Who is D.J. Kennedy? That is the question echoing throughout the greater Memphis, Tennessee area among Grizzlies’ fans.
On July 25th, the Memphis Grizzlies traded promising guard Jeremy Pargo, brother of Jannero, to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Additionally, the Cavaliers will receive a 2014 draft pick and cash. That is a lot to give up for an unknown bench player.
So let’s examine the leading question further. Who is D.J. Kennedy?
Before joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kennedy produced at an amazingly high level in the NBA Developmental League. He averaged 15.7 points per game, 4.4 assists per game, and 7.3 rebounds per game. He played in 44 games for the Erie Bay Hawks. His player efficiency was 19.33. Positive statistics for a Grizzlies squad looking for talent behind borderline All-star forward Rudy Gay.
Kennedy is listed as a guard/forward at 6’6″, 215 lbs. The million dollar question for Grizzlies fans is “Can this guy shoot from long-distance?” Examining his statistics, he shot roughly 38 percent from the three-point arc. That is not exactly the answer that fans were hoping for.
Looking back further in his college days at St. John’s, Kennedy averaged 11.7 points on 43-percent field goal accuracy in 129 career games. He snatched over six rebounds a game and handed out a couple of assists per game. So what is the analysis conclude?
Examining his career footage, Kennedy shows an ability to dribble under pressure, penetrate the paint, create his own shot, create open shots for teammates, defend one-on-one, and finish at the basket. Most importantly, his ability to grab defensive rebounds will help the Grizzlies out immediately.
Kennedy is a strong athlete with favorable size at the two-guard position. However, with Tony Allen, Tony Wroten Jr., and Jerryd Bayless, who will play both guard positions, there may not be enough playing time at the two-guard position. Thus, the logical slot for minutes will be at the small forward position.
At 6’6″, Kennedy will be vulnerable against the likes of OKC’s Kevin Durant, Denver’s Danilo Gallinari, Utah’s Marvin Williams, Phoenix’s Michael Beasley, Minnesota’s Andrei Kirilenko or Sacramento’s Travis Outlaw. Long, skilled, offensive-minded small forwards are widespread in the Western Conference. Thus, how will Kennedy be able to contribute?
- Play great defensive. The Grizzlies did not become a playoff team by slacking off on the defensive end of the court. Defensive play separates Memphis from the playoff pretenders in the West.
- Run the floor. If Kennedy can use his athleticism to spread the offense, he will find easy buckets in transition as Conley is one of the quickest point guards in the NBA.
- Knock down open shots. If Kennedy improves his three-point shooting, he will find playing time in abundance. With Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies arguably feature the deadliest scoring front court in the entire league. The Grizzlies are desperately in need of opportunists talented enough to take advantage of cheating defenses.
- Don’t piss off Coach. Head coach Lionel Hollins is as head-strong as coaches come. He notoriously clashes against independent, stubborn players like Tony Allen, OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph, Josh Selby, and more. By staying in the Coach’s favor, Kennedy will get the opportunity to contribute in a major way.
As the summer comes to a halt, Fall season and training camp will be in full swing before we notice. During camp and the pre-season, all eyes will be on the unknown player from the D-League. Maybe then, we can finally answer, who is D.J. Kennedy?
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