With the NBA Draft right around the corner, we ought to be thinking about NBA Draft prospects that may fit best with the Portland Trail Blazers. Luke Kennard, a 6-foot-5 guard out of Duke, is a terrific shooter with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. The Blazers have three picks in the first round of the draft (15, 20, 26) but should they use one of them on the former Duke star?
Kennard had a stellar sophomore campaign at Duke, averaging 19.5 points per game on 49.0 percent shooting. Where he really impressed was from behind the 3-point line, shooting 43.8 percent on threes last season. He also shot 85.6 percent from the free throw line, rounding out his reputation for efficiency.
Kennard was not only great on the offensive end but was solid defensively as well. He showed an ability in college to guard point guards and averaged 1.1 steals per game in his career at Duke.
But does he fit in Portland?
Despite the Trail Blazers’ reputation in recent years, they largely lacked 3-point shooters in 2016-17, relying heavily— as they should— on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Kennard could be a strong addition to the backcourt, and an especially important one if the team attempts to shed Allen Crabbe’s behemoth contract, according to Jared Cowley of KGW:
Kennard, who would make a maximum of $11 million over the next four seasons if he was drafted with the 15th pick, could be an inexpensive replacement for Crabbe, who makes about $38 million the next two seasons with a player option for $18.5 million in 2019. If the Blazers try to shed some salary this offseason by dealing Crabbe to a team that can absorb him into available cap space, Kennard would make a lot of sense in Portland.
Kennard has some of the same tools that Crabbe does and may even have more long-term upside. That said, selecting Kennard is not immediately predicated on moving Crabbe. If Kennard is the best player available at 15, it is not unreasonable to select him for depth purposes and a bolstered variety of scoring options.
Possessing three first-round picks, the Trail Blazers have the chance to make a huge splash in the draft. Kennard could be a good pickup for a team looking to stock its bench with talented youth. He is presently expected to be drafted between 14 and 18—right where Portland will be making its first selection.