EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- When it came time to make the Los Angeles Lakers' No. 48 pick in the second round of Thursday's NBA draft, part of general manager Mitch Kupchak wanted to cringe.
"It was dramatic," said Kupchak, a University of North Carolina alumnus, about selecting 6-foot-11 forward Ryan Kelly out of Duke. "It was traumatic as well."
Kupchak was able to stomach dipping into the other side of the Tobacco Road rivalry if it meant making the Lakers better, which he feels the team accomplished in picking up a stretch four in Kelly who shot 42.2 percent on 3-pointers in his senior season with the Blue Devils.
"He was the player that we had rated the highest still on the board," Kupchak said. "It's unusual to get a guy who's 6-11, 6-11½ that has a skill like he has. So, it's a unique opportunity. A big player that has an NBA frame that can shoot the ball, not only midrange, but he can make some shots [deep]. I think he can become a consistent 3-point shooter in the NBA as well."
Kelly comes with some risk, however. The 22-year-old missed 13 games last season because of complications stemming from surgery on his right foot last summer. He required another surgery after the season was over to put a bigger screw into his foot to fix his fractured metatarsal and is 11 weeks into the 12-week recovery timetable, meaning that Kelly was unable to participate in a pre-draft workout for L.A.
"When you can't work out and you have foot injury, that's something that people are going to have to look at and they may not be willing to take a chance," Kelly said. "But, I certainly believe that I was worth the chance and I'm going to prove anybody wrong that decided not to get me."
While Kelly has been medically cleared to resume basketball activities, Kupchak said he does not anticipate Kelly would play on the Lakers summer league team in Las Vegas from July 12-22.
"I don't think there's any reason to rush him," Kupchak said. "So, keeping that in mind, you're talking about three more months to get ready for training camp. I don't think there will be any problem."
Kelly, who averaged 12.9 points and 5.3 rebounds in his senior season, already sees himself as a fit with what coach Mike D'Antoni likes to run.
"I definitely think his system lends itself to what I can do," Kelly said. "First of all, a great passer [in Steve Nash] at the point guard position and great size inside [in Dwight Howard] that's going to demand a lot of attention and with the little bit more uptempo style, I think at Duke at times I would find different areas on the court to slow down and get spot-up 3-pointers in transition and different things. So, I'm certainly excited."
Another knock on Kelly -- who compared his game to Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans, Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Hedo Turkoglu of the Orlando Magic -- outside of his injury history, is his defensive reputation.
But Kelly says that's a misnomer.
"Through my career at Duke, that was something that I really did improve on," Kelly said. "I know that I always work hard on the defensive end, and as I continue to grow as a player and work on my lateral mobility, I think I got a lot better. By my senior year, I often was being put on the best big guy and have to either battle in the paint or guard a quicker guy. I think I can do those things. I do know that I've worked really hard to be a great help-side defender. I take charges and block shots and do the little things. That's what I pride myself on as a player that does the little things and works hard. I think those things will transition well."
Kelly also has some shared history with the a couple players on the Lakers roster in Howard and Kobe Bryant, as they were both coached in the Olympics by his college coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
"[Coach K] talks about them all the time, his time with USA Basketball," Kelly said. "I got a chance to meet Kobe last summer when I was in Las Vegas during when they were practicing. I look forward to learning from one of the greatest players of all time."
While Kelly does not have a guaranteed contract as a second-round pick, there will likely be a place for him on the Lakers' roster next season. Kupchak told reporters Thursday that the team does not plan on making qualifying offers to Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock or Devin Ebanks. However, Morris has been invited on the summer league team.
"I've been handed a great opportunity and I really look forward to taking advantage of it," Kelly said. "It's hard to put into words how excited I am. That's all I can say. I'm just unbelievably excited."