The Los Angeles Lakers' only stretch-four threat is found in Duke product Ryan Kelly, whose primary function is spacing the floor for his interior teammates.
Floor-spacing bigs are the NBA's fastest-growing fad. Every year, proven bigs are entering training camp willing and able to nail corner three-pointers, using the 82-game grind to further hone their new-found craft one inevitable clank and swish at a time. Kelly nailed 33.8 percent of his threes last year, shooting at least 50 percent in nine of the 10 games he made multiple bombs.
Eventually -- preferably this season -- Kelly will improve his long-range efficiency, especially as the team adds more talent around him. At Duke he improved his marksmanship every season, graduating from 26.3 percent as a freshman to 42.2 percent as a senior. The Lakers will be happy to reap the benefits of Kelly's development, given his standing as one of the team's few reputable shooters. Nick Young can certainly stretch the floor but he can be bogged down by a score-first mentality. Wesley Johnson is a respectable spot-up shooter but isn't a consistent threat from beyond the arc.
Lakers season preview
Lakers season preview
Kelly isn't some one-dimensional floor-spacer who camps along the three-point line. Last season, he displayed a knack for rebounding at the NBA level, posting 12 points and 8 boards in a 13-point victory over the Spurs, albeit with no Tim Duncan manning the paint in the season finale. Kelly twice registered eight assists, both Laker victories, and one coming against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Moreover, as a score, Kelly demonstrated he's unafraid of using his dribble to create shots, especially when he pump fakes defenders to step into an efficient mid-ranger jumper.
The second-year forward will use his dribble to create more efficient shots around the rim as he develop.. He's willing to post-up on the low block, but he's neither strong nor crafty enough to make it his bread and butter.
Fortunately, the Lakers drafted Julius Randle to do the dirty work, and paying Jordan Hill $9 million per year is even more insurance. What the Lakers need from Kelly is to clear lanes with effective shooting, allowing his offensive arsenal to develop around that. Rebuilding, of course, is centered around uncovering franchise players to carry the transition phase on their shoulders, but niche players are just as pivotal.
Randle, Hill, Kobe Bryant and Carlos Boozer will provide the interior scoring, while Young, Johnson and Jeremy Lin will counter with athletic playmaking off the dribble. That leaves Kelly, probably the team's best shooter, to help the Lakers continue the NBA's growing trend of stretch bigs taking over one three at a time. Andrew Bynum would be proud.