When most people think of a most valuable player award, they think about the best player on one of the best teams. If you’re Duke say, Mason Plumlee or Seth Curry would be your most valuable player because they are your two best players. That is false. An MVP is the player who means the most to any of the top teams in the country.
Ryan Kelly is exactly that on the Duke Blue Devils. There is no doubt about the importance Kelly has to Duke. Last year when he missed the post-season and this season when he was out shows everything.
Last year, Kelly went down and missed the entire post-season. In the ACC tournament, they fell to Florida State in the semi-finals without Kelly. Then they entered the NCAA tournament as a two seed, but that didn’t change anything. C.J. McCollum and Lehigh upset the Blue Devils who were once again without Kelly.
This year, Kelly missed a more extended period, but Duke still struggled without him. They lost all four games without Kelly and they played against the weaker part of their ACC schedule.
Kelly averages 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils. Even averaging 14.6 points per game, he is still the third leading scorer on the team.
On offense, at 6-foot-11, Kelly can knock down the outside shot at an outstanding rate. This creates driving lanes for everyone on the court, but it also creates a mismatch for Kelly. Not many big men can go out on the perimeter and guard a forward like Kelly.
Kelly’s defense is also superb and that makes Duke’s defense even better. With Kelly on the court, Duke’s team defense has been impeccable and you can see why when you replace a 6-foot-8 guy with a 6-foot-11 big man who is just as versatile.
There is no doubt about Ryan Kelly being college basketball’s MVP and he deserves all the credit for Duke’s success this year.