Name: Ryan Kelly
Season: 2nd (2nd with Lakers)
Role: Floor-spacing big with dashing smile
The Good: Kelly made effective use of his 59 games last season. He displayed NBA range, a penchant for rebounding, and knack for timely passes. The Lakers found themselves an NBA player in the 2013 second-round. Ultimately, though, Kelly's best use is as a stretch big who can unclog the lane for Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, and the other Lakers who do their best work down low. Stretch bigs are a premium these days, so latching into Kelly is an efficient bet for the Lakers. He'll certainly improve on his 33.8 percent three-point clip as the game slows down, gifting the Lakers with a potential role player to develop.
Lakers season preview
Lakers season preview
The Bad: Kelly is relatively athletic, sporting a willingness to attack off the dribble and use his 6'11, 230 frame. As such, he'll have to add weight before he can effectively endure an 82-game grind, and that's before addressing his 42.3 percent overall shooting. For a big man, shooting in the low 40's is especially compromising, even for a stretch-four. He averaged six rebounds Per 36 minutes, which isn't good enough at the NBA-level. If Kelly is to stick with the Lakers -- or as a rotation player at all -- he must become more than a floor-spacer. If not, he's more Brian Cook than a poor man's Ryan Anderson, and Laker fans certainly don't want those problems.
The Could-Be: Kelly displayed an impressive knack for creating for teammates last season. His most well-rounded game came against the Thunder, when he crafted a like of 12 points, 5 boards, 8 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal in 37 minutes. This, by the way, came against Serge Ibaka. Kelly won't average those numbers any time soon, of course, but it's assuring to know he can chip in beyond camping along the three-point line. The Duke product could become the Swiss Army knife we came to love in Luke Walton, who, in his best days, chipped in 11.4 points, 5.0 boards, 4.3 assists with 38.7 shooting from three. Someday, Kelly could develop into that. For now, the Lakers will settle for the 38.7 percent (or better) marksmanship, allowing his frontcourt teammates to do the dirty work.
The Hope Not: Kelly's contract ends after this season, and the Lakers would like to see him remain healthy beyond the 59 games he appeared in last season. A murky bill of health could shrink the floor for the Laker frontcourt, with only Wesley Johnson remotely resembling a stretch-four in today's game. Hill's offense is limited on his best day, while Randle, Carlos Boozer, and Robert Sacre don't belong anywhere beyond 17 feet. As the team's only floor-spacing big, Kelly must remain healthy to give the Lakers some semblance of versatility on offense.
The Likely: Kelly's role is important but he's the team's fourth frontcourt option at best. That being said, Boozer's skillset is redundant to Randle's, and Hill is ineffective away from the basket. Kelly played 30 minutes on 18 occasions last year, scoring in double-digits 13 times, and recorded two double-doubles. He can play, shoot, and develop in other areas. The Lakers are in transition, and given the nature of today's NBA, developing a relatively skilled stretch should be a priority. If Kelly sees 15-18 minutes of action, he can continue building on last year's flashes.
What It Means: If Kelly can continue honing his niche and growing into his frame, he'll be a valuable asset going forward. Teams are developing and acquiring stretch bigs everyday, so drafting a second-rounder with relative versatility is a victory in itself. Kelly's purpose is clear -- it's his promise that must become transparent. How the Lakers develop him -- whether as an emergency big or their designated floor-spacer -- will be key to how the offense looks, especially with the Laker bench. Jeremy Lin attacking on pick-and-rolls with Kelly and Swaggy P popping out could give second units fits. Kelly is no future superstar, but he proved last season he belongs in the NBA. Cheers to potential draft gems.