In an early Tuesday afternoon press release, the Maine Red Claws announced that NBA veteran forward Ryan Kelly would be making his team debut in their Wednesday night match up against the Canton Charge. While the Red Claws claimed his D-League rights back in early November, Kelly spent the first two months of the season as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. That stint with the team was very forgettable as Kelly played a combined 47 minutes during his time with the Hawks.
As evident from that limited play with the Hawks, Kelly is currently not in the position where he could be a rotation player for any NBA squad. That’s a significant departure from the situation that Kelly was in during his three years with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Within that stint, Kelly was actually a significant role player during the first two seasons due to him averaging 22.9 minutes per game during that time. While he did have a significant role during those initial two seasons, Kelly really struggled to remain efficient as he averaged 7.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists on 38% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc. That efficiency pushed Kelly towards the back of the Lakers bench as they added the likes of Larry Nance Jr. and a healthy Julius Randle to their front-court.
Despite the current situation that Kelly may be in, he still stands as an intriguing player that most D-League fans should keep their eyes on. The biggest reason behind that intrigue is due to Kelly being a very mobile 6’11 forward with a pretty smooth perimeter jumper. Outside of possibly Justin Harper or Cory Jefferson, we really don’t see any players with that kind of skillset make their way to the NBA D-League.
As Kelly makes his way to the D-League and the Maine Red Claws, he’ll have to show a few things before he’s ready to make it back to the NBA. Arguably the biggest thing that Kelly will have to show is that he can be a standout perimeter shooter.
While 34% from beyond the arc may be acceptable for some, it won’t be for a player like Kelly as a lot of his offensive upside is based around that perimeter jumper. With the Red Claws, Kelly will need to be able to shoot anywhere between 38-43% from beyond the arc on a significant amount of perimeter jumpers per game.
Coinciding with his need to improve as a perimeter shooter, Kelly will also need to progressas a rebounder and on-ball cutter. As Ryan Kelapire mentioned in Silver Screen and Roll piece from late 2015, Kelly stood as a player that rarely showed a willingness to make on-ball cuts or attack the offensive boards. Kelly will need to utilize his time in the D-League to become a more confident cutter or rebounder if he wants to make his way back to the NBA.
With Ryan Kelly set to make his NBA D-League debut on Wednesday evening, the veteran forward will need to showcase himself as a significantly improved player than what he showed during his time with the Lakers or Hawks. Because while he can impress as a mobile 6’11 forward, Kelly will need to showcase a high level of versatility and efficiency if he wants to make his way back to the NBA.