Ryan Kelly was selected 48th overall in the 2013 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, and some viewed that as a steal. Kelly was a big man who could shoot from the outside at Duke, and had it not been for a foot injury, he would have likely been chosen higher.
Early in the season, Kelly got little playing time for LA, and he even spent time in the D-League. As time went on, injuries started to ravage the Lakers, and Kelly found himself in the rotation in a loss to Atlanta on December 16th. He has played some quality minutes off the bench since then, but when he was on the court he looked tentative, and almost afraid to shoot the ball. In recent games, he has started to look more confident, and in Friday night’s win over the Celtics, Kelly had a breakout performance with 20 points off the bench, and it clearly made an impression on his coach.
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA, Mike D’Antoni saw enough from Kelly on Friday to give him a starting nod in Sunday night’s game in Toronto. His ability to stretch the floor was a key reason in D’Antoni’s decision:
“He’s going to give us toughness and smarts and move the ball and hopefully he’ll hit open shots,” D’Antoni said. “I just think we’re a better team when we can spread the floor. That’s nothing against anybody, except it’s better for Wes [Johnson]. He has better games when we can spread the floor. It’s better for Pau [Gasol] when we can spread the floor. It’s better for Kendall [Marshall]. So, that’s one of the things we like to do. We have a better tempo, better rhythm and everything is a little bit better.”
I don’t know about toughness, but Kelly does provide outside shooting, and their offense has better potential with Kelly on the floor. The Lakers seem to be trying new things to ignite a spark with this struggling team, and we will see if Kelly can make the most of his opportunity. He has averaged 4.8 points in 14 minutes per game so far this season.
The Lakers really need some defenders if you know any out there.