The Los Angeles Lakers had only one pick in the 2013 NBA Draft – the 48th overall selection – though they still managed to land a player who made a difference this season.
Yes, Duke’s Ryan Kelly definitely made a name for himself this year, outperforming most of the other rookies around the league and ending with averages better than some first-round selections.
For a guy who was rumored to be nothing more than a training camp player – some reporters claimed that Kelly’s surgically repaired foot could prevent him from making the opening night roster – Kelly did a tremendous job of working hard and earning himself a spot in the Lakers’ rotation.
Impressively, Kelly didn’t miss one game due to injury this season – that’s quite an achievement for a guy who was seen as “injury prone” and was dangerously close to not being drafted at all because of his foot issues.
It’s also impressive to be able to stay healthy during a season where almost every member of the Los Angles Lakers missed a game due to injury. The sharp shooter proved to be extremely resilient and was even the team’s leader in charges drawn, according to Hoops Manifesto, despite playing in just 59 games.
So, yes, you could say that Kelly had a pretty good season for the purple and gold, and the 23-year-old is thankful for the opportunity he was presented with in Los Angeles.
“I got an opportunity that not many 48th picks in the draft get. But, if you ask me, I shouldn’t have been a 48th pick in the first place,” Kelly said during his exit interview last week. “Injuries set me up in a position where I wasn’t at 100 percent at the right time, but I was lucky I fell to a great organization like the Lakers and got that opportunity.”
Over the first two months of the season, Kelly saw just 99 minutes of court time, though that changed drastically at the beginning of January when the rookie averaged 24.5 minutes per game, an average that would eventually increase to 28.6 minutes per game during the month of April.
And, once he was finally given the opportunity to play, Kelly wasn’t looking back.
In mid-January, the rookie played a big part in the Lakers’ win against the Boston Celtics as he scored 20 points off the bench and was thrown into the starting lineup for the team’s next game against the Toronto Raptors, another contest that ended with a W partly thanks to Kelly’s 17 points.
Kelly would end the season with averages of 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 33 percent from three-point range, though he averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game as a starter.
Seeing as Kelly had a better season than most rookies – he ended 10th in PER among first year players at 12.67 per game – most NBA executives are likely regretting their decision to pass up on the 6’11” forward last June, and that’s something Kelly appears to be relishing.
“I constantly had a chip on my shoulder that I needed to prove to everybody [wrong],” said Kelly, who is set to get married this summer. “Somebody out there made a mistake. Every single team [aside from the Lakers] said I’m not an NBA player and they’re regretting it.”
Still, Kelly knew that his foot injury would hurt his draft stock, though it sounds like he felt he would be taken earlier than the 48th pick. For what it’s worth, Draft Express had him at 57th overall in their mock draft.
“I felt like what I did in my college career was certainly deserving of a first-round pick at the time, not that I [thought] I was going to get drafted in the first round on draft day – I’m a pretty realistic guy,” Kelly said. “I knew the situation I was in. In hindsight, there couldn’t have been a better situation than the one I fell to with the Lakers and I couldn’t have been happier.”
For now, Kelly will have to wait and see whether the Lakers decide to bring him back next season, though his qualifying offer is relatively low by NBA standards at just over $1 million, and seeing as his play was more than promising, it seems likely that he’ll be back with the purple and gold next year.