon, a league source tells Fischer.
  • If the Pistons had been unable to finalize a deal for Griffin, they were planning to shift their focus to Kevin Love, says Fischer. Obviously, that was before Love suffered his hand injury, though there’s no indication that the Cavaliers would have seriously considered moving him.

Pistons Discuss Stanley Johnson in Trade Talks

As the Pistons explore the trade market in search of potential upgrades, Stanley Johnson‘s name has come up in their discussions, reports Ian Begley of According to Begley, teams that have spoken to the Pistons have come away with the impression that Johnson is available for the right return.

Johnson, the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, had a promising rookie season in Detroit, averaging 8.1 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 73 games. He has been inconsistent over the last season and a half though — the third-year small forward hasn’t matched or exceeded those first-year averages, and his FG% has slipped to a career-worst .348 in 2017/18.

Still, Johnson is just 21 years old, and his defensive potential on the wing could make him an intriguing target for rebuilding franchises. The former Arizona Wildcat is also on a very team-friendly contract for the time being. Johnson, who has a current-year cap hit of $3.1MM, will earn $3.94MM in 2018/19 before becoming eligible for restricted free agency in the summer of ’19.

We heard earlier this week that rookie guard Luke Kennard is receiving interest from potential Pistons trade partners as well, so Johnson isn’t the only youngster the team could consider moving. However, Begley writes that Detroit doesn’t appear to have much interest in dealing its 2017 lottery pick. Unless the Pistons push for a marquee player, I’d view Johnson as a much more likely trade candidate than Kennard.

According to Begley, guard Dwight Buycks has also impressed opposing executives. Buycks is on a two-way contract though, so while he’s trade-eligible, his present value is very limited. Begley notes that several execs view Buycks as a player who will draw major interest as a free agent this summer from teams lacking significant cap flexibility.

Luke Kennard Drawing Trade Interest

Pistons rookie Luke Kennard is drawing “intense” interest from other NBA teams as this season’s trade deadline nears, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). As Ellis notes, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had previously hinted in a report this week that Kennard is a player of interest for Detroit’s potential trade partners.

In a series of follow-up tweets, Ellis cautioned that there’s no indication that the Pistons are shopping Kennard, or even that they’re willing to move him. In fact, Ellis doesn’t expect the 2017 lottery pick to go anywhere.

Still, Wojnarowski indicated this week that the Pistons are expected to be on the active on the trade market, and are on the lookout for a wing upgrade. President of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy subsequently confirmed that his team is “looking around for people to fill holes.” The list of Pistons trade assets that would appeal to other clubs – and that Detroit is open to moving – isn’t particularly long, so dealing Kennard might represent the team’s best chance at acquiring a win-now piece.

In his first NBA season, Kennard has emerged as a regular rotation player in Detroit. While his overall numbers are modest (6.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG), the former Duke standout has been extremely effective as an outside shooter (.443 3PT%) and several of his highest-scoring games have come in the last two weeks. In order to seriously consider moving the 21-year-old, the Pistons would likely require an offer that features a difference-making veteran.

Central Notes: Bradley, Mirotic, Giannis, Kennard

The Pistons acquired shooting guard Avery Bradley from the Celtics over the summer with the hope of signing him to a long-term agreement and that hasn’t changed, coach Stan Van Gundy told the Detroit News’ Rod Beard and other media members. Bradley, who is making $8.8MM this season, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and Van Gundy is optimistic the Pistons can lock him up. “I’ll take our chances in the offseason,” Van Gundy said during a press conference.

However, there will be no in-season negotiations, Van Gundy added. “He knew right from the time we got him that we made the move thinking it would be a long-term thing but he knows it’s not something we’re going to talk to him at all about during the season,” Van Gundy said (Twitter links). The Celtics dealt Bradley to free up salary-cap room for free agent forward Gordon Hayward. Bradley is the Pistons’ second-leading scorer at 16.8 PPG.

In other developments around the Central Division:

  • Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic participated in practice on Monday and will travel with the team to Denver later this week, Vincent Goodwill of in Chicago reports. Mirotic practiced with teammates for the first time since Bobby Portis punched him last month, resulting in facial injuries and a concussion. Coach Fred Hoiberg is hopeful Mirotic and Portis can coexist, as he told Goodwill and other media members, even though little to no progress has been made regarding their feud. “It is important to get those guys communicating, which I think we’re all confident will happen,” Hoiberg said. “The important thing is getting Niko back on the floor and with the team.”
  • Bucks All-Star point forward Giannis Antetokounmpo admits that he and assistant coach Sean Sweeney often have verbal altercations but it’s a product of a “tight” relationship, as he explained to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Antetokounmpo was seen yelling at Sweeney during the Bucks’ game against the Jazz on Saturday. Outsiders shouldn’t read anything into it. “We’re OK, that’s what we do — we fight, we argue, but at the end of the day, we both want to win,” Antetokounmpo told Velazquez. “I don’t think there’s anybody from this team who wants to win more than Sweeney and me and coach (Jason) Kidd, of course.”
  • Pistons rookie swingman Luke Kennard will need to show steady growth defensively to keep his rotation spot, Beard writes in a separate piece. Kennard was considered arguably the best pure shooter in the June draft but his shooting alone won’t guarantee him a spot on the second unit, Van Gundy told Beard and other media members. “He can’t get comfortable and think that he’s got secured minutes,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve flipped that spot over before — and we will again if he’s not going to do what he has to do.”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/5/17

Here are this weekend’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:


  • The Pistons recalled Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson from the Grand Rapids Drive this evening, a team-issued press release says. This, after assigning them just earlier today. The two played in the G League affiliate’s season opener, Ellenson scoring 28 points and adding nine rebounds, Kennard adding 26 points of his own.


  • The Pistons assigned rookie shooting guard Luke Kennard and second-year power forward Henry Ellenson to the G League today, the team announced in a press release. The duo helped lead the Grand Rapids Drive to an afternoon win over the Raptors 905, combining for 54 points.
  • The Spurs assigned Davis Bertans and Derrick White to the G League on Saturday, according to the club. Bertans poured in a team-high 27 points for the Austin Spurs on Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough to top the Texas Legends, who won 123-119.
  • The Clippers recalled rookie guard Jawun Evans from the G League on Saturday, per the team. The 2017 second-rounder struggled in his debut with the Agua Caliente Clippers on Friday night, scoring just four points on 2-of-11 shooting.

Central Notes: Bulls, Smith, Johnson

The Bulls have fully embraced a rebuild and it’s centered around Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman declared as much at media day, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

We’re in a position now where we have supportive ownership, we’ve defined our direction and we’re looking forward,” Paxson said. “That’s all Gar and I can do every day.

The three players mentioned were all acquired a draft day deal between the Bulls and Timberwolves that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. The change of course to embrace a rebuild came after a season of trade rumors and speculation that the organization should dismantle its core (among other things).

I do think we can win our fans’ trust back by showing them we can put a group of young players out there who care and show them there’s promise ahead,” Paxson said.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • For now at least, J.R. Smith is the starting shooting guard on the Cavaliers, Joe Vardon of writes. “I’m not going to sit here and get into a ‘blank’ measuring contest with Dwyane Wade,” Smith said. “I’m not going to win that. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to continue to work hard for our team and however they choose to do it, that’s who it’s going to be.”
  • Citing mental maturation and a commitment to improving, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy is optimistic about third-year forward Stanley Johnson‘s progress, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site writes. Van Gundy also praised rookie Luke Kennard‘s performance at training camp thus far.
  • There’s a case to be made for Cavaliers forward LeBron James winning the MVP this season. Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes that the 15-year veteran is coming off one of the best offseasons he’s had since he came into the league.


NBA Rookies View Dennis Smith Jr. As ROY Favorite

For the last decade,’s John Schuhmann has been surveying several incoming rookies to get their thoughts on their fellow first-year players.  Schuhmann asks the newest NBA players to identify which rookie they expect to have the best career, which was the steal of the 2017 draft, and which is the frontrunner for the 2017/18 Rookie of the Year award, among other questions.

This year, Schuhmann polled 39 rookies, and more than a quarter of those players made Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. their pick for Rookie of the Year favorite. The No. 9 overall pick received 25.7% of the vote, beating out top picks like Lonzo Ball (20%) and Markelle Fultz (17.1%). That may be good news for the Mavs, though as Schuhmann observes, the rookies he has surveyed haven’t accurately predicted the Rookie of the Year winner since 2007/08, when they made Kevin Durant the overwhelming favorite.

Here are a few more items of interest from Schuhmann’s survey:

  • Smith was the landslide winner (43.6%) as the most athletic rookie. But while his fellow rookies believe the Mavericks point guard will have the best first year, Ball and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum received the most votes (18.4% apiece) for which rookie will have the best overall career.
  • Donovan Mitchell (18.9%) was the top choice for biggest steal of the draft, after the Jazz nabbed him at No. 13. Some of the second-round picks that the rookies viewed as steals included Jordan Bell (Warriors; No. 38) and Dwayne Bacon (Hornets; No. 40).
  • Luke Kennard (Pistons) and Malik Monk (Hornets) were widely considered the top two outside shooters in the draft. Among their fellow rookies, Kennard (48.6%) easily topped Monk (13.5%) as the pick for the No. 1 shooter of the 2017 class.
  • Suns forward Josh Jackson (26.3%) was narrowly voted the best rookie defender, while Ball (71.8%) was the overwhelming pick for best rookie playmaker.

Central Notes: Kennard, D. Williams, Antetokounmpo

The Pistons are more optimistic than ever about rookie Luke Kennard after watching his summer league performance, writes Keith Langlois of The 12th pick in this year’s draft, Kennard averaged 17.2 points per game as Detroit’s team advanced to the finals in Orlando. He made 11 of 23 shots from 3-point range during the 10-day competition and eased any fears the Pistons may have harbored about his defense.

“Pretty much what we thought offensively, maybe even did a better job passing the ball than I thought,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. “He’s able to make plays off the dribble , that nice change of pace, and things I hadn’t seen a lot of. He really has a great feel for the game and how to play in addition to clearly his ability to shoot the ball.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Richard Jefferson offered some insight on his Road Trippin’ podcast about why Deron Williams is unlikely to return to the Cavaliers, relays Daniel Rappaport of Sports Illustrated. Jefferson said the veteran guard’s “eyes did not light up” about coming off the bench in Cleveland, but joked that the Warriors’ “eyes lit up” whenever Williams checked into the Finals. Williams didn’t turn out to be a good fit for the Cavs after joining the team in late February in the wake of buyout with the Mavericks. He was particularly bad in the Finals, shooting 2 of 16 for the series and averaging 1.0 points and 1.2 assists per game. Williams’ contract with Cleveland expired after the season, and he remains a free agent.
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose $100MM extension begins with the start of the season, has another big payday ahead, writes Nick DePaula of ESPN. He will be a free agent in the shoe market at the end of September after making just $25K from Nike last year and expects to top that figure several times over. Antetokounmpo is hoping to exceed the nearly $5MM-per-year deal that Kristaps Porzingis received from Adidas, with one industry specialist speculating that he could receive $7MM to $10MM annually.
  • The Bucks won’t be the only team playing at their new arena, according to the Associated Press. The NBA team has reached a seven-year agreement allowing Marquette to use the facility, which is expected to open ahead of the 2018/19 season.