Editor's Note: Please welcome another one of our new staff members, Dakota Schmidt. He's a film room hound, which is something I know a thing or two about, and he enjoys making video compilations to highlight different aspects of an NBA player's game. I'm confident the content he'll bring to the table is the type of work we love to devour here. Enjoy his debut, which features two fantastic compilations highlighting a certain Lakers big man.
One of the major story-lines that encapsulated the Lakers' 2014 off-season has been centered around the rebuilding of their front-court after the departure of Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol. The main cog of that process was new acquisition Julius Randle, who was selected with the team's first lottery-pick since James Worthy. Joining Randle on their journeys to the Lakers' frontcourt are veterans Ed Davis and Carlos Boozer.
While the additions of that solid trio add some much-needed depth to the Lakers' front line, that core has the possibility to push Ryan Kelly to the edge of L.A'.s frontcourt rotation.
Kelly was one of the lone bright points in an otherwise bleak Lakers season. His overall impact wasn't nearly enough to push the Lakers out of the Western Conference cellar, but the 6'11" forward did show a solid amount of confidence for a second-round pick. He was particularly adept at penetrating from the key and working his way to the rim.
Kelly also showcased an unheralded amount of quickness and athleticism which allowed him to work his way past the majority of his opponents. When Kelly glides his way to the rim, he can contort his large frame to get the best angle at the basket. That presence of mind and ability led to him shooting an incredibly efficient 61% around the restricted area. Here's a five-minute compilation detailing his offensive game:
Besides his ability to cut to the basket, Kelly has an extremely soft shooting touch from mid-range to the perimeter. While efficiency could be considered a small issue for his work away from the rim, his 40% shooting from mid-range was better than the likes of Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis. That solid shooting percentage may be skewed because of a smaller sample size, but it does show that Kelly has the potential to become a solid pick-and-pop threat.
The most intriguing aspect of Kelly's offensive arsenal is clearly his perimeter shooting ability. This was his bread and butter during his time at Duke, and he was able to easily transfer that perimeter jumper to the NBA three-point line. Kelly shot 34% from beyond the arc on 3.9 attempts per 36 minutes. As he transitions to his second season, it shouldn't be out of the question for those numbers to improve.
Kelly's athleticism and quickness easily carries over on defense as well. He surprisingly showed signs of being able to defend multiple positions. His size and quickness are key factors behind that, but Kelly put in clear effort while defending the opposition. This is another huge plus for a rookie forward, and one that could help him gain the trust of head coach Byron Scott. Here's some of his work on defense from last season:
The biggest flaw in Kelly's defensive game rests in his lack of strength compared to the majority of frontcourt players. He does have solid low-post defensive fundamentals, but opposing bigs out-muscle Kelly to get easy looks at the basket. This shouldn't be a huge issue, considering he spends the majority of his time away from the paint, but he needs to be able to figure out a way to match up against stronger opponents in the low post.
Besides Kelly's low-post issues on both ends of the court, he's still an extremely unique and potentially valuable option for L.A.'s frontcourt. Davis, Randle, Boozer and Hill may be higher up the depth chart for Los Angeles this season, but they can't match the kind of impact Kelly can have. He might be the team's best option that you can put alongside Jeremy Lin, for example, creating a solid pick-and-pop pairing.This type of action could open up driving lanes for Lin, even if he he doesn't dish out to Kelly, and can create the kind of spacing necessary for an efficient offense.
Ryan Kelly has the opportunity to transition from being a bright spot on an otherwise awful team, to becoming an important cog in L.A.'s rebuilding process in his second year in the NBA. It'll be up to new head coach Byron Scott, and Kelly, to carve out his niche in the Lakers' rotation.