D.J. Kennedy was a fan-favorite in the Big Apple as a member of the St. John's Red Storm. Leading the college squad into Madison Square Garden against some of the more formidable opponents in all of the NCAA, the guard often thrived with the bright lights shining and the pressure on.
Given his history, it makes sense that as Kennedy moves on and tries to realize his NBA dream, he's doing so while playing with the BayHawks, D-League affiliate of the Knicks. The guard got his first taste of big league success last season, catching on with the Cavaliers in April after playing well in Erie.
Kennedy played in two games for the Cavs and averaged 6 points per contest, but was later traded to the Grizzlies. Though he spent training camp in Memphis, the Red Storm alum found himself donning a BayHawks uniform once again last month.
Knowing full well he's capable of making it to The Association, Kennedy has hit the ground running in the D-League this season. Having broken onto the league's Top Ten Prospect List this week (at #9), it's clear his hot start has been enough to warrant some deserving attention.
When Kennedy hits the hardwood, it's as though he has been shot out of a cannon. With a sound combination of strength and speed, the BayHawks' guard enjoys pushing the tempo. Able to fight his way to the basket, Kennedy likes to drive in and pour in the points inside.
His scoring numbers thus far over the still young campaign certainly prove that. Kennedy is averaging an ever efficient 19.5 points on (an improved from last season) 48% from the field.
But as is the case with many successful aspiring NBA players, the key to breaking in often becomes not about necessarily just scoring the basketball, but doing everything else, too.
With this in mind, does Kennedy represent the complete package of a basketball player?
At just 6'6", the 23 year old can undoubtedly rebound with the best of them. Crashing the boards and muscling up against much taller defenders, Kennedy manages to pull down an impressive 8.8 rebounds per game.
Is Erie's second year stud a guard or a forward? Whatever position he qualifies as, Kennedy has failed to be very much of a playmaker this season. Averaging just 3.8 assists, perhaps his lack of production in that category is due to his current circumstance. Looked to as the team's number one option on offense, Kennedy is expected to carry the scoring load. With the pressure on him to do so, executing some deeper court vision may prove to be difficult at times.
But in the NBA, where Kennedy won't be considered a star, passing the ball, getting his teammates involved, and making the right plays is especially crucial. What's more, in an effort to fool and elude defenders, the guard should look to improve his shooting touch from downtown. Such a feather in his offensive cap would really make his scoring game that much more of a versatile one.
There's no question Kennedy has shown great promise over the last year or so. That said, after watching other promising prospects set the standard for what type of impressive contributions warrant an NBA call-up, Kennedy can now look to up his game either further. He may be on his way there, but the guard needs to continue attacking the basket and rebounding with ease, while at the same time, look to get his teammates involved and improve the squad's offensive fluidity.
Kennedy's ability to continue thriving as a teammate and a leader will surely play a role in just how soon he gets another NBA gig.