Who is Ryan Kelly? When I first heard his name I thought he was a Senator from one of the Midwest states, but that wasn’t true. For starters, he was the 48th overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2013 NBA Draft.
This was an odd selection for the Lakers, because their general manager is a North Carolina fan and Kelly is from Duke. For those who watch college basketball, you know that North Carolina and Duke are rivals. Mitch Kupchak, an alumnus from the University of North Carolina said the selection “was dramatic” and “traumatic as well”.
We didn’t hear much about Kelly prior to the draft because he didn’t have a chance to work out for NBA teams due to a foot injury he has been recovering from– an injury which caused him to miss 13 games last season for the Duke Blue Devils. However, prior to his injury, Kelly posted solid numbers. He averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds and was 42.2% in 3-point shooting.
Kupchak said “It’s unusual to get a guy who’s 6-11, 6-11½ that has a skill like he has. So, it’s a unique opportunity. A big player that has an NBA frame that can shoot the ball, not only mid-range, but he can make some shots. I think he can become a consistent 3-point shooter in the NBA as well.”
If you haven’t seen Kelly in action on the court make sure you check out this video: Ryan Kelly Highlights
The Lakers’ roster seems to be complete for the most part, although we don’t know what could happen between now and the start of the season. With Dwight Howard gone, Pau Gasol will now play the center position, unless Mike D’Antoni decides to put Pau at PF and roll with newly-acquired Chris Kaman at center.
With Gasol in the middle, that leaves one true power forward on the Lakers roster: Jordan Hill. Chances are that Hill will be in the starting lineup along with Nash, Bryant and newly acquired Nick Young.
Is there a chance that Kelly will be in the starting lineup? I doubt that he’ll be the starter in the beginning of the season assuming Hill is healthy. However, if Hill disappoints, there is a chance that D’Antoni will replace him with Kelly. Kelly fits D’Antoni’s system beautifully because of his ability to shoot the ball. He will have to improve his defense to be a solid starter for the Lakers, but he has the potential once he is healthy. Kelly’s upside is the fact that he’s had 4 years of college basketball experience and was coached by one of the all-time greats and the U.S. Olympic team’s coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
As a 2nd round draft pick, Kelly doesn’t have a guaranteed contract waiting for him, but it’s more than likely he will make the Lakers roster.
Kelly is now the 14th current Duke player who is on an NBA team. Other former Blue Devils in the NBA include Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand, Luol Deng, J.J. Redick and the most talented of the group, Kyrie Irving. Not all 14 of the former Blue Devils players currently in the NBA have found great success, but the players I mentioned have definitely made a name for themselves. Which group will Ryan Kelly join?
Lakers fans hope he joins the group of Duke success stories and the chances are good. He is playing for one of the greatest organizations in NBA history, and his shooting ability, especially from behind the arc will allow him to play the Stretch-4 position for D’Antoni’s offense.
Kelly did not participate in the NBA Summer League, which ends tomorrow, but he should be fully recovered by the time the season resumes. It’ll be exciting to see how Kelly fits into the Lakers roster and how big of an impact he can make coming off the bench. If the highlight video didn’t convince you that Kelly is a true basketball star, we’ll have to wait and see him prove himself in a purple and gold uniform.
Follow me on Twitter for more updates on the Lakers. @Nerses_Aposhian