Brandon Ingram fell just short of becoming the youngest player to ever record a triple-double in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 119-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night, but the 19-year old forward’s ability to rack up plenty more games with huge numbers was on full display.
Ingram finished the game against Cleveland with nine points on ten shots, nine assists (against just two turnovers), and ten rebounds, stats that still somewhat understate just how impressive he was. The teenage forward started in place of Lakers starting point guard D’Angelo Russell (who missed the game to rest his sore knee on the second night of a back-to-back), continuing head coach Luke Walton’s efforts to use Ingram as a primary ball-handler to develop his playmaking skills.
Those abilities are coming along nicely. Ingram may not be the traditional “bring the ball up the floor and take control of the entire offense” point guard, however, he’s still using his time on the ball to improve as a creator for others.
Ingram isn’t making a bunch of flashy no look passes, but more often than not he’s simply, smoothly, and quickly making the right read in the flow of the offense. Ingram can use his vision to recognize the open man right as he comes off of a screen, to ping the ball to an open shooter off of a rebound, and to rapidly move things ahead in transition:
"That's the best I think [he's been] and most confident he's looked all season," Walton told Baxter Holmes of ESPN after the game. "When he was playing point today, he was kind of controlling and demanding the offense and getting people into position and coming off looking not just to shoot every time, but reading how the defenses were playing."
Conversely to how comfortable he’s becoming as a playmaker, Ingram has done much of his best work as a scorer off of the ball. Of his four baskets against the Cavaliers, three of them came while working away from the rock.
Ingram pitter-pattered his way along the baseline to get a feed from Lou Williams for a layup:
He also moved back and forth to keep a lane open so Larry Nance, Jr. could find him for a three-pointer out of a contested battle for an offensive rebound:
And on his first basket of the game, Ingram simply used timing and his incredible length to make himself an easy lob target for Williams:
Ingram has used his length for more than just scoring. His long arms have allowed him to swipe or tip passes a mere mortal wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near all season, and against the Cavaliers he used them to snatch rebounds.
Whether it was easily reaching in over Kyrie Irving...
... or flying in to keep Tristan Thompson from gobbling up another offensive rebound...
... Ingram utilized his length well on the boards.
One of the final possessions of the loss fully showed off how dangerous Ingram’s abilities could be when he puts them all together consistently. On the play below, Ingram:
- Faced-up and drove baseline before leading Nick Young open for a corner three with a one-handed bounce pass (Young’s shot missed).
- Used his endless arms to tip and collect the rebound away from notorious glass-eater Kevin Love, despite being totally boxed out.
- Quickly whipped a pass to Jordan Clarkson, who ended up finding Young for a made three-pointer in the same corner where he missed his first look.
The sequence, and Ingram’s game as a whole, was a teaser trailer for the type of player he can eventually become on a consistent basis. We’re still a ways away from that version of Ingram’s premiere, but the rookie forward knows he has plenty of time to get there.
"It'll happen again," Ingram told Holmes following the game. "If it happened once, I can do it again.”
All stats per NBA.com. All video via 3 Ball or NBA.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.