At #47, we head to Durham where we find a guy who hit 18 straight shots at one point last year. No other player in college basketball can say that.
PLAYER: Ryan Kelly
POSITION: Power Forward
TAPE: 6-11, 235
2010-11 STATS: 6.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg (.516/.805/.319)
Watching Ryan Kelly play last year was sort of like being kicked in the nuts by your girlfriend, only to have her promise you sex afterward. Seriously, that’s happens all the time to me.
Last year, there was nothing more painful than watching Kelly miss three after three after three over multiple games, only to see him nail every shot he took over a three-game period. When you look up the word “streaky” in the dictionary, you’ll find a photo of Ryan Kelly next to it.
This is the life of Mr. Kelly. At 6-11, he’s got great size, but he lacks much of any inside game. He won’t put his back to the basket and he’s not quick enough to beat any defender in this conference.
However, Kelly relies on instinct. He’s an opportunistic player, who often is the right guy at the right time on the right spot on the floor. This isn’t by accident. This is because Kelly understands his role in the offense. He understands when he was on the court last year, he was typically the fifth option. This allowed him to look for his spots, whether it was an offensive put back, sneaking behind the D for a backdoor, an open three and most importantly a sweet mid-range shot, sometimes coming off one dribble.
After adding 15 pounds of muscle last year, you could see Kelly’s confidence grow. Now I just want to see more shots fall in. The fact is, he may do more damage inside as his career moves forward, but he’ll always be a jump shooter, who feels more comfortable at the three-point line.
The problem is, he’s not shooting it well enough to justify it. Last season he only hit just under 32-percent of his threes, which is an improvement over his 26-percent from the year before.
However, he did do a better job recognizing the cold streaks, but he would move in closer and aim for mid-range jumpers. Overall he shot an impressive 63-percent from two-point range. That’s a sign of maturing.
Of course the more Kelly plays, the more I expect his shooting percentage to climb, the biggest problem is, can he ever be an effective defender?
He’s simply not that athletic. He was abused by the Arizona front court in the Sweet 16. He couldn’t keep up with the more athletic athletes the Wildcats could produce.
Overall, Kelly’s biggest strength on the defensive side is his weak side help. He does a great job of coming over, planting his feet and taking charges. He’s also a pretty damn good help blocker, swatting away 51 balls last year, second on the team.
He’ll need to continue to improve his foot work and recognize what his opponent is doing. He’s not going to become more athletic, but plenty of college basketball players lack true athleticism, yet manage to become smart defenders, thanks to good techniques.
Looking ahead, I suspect Kelly and Miles Plumlee will again rotate the starting position throughout the year, as Coach K searches for the perfect rotation. Whether he starts or not, Kelly will continue to see roughly 20 minutes per game next year.