Pistons mailbag: Luke Kennard's late emergence is a big development
Detroit — The Pistons play their first postseason home game at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday night and they're in a 2-0 deficit in the series against the Bucks.
Unless the Pistons can get a win in either of their home games on Saturday or Monday, their season will end with another sweep and for many, another disappointing season.
Despite the dire outlook, there is something to take away from the playoff appearance, including the development of some of their young players and figuring out what they'll need to add in the offseason.
This week's mailbag addresses some of the thoughts from the first two games and the next two in Detroit, plus a look ahead at what could happen in the offseason.
►Q. With the playoff emergence of Luke Kennard, will the Pistons finally remove the training wheels and make him a starter in 2019/2020? Consistently put the ball in that young man’s hands and great things will happen. — @brent_shotwell
►A. I wouldn’t say there were “training wheels” on Kennard this year; that might have been a more-apt statement last season. He’s had the playing time and the opportunities to shoot — I remember coach Dwane Casey saying that Kennard had a “bright green” light on offense. Kennard has shown that he can handle a bigger load of the offense, but that fit has been with the second unit and since Blake Griffin’s injury.
The key always has been how Griffin, Kennard and Reggie Jackson co-exist on the court together. Recall that the plan was to have Kennard spend more time at point guard in Summer League, but after his injury, that plan got scuttled.
It seems that Kennard will be a major focal point of the franchise for the long term, so there’s no reason to believe he won’t get every opportunity to succeed.
►Q. Assuming this series ends with an uncompetitive sweep, what is the plan going forward? Do we blow it up and rebuild/reload, or do we give this core another shot? — @DaBrettster25
►A. I guess it depends on what you mean by the “core” and how many players that includes.
That’s mostly a postseason question that I’ll answer after it’s all said and done but I’ll try to hit on some of it now. I would think in either case, it ends up being a rebuild. Most of the roster is a piecework construction that the current front office had to put together quickly given their financial constraints. They don’t get much more flexibility this summer, but they have a better sense of what the core’s strengths and weaknesses are and how to build around it.
I would guess they’ll gauge the market for the expiring contracts of Jon Leuer and Reggie Jackson and see if they can make some bigger moves with some of the other pieces. There aren’t any guarantees, but the front office has shown the ability to be shrewd and patient, not looking to “blow it up” without a bigger plan in place.
►Q. Odds of us stealing one with/without Blake? Or what’s your favorite non-pistons playoff story so far? (Mine is Beverley/Durant) — @SixHundredBucks
►A. Milwaukee is really good. Even with Griffin, it was going to be hard to win a game in this series, but without him, it’s a steep uphill climb.
Even when the Pistons looked to be on the precipice of taking a big lead, they were missing Griffin’s shot-making ability and just the calm that he brings to the offense when the defense has to double-team him.
With that gone, the open looks aren’t as plentiful and Wayne Ellington, Langston Galloway and others have more difficulty in finding shots. In many ways, just having Griffin on the court gives some of that benefit.
►Q. Why isn’t Khyri Thomas getting playing time? — @Dj_Los_P
►A. Thomas is mired in the guard rotation behind Jackson, Ellington, Brown, Galloway and Kennard. I’ve heard fans argue on Twitter that maybe Thomas should take some of Galloway’s minutes, but it’s an all-or-nothing approach at this point, meaning there’s no splitting minutes here. Galloway is the safer play and just throwing Thomas in — after not playing a ton in the regular season — might be too much for him at one time. The idea is to develop some of the younger players with this playoff appearance and playing Thomas would do that, but that might not be until the series gets almost out of reach.
They’re still optimistic about Thomas but they’ll also wait and see how the summer works out with his development.
►Q. Will the Pistons look to bring back Ish Smith next year or look for another backup. Also, will there be a choice between Ellington or Galloway if Luke becomes a starter next year? — @neon3853
►A. I would think they give some heavy consideration to bringing Smith back. The contract cost will be the biggest determiner. My impression is that Smith likes it in Detroit and he has a very defined role.
Seeing the Pistons’ record with and without him this season, there’s a very clear need on both sides to get a deal done, but with Smith becoming an unrestricted free agent, there will be other teams that come calling with lucrative offers.
Keeping Smith will be one of the biggest offseason things to watch for the Pistons.
Pistons vs. Bucks
Game 1: Bucks 121, Pistons 86
Game 2: Bucks 120, Pistons 99
Game 3: Bucks at Pistons, 8 Saturday (FSD/97.1)
Game 4: Bucks at Pistons, 8 Monday (FSD/950)
*Game 5: Pistons at Bucks, Wednesday, April 24
*Game 6: Bucks at Pistons, Friday, April 26
*Game 7: Pistons at Bucks, Sunday, April 28