Ryan Kelly is excited, like many of his teammates to play under Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni because it suits what he can do best.
The former Duke Blue Devil was selected as the 48th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Lakers, and with his skill set should be a great fit for the team.
In his collegiate career for Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski, Kelly played the role of a stretch power forward with his ability to shoot from 3pt range, mid-range, play in isolation and execute pick and rolls or pick and pops. In his senior season in 2012-13, Kelly had his best year averaging 12.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game to go along with a .453 field goal percentage and was .422 percent from beyond the arc.
His most notable games last season were his 35-point output against the Miami Hurricanes where he was 7-of-9 from 3-point range and a 22-point game against Wake Forest where he shot 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni‘s offense, which aims for an up-tempo progression through plays and emphasis on finding the open man, should be a nice fit for the 22-year-old as he possesses the skills that D’Antoni wants out of his big men with the the ability to shoot, pass, and run the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop.
As for his role on this Lakers team, he will be able to find a niche more similar to other power forwards that D’Antoni has coached in the past such as Channing Frye, Boris Diaw, Tim Thomas and Amar’e Stoudemire to some extent in that he will use his outside shooting touch to contribute to the team.
Frye, Diaw, Thomas and Stoudemire had their best seasons in D’Antoni’s offense because they were able do what the system called for, Kelly has the outside shooting skills, but the important part will be finding his spot on this team.
“I am guy with size that can shoot the basketball,” Kelly said on Saturday at Lakers media day. “In D’Antoni’s system that is something that can sure fit. I’m also a smart basketball player who can pass the ball, make the right plays, smart defender and if I can do all those thing I can help this team win.”
With Pau Gasol expected to move over to center position, it will open up possible playing time for Kelly if he excels at this role which will allow him to be a factor on this Lakers’ team because of his shooting ability. D’Antoni system welcomes shooting big men and Kelly fits that bill.
The only thing that may hinder his impact and ability to make the team will be his health as he is still rehabbing from right foot surgery in April and on Saturday stated he is making process in his recovery.
“It’s going really well, ” Kelly said. “I have been medically cleared by the doctors. I am just taking my time to get the rest of my body right. I have started on the Alter-G treadmill. I am working up to my body weight, which I am now up to 90 percent of my body weight. I have been going up to two percent every day (and) feeling great with no problems with my foot. I just ready to get out here on the court.”
Kelly also added that he is aiming to play in a few games before preseason’s end.
What also may help the 22-year-old find his role with the team and in the league is the advice and guidance he will receive from veterans like Gasol and Chris Kaman.
“Those guys have played in this league a long time and they know what it takes to last,” Kelly told Sports Out West on Saturday at Lakers media day. “That is something I want to do which is play in this league and find my area of expertise. We don’t have the same game but every little thing from foot work to smarts I can learn from them, so I am excited about it.”
Kelly is an ideal situation where his skill set can be utilized as a stretch power forward and with this group of veteran big men around him it will help him find his place on not only the team but also in the NBA.
Photo Credit: USATSI