With the No. 48 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft the Lakers selected Duke forward Ryan Kelly, a sharpshooting big man practically designed for D’Antoni’s offensive style. Although Kelly’s arrival is nowhere near as important as Howard’s free agency decision, it is perhaps a sign that the Lakers plan on adhering to D’Antoni’s system by flooding the court with shooters.
As a senior, Kelly made 42.2 percent of his three-pointers on 3.6 attempts per game, a strong indication that the 6-11 rookie can provide legitimate floor spacing as a stretch power forward.
While primarily labeled a spot-up shooter, Kelly also possesses solid ball handling and passing skills (1.65 assist to turnover ratio), can pull up for one-dribble mid-range jumpers and has an emerging turnaround shot in the post. He also averaged 1.6 blocks per game this season and posted Duke’s second-highest defensive rating (95.9).
If he is able to carve out a role in the rotation, Kelly could provide Howard and Pau Gasol with the interior space they need by operating from the high post and behind the three-point arc. If opponents don't respect his shot, which is likely at first, Kelly will have to capitalize on his open mid-range and 3-point looks and make defenses pay.
Of course, there’s a reason why 47 players were selected ahead of him in the draft. Expectations for a second round pick have to be tempered, as most of them don’t pan out as rotation players.
The biggest obstacle to Kelly making the Lakers’ 2013-14 roster, and establishing a long and fruitful NBA career, is his lack of strength (228 lbs.) and athleticism. This deficiency prevents him from rebounding at an even average rate -- he only grabbed 5.3 rebounds per game this season -- and will make his adjustment to defending quick forwards almost impossible.
Throughout his 126-game NCAA career, which includes 69 starts, Kelly only registered double-digit rebounds on four occasions (3.1 percent of his games). Rebounding is one of the statistics that best translates from college to the pros, and Kelly’s career 10.8 rebounding percentage suggests he’ll be a poor rebounder.
Despite being nearly seven feet tall, Kelly only has a 6-11.5 wingspan, which is below average for his height. Combined with his lack of lateral speed and explosion, Kelly will have trouble defending pick-and-rolls, protecting the rim and providing timely rotations.
Also, there is no way to predict how longer and more athletic defenses will affect Kelly’s scoring and shooting abilities, as his size advantage will be negated against most NBA big men.
In the best-case scenario, Kelly projects as a poor man’s Andrea Bargnani, as he can spot-up and score from virtually anywhere on the floor -- in the post, mid-range or beyond the arc -- while providing little help defensively and on the boards.
However, Kelly’s likely career path will be serving as a big man shooting specialist like San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner. Similar to Kelly, Bonner is known for his shooting prowess and ability to draw opposing big men out from the paint, which allows the Spurs guards and big men to function with more room.
Bonner is also an underrated defender who finds way to be effective despite not being athletic, which is a template Kelly can aspire to follow.
Coming off of a serious right foot injury, Kelly won’t get to participate in Summer League, so the onus will be on him to put in the extra work and repetitions he’s missing out on.
More than anything, though, Kelly needs to continue developing the accuracy of his three-point shot to the point where teams won’t be able to leave him open. If he cannot establish one elite skill, his prospects with the Lakers aren’t optimistic.
Still, at pick No. 48 Kelly is arguably a steal. ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton had Kelly ranked 38th on his prospect board -- rankings almost solely based off college statistics and projections at the NBA level -- ahead of first round picks Tony Snell, Mason Plumlee and Archie Goodwin.
There was perhaps no better situation for Kelly to land than the Lakers, as they need a shooting big man to replace the likely departed Antawn Jamison. Though the odds of Kelly finding a spot in the rotation aren’t high, it’s certainly possible given the lack of perimeter-oriented big men available to the Lakers given their financial constraints.
He has his chance, now he has to make the most out of the opportunity.
Stats used in this post are from ESPN.com and Sports-Reference.com/CollegeBasketball