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Monday, May 19, 2014
Lakers player reviews: Ryan Kelly

By Dave McMenamin

Kelly
Ryan Kelly opened eyes after a slow start to the season and had a big game against the rival Celtics.

Ryan Kelly

2013-14 salary: $490,180 | Age: 23 | Season stats: 8.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG

Season recap: Kelly’s career got off to an inauspicious start. After the Duke product was plucked by the Lakers with the No. 48 pick in the 2013 draft, a lingering foot injury kept him out of summer league and sidelined him all the way into training camp. Kelly kept at it, and his work ethic won over coach Mike D'Antoni. By the end of the season, Kelly had played in 59 games -- starting 25 of them -- and his foot had recovered to the point at which the rookie opened a lot of eyes by showing his athleticism on blocked shots and dunks.

Season highlight: Kelly scored 20 points off the bench -- including some clutch fourth-quarter free throws -- to lead the Lakers to a road win against the rival Boston Celtics in January, snapping a six-game losing streak in the process.

Season lowlight: After a stellar March, in which he really found his groove in the league -- 10.1 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 48.6 shooting from 3 -- Kelly finished off the season by hitting the rookie wall. He averaged respectable totals of 8.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in April but shot just 35.8 percent from the field and an anemic 14.3 percent from 3 while doing so.

Final grade: B

Notes: There was a strong possibility that Kelly wasn't even going to make it through a full season with L.A. The Lakers had until Jan. 7 to waive him before his contract would become fully guaranteed. L.A. waived D'Antoni favorite Shawne Williams instead, and Kelly was given a chance to flourish in Williams' vacated role. He jumped at the chance and impressed the team with his supreme self-confidence that bordered on cockiness but which carried him through a rough start to the season.

Quotable: "This has obviously been a tough year for us as a team and as an organization. But it's something that I think as individuals, we've all grown from a lot. It's hard to look back the next day and get a real understanding of all we've learned. But I know for me personally, I've grown a lot as a player and as a person through this year. I never would have imagined being drafted by the Lakers and being in the position I am in today. In a lot of ways, I'm very happy for the position that I'm in and my future going forward."
-- Kelly, following his exit interview

What's next?: D'Antoni's departure complicates things for Kelly, because he was being groomed as a stretch 4 for the former Lakers coach's system. However, the Lakers have shown patience with their second-round picks in recent seasons (Robert Sacre, Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris, Derrick Caracter, etc.), bringing them back for a second season to continue the players' development in hopes of seeing a return on their draft-pick investment. So no matter which coach and which system the Lakers end up running next season, there should be interest in signing Kelly for at least another season.