It was quite the summer for Ryan Kelly.
First, he signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers worth over $3 million in guaranteed money. Then, he tied the knot with his long-term girlfriend, Lindsay Cowher.
A lot has happened since he was a second round pick a year ago.
Kelly, who averaged 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 22.2 minutes per game for Coach Mike D’Antoni, is looking to expand on his rookie campaign. From the sounds of it, the Lakers are expecting him to become a piece for the club’s future.
“Ryan did everything we asked of him as a rookie and showed great promise and potential. After rehabbing an injury last summer, he will have the benefit of a full offseason regimen and training camp for the first time in his NBA career, and we anticipate further development as a result,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said following Kelly’s signing this summer.
Kupchak certainly has a point; Kelly will benefit from a healthy offseason as a professional. He should be able to work on all facets of his game, and come into the upcoming season a much better player.
However, Kelly will lose the benefit of playing in a system that was a good fit for him, and will now play under a regime that will emphasize execution over pace, defense over offense (hopefully), and traditional post-play above all else.
So, what can we expect from Ryan Kelly in 2014-15?
First and foremost, we can expect Kelly to be engulfed in competition for minutes. The Lakers brought in Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, and seventh overall pick Julius Randle; all of whom make their living in the post. Los Angeles also re-signed Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson, who do their damage in the paint as well.
Much of Kelly’s expectations will follow the setting of the rotation. We will know exactly what this coaching staff thinks of Kelly after the team gets down to business this fall.
If he plays, he will be a stretch-four that comes off the bench as a change of pace player. He will be called upon to create mismatches that many of the other players mentioned (save Wes Johnson, perhaps) can create, and shoot the ball from three.
He adds little on defense at this point in his career, and to earn meaningful minutes he will need to show progress on that end of the floor.
Kelly is a one-sided, offensively oriented player; and that is okay as most role players in the NBA fall under that umbrella. He cannot, however, be a stiff on the defensive side of the ball if he wants to play any type of meaningful minutes in the near future.
So what do I think we will see from Kelly?
I expect to see him as a bench big used in specific offensive lineups. His playing time will be sporadic and strategic, making him a specialist of sorts. I do not think he will average the same minute total, but something in between the 15-20 minute range leaning to the lower end of that spectrum.
In Scott’s offense, it will be interesting to see how he is used other than as a stretch-four from the three-point line. If he is asked to play a lot in the post, I am curious to see how Kelly can facilitate and execute plays run in the tradition of the Princeton style of offense.
In any offensive scheme, there is some use for a player who can create mismatches at his position and stretch the floor. Kelly can do that, and will be used to do so. If he produces offensively, he should get extended run.
If he doesn’t produce offensively?
Then I would expect Ryan Kelly to make himself comfortable in the D-League, sooner rather than later.